Hills Like White Elephants
Hills Like White Elephants research papers on Ernest Hemingway's masterpiece are custom written by the literature writers at Paper Masters. Hemingway's short story gives readers a glimpse into several moments in the lives of two characters. In their simple interchanges and actions, a world of miscommunication, hurt and loss is revealed.
The characters in Hills Like White Elephants are introduced in essays as an American and a girl-no names are put to the characters. This creates an immediate impersonality between the two and between them and the reader. When the man calls her "Jig" for the first time, it is not like a name but just a little jab of a word, as if she is no more complex than that.
Facts about Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants:
- Publish Date: 1927
- Author: Ernest Hemingway
- Genre: Short Story
Summary of Hills Like White Elephants
The story that Hemingway creates here has a dynamic that is echoed throughout the dialogue and setting. The man and woman who are sitting at the table share a relationship, but that is nearly all. Both are seeing the world, however, they do not have the same point of view.
The girl looks out towards the horizon, an obvious notion that she has a wide and distant point of view, and associates the far off mountains with white Elephants. There is a dualistic image here, as the story describes the valley that the story takes place in as arid and brown. This contrast, the brown of the near setting, and white of the distant, illustrate the opposing points of view that these two characters have.
The man, in his seemingly aloof state, peers at the beaded curtain that advertises a drink. This man is shown to make several observations about his very immediate surroundings. This tool that Hemingway uses, sets the opposing point of view to the girl - that of narrow, shortsightedness.
As the two characters discuss their desire for a new drink, the reader is shown the first hint of tension between them. "Oh, cut it out", the man says as Jig, as the reader learns the girl is named, pokes slight fun at the man and his apparent fondness for alcohol.
This exchange is followed by another allusion to Jig's farsighted point of view as she, for the second time in the story refers to the white hills in the distance. This allusion is enforced by the man's taking of the conversation back to the immediate area, and his desire for more beer.
It is then that the reader is shown the true source of conflict in the story - the "awfully simple operation". Though it does not explicitly state the nature of this operation, it can be gathered from the text that the man is referring to an abortion. This turn, creates a reversal of the point of view, as, for the first time, Jig is mentioned to be looking at the immediate area: "The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on".
The view point of the man shifts at this time as well, as he refers to the past: "We'll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before." This turn illustrates a point of view that is further removed from that of Jig's. Her desire to look to the distant horizon - an allusion to the future - is stifled by the man's pulling her into the present, and then the past.
From this time on, Jig's point of view is not her own. It has been corrupted by the man and his power over her. The trepidation that she feels for the impending abortion, enables her companion to pull her away from her own perspective, and substitutes it with his own.
Following the exchange about the operation, and the man's longing for their relationship to return to how it was before, Jig asserts herself, and revisits her original ideal:
The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.
This scene is used to illustrate the effect of the abortion on Jig's point of view - it will become as shadowed and covered as the arid lands that encapsulate the vision of the man.
This is further illustrated by the man's retort to her speaking on the desire she has for that distant and fertile land. She is told that that cannot share that land because "once they take it away, you never get it back". Jig succumbs to the overbearing argument of the man, and returns to her seat.
There is one final shift in view as the story ends. As the two are told that the train is approaching, the man leaves his seat and goes to look far down the tracks for the arriving train. However, he fails to see it. His attempt to assume the point of view of Jig fails, and he enters the bar area - thereby returning to his own narrow vision. This failure to accept the point of view of Jig, illustrates his inability to accept her as a person. Thusly, he is forced to live his remaining life - illustrated as the time left before the arrival of the train - in this uneasy state of narrow vision.
The vacuous conversation between the two people indicates that their relationship is not rich and caring, but that it just takes lackluster stabs at connecting. The simplicity of her thought process indicates a woman who is very detached from her feelings and her situation: "I wanted to try this new drink. That's all we do, isn't it-look at things and try new drinks." It is her summation of their relationship in the very moments when they are also waiting for a train to take her to Madrid for an abortion. Her use of words also controls the situation when, for example, she says, "And afterward they were all so happy." His response is not to her words but to what remains unsaid: "Well," the man said, "if you don't want to you don't have to [have the abortion]."