Hills Like White Elephants Symbolism Essay

Hemingway’s short story ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ is full of sexual symbols which the author chose to replace the explicit acts such as sex and abortion. This perhaps reflects Foster’s thoughts about the sexual acts in written stories. Foster writes, “The truth is that most of the time when writers deal with sex, they avoid writing about the act itself”. From the story, it is clear that the Jig and The American had a sexual intercourse and thereafter realized that it had led to a pregnancy, which they were not ready for. However, the author does not explicitly write it. For instance, he writes “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 417). Here, he talks of the operation to represent the abortion he wants Jig to perform.

Their relationship seems to be built on personal interests rather than love. To begin with, The American insists that jig should carry out an abortion to get rid of her pregnancy, which is clearly against her will. However, in his persistence, he tries to act as if he is giving her the free will to choose whether to abort or not but in reality, he is playing reverse psychology on her. He says, “if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 418). From the beginning of his statement, it appears that he will be fine if Jig keeps the pregnancy but his last words that insist the operation is simple clearly show that he still prefers it if she aborts. In other words, he wouldn’t really continue to stay with her in peace if she does not do the operation.

On the other hand, the girl wants to keep the pregnancy but she finds herself saying that she will abort just to make everything go back to normal. In fact, she speaks as if she does not care whether she will be harmed by the operation or not, the only thing she cares is that their love should be restored. She says in a statement, “Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 417). Here, Jig acts not out of love but out of her personal interest to retain the relationship. Therefore, their relationship is built not on love but on personal interests that are brought to light by the predicament.

References

Foster, T. C. (2014). How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines. NY, New York: Harper Perennial.

Hemmingway, E. (1927). “Hills Like White Elephants”. The Story and its Writer. An Introduction to Short Fiction, edited by Ann Charters, 2015, pp. 416-419.

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