Hills like White Elephants

Hillslike White Elephants

ErnestMiller Hemingway was a writer whose work was mainly novels and shortstories. Hemingway had six short story collections including “Menwithout women” and seven novels. Hemingway’s work was mainlyinfluenced by his economic status and his experiences in war.Hemingway worked in various capacities during the First and SecondWorld Wars. Hemingway married four women in his lifetime, and heeventually committed suicide at his home in Idaho, Ketchum in July1961. Hemingway’s writing style was influenced by music lessonsthat he was taught by his mother who was a musician.

Hemingwayavoided complex writing and he normally used simple short sentencesto covey his message. His writing style resulted in gripping storiesthat were seen as a rejection of Western Civilization. Hemingwaybelonged to the modernist category of writers who believed in theculture of simple styles of writing so as to communicate with theirreaders. This was also an influence on his short stories, where hebelieved in using few words to convey deep messages. The use of shortsentences was also influenced by the desire to use few words toconvey the messages in a cohesive manner.

Hemingway’sthemes focused on love, loss, war and wilderness and they were allinfluenced by the wilderness, which recurs in his work. Thewilderness seemed to be Hemingway’s refreshment point, where he gotthe inspiration to write. Initially, his work seemed to admonishwomen, but later analysis revealed that Hemingway gave women power inhis works by using different characters. “Hills like whiteelephants” was a classic style of Hemingway’s writing in whichthe meanings of the story are hidden within the short sentences(Svoboda 168). Hemingway also used a lot of symbolism, which was away of using few words to convey a deep message.

Thestory “Hills like white elephants’ was written at a time theworld was recovering from the effects of the First World War. Theperiod was characterized by male domination of women, and the men hadreturned home from war. As the men tried to settle in, they werefaced by various challenges, and they used the rules of wartime torun their love lives (Svoboda 126). This often resulted in conflictsbetween men and women. In the story “Hills like white elephants,”the American, who represented men, was in conflict with a woman as hewanted her to have an abortion. This depicted how men were interestedin having no emotional attachments and having a child would meanhaving an attachment with the woman. The men were not used to stayingin one place for too long or having attachment to a place or event.

Thestory was also reflective of Hemingway’s inability to build lastingrelationships after he left the army. The story was a dialoguebetween the American and a woman he had impregnated. The Americanwanted her to have an abortion, and male superiority was wellrepresented as the man did not care about the Jig’s feelingstowards the pregnancy (Hemingway 36). The man even dismissed thewoman’s symbolism such as the use of white elephants in which shemeant the child was a special gift to her and the American simplysaid that he had never seen a white elephant.

“Hillslike white elephants” was set at a train station in which the twomain characters, the American and Jig. The American was detached fromthe environment and cared less about the activities in theenvironment. The two were waiting for a train to Spain and theAmerican was trying to convince a girl to have an operation, whichwas an abortion. Jig was unsure of what she wanted and as such, sheseemed to agree and disagree with the American. The American was atypical representation of the male chauvinism of the era as hethought that the girl was unreasonable and thus, did not care aboutwhat the girl was saying (Svoboda 197). The girl was also a depictionof how men viewed women at that time. Jig was confused andindecisive, and she seemed to depend entirely on the American and hisreasoning.

“Hillslike white elephants” was set at a train station where the two maincharacters were at train station. The two characters were havingalcohol at the train station while discussing the operation.According to the American, the operation would take them back to ahappy place, where they were before. The girl, however, seemeddisinterested as she started talking about the surroundings anddescribing what she saw. Jig made the American promise that he wouldstill love her even after she had had an operation. The American toldher, however, that if she did not want to have it, she was free torefuse because he realized that the girl was not interested in whatwould happen to her (Gammel 109). Throughout the conversation, theAmerican did not seem to take the operation seriously.

Themain symbolism in the story was centered on the white elephants andthe hills that Jig mentioned. The white elephants represented thepregnancy, which both the American and Jig did not want. At first,Jig referred to the surrounding hills as looking as beautiful aswhite elephants. The elephants represented the unborn child, whichnone of them was eager to discuss. The white elephant, which Jig wasreferring to, was the issue of the pregnancy that was being avoided.Jig later said that the hills looked lovely, which suggested that shewished to keep the pregnancy. The alcohol represented the lack ofcommunication between the American and Jig as they both drank so asto avoid having a conversation about Jig’s pregnancy. The two thusdrank as a way of keeping busy. The train station symbolized thepoint at which each walked out of the other’s life.

Inconclusion, Ernest Hemingway was a journalist who wrote seven novelsand six short story books. His work was characterized by symbolismand the use of few words to convey deep meanings. Hemingway lived ata time when male Chauvinism was rife, and this was well- representedin his work. The story “Hills like white elephants” was about theAmerican and Jig, who were having a discussion at train station aboutgetting rid of Jig’s pregnancy. The American did not concentratemuch on the conversation, and he did not even understand what Jig wastalking about when she used white elephants to symbolize herpregnancy. The two disagreed on whether to get rid of the pregnancyor not and throughout the conversation, Jig seemed confused andunsure of what she wanted.


Gammel,Irene. BaronessElsa: Gender, Dada, and Everyday Modernity.Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002. Print.

Hemingway,Ernest. “Hills like white elephants.” MenWithout Women. NewYork: Scribner, 1927. Print.

Svoboda,Frederic. &quotThe Great Themes in Hemingway,&quot inWagner-Martin, Linda (ed). AHistorical Guide to Ernest Hemingway.New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.