Ernest Hemingway is one of the most remarkable and talented masters of a word in American literature who managed not only to amaze his audience with the beauty of his laconic writing style but also offered important practical lessons to learn. Just like most of Hemingway’s stories, “Hills Like White Elephants” describes an experience from the author’s real life, and thus offers a moral lesson for his readers as no one is guaranteed against similar problems. Although not many details of what is happening to the main characters in the story are revealed in their dialogues, the author suggests his explanations in symbolical details. In his short story, “Hills Like White Elephants”, Ernest Hemingway discusses the problems which couples may encounter in their relationships through the use of a variety of symbols such as the scenery at the train station compared to white elephants, barren and fruitful sides of the track, and so on; the main of these problems is a misunderstanding which often occurs between males and females on the reason of their psychological differences.
The story takes place in the 1920s in the Ebro River valley which is located in Spain. Its main characters are on a train trip. As they arrive at a railway station to take their train, the readers may observe the scenery they see. The scenery is not very pleasant in general which is explained by the hot weather that is in Spain during that period. However, one of the sides of the track is more appealing with its greenery and freshness. This setting symbolically shows the choice which the main heroine makes of whether to obey her gallant, and become barren and fruitless, and maybe even dead or to oppose him, a be a fruitful lady and a mother of a child.
The conflict between the main characters occurs on the reason of an argument between them. Although it is not mentioned by the author directly, the problem seems to be in the fact that the girl is pregnant. The sayings of her companion reveal that the baby is unwanted. This upsets the heroine which is seen from her communicative strategies. The climax of the conflict occurs when the girl asks her lover to stop talking about the matter. This request is not respected by the girl’s companion as after a small pause, he continues to develop his line of argument. This misunderstanding is the climax in their relationships, and although Hemingway does not say that the main characters are going to split there is an impression that this will happen by all means.
The main characters of the short story under consideration are a man whom Hemingway calls simply an American never mentioning his name, and the girl whom the author addresses as Jig. The man is obviously older and rich whereas the girl is young and disadvantaged in life which is seen in the way she talks to the man. An American does not care about the girl despite his words ‘well, I care about you’ (Hemingway 212). He is a selfish man who is afraid to take responsibility of having a child, and tries to convince his lover to make an abortion even though he knows that those days it was a great threat to a woman’s life. The girl has a different way of thinking. She does not want to kill the baby, the only thing she wants is happiness as it is seen from her words, “if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” (Hemingway 212). This statement shows that the girl’s main pursuit is happiness, and from the other comments by her it is seen that she is not afraid to risk her life by making an abortion to have this happiness.
The main theme of the story is in difficulties that men and women have in communication which is explained by the differences in their world vision, and the difficulties in gender relations. The man is shown as a selfish coward who wants to protect his own interests despite any possible problems including the girl’s death, whereas the woman is represented as a victim who is subjected to a very serious problem because of her thoughtlessness.
The story teaches young girls to be cautious about their choice if they do not want to appear in such a situation. Men and women will always encounter problems in the communication because women think romantically, with bright images and beautiful prospective, whereas men are pragmatists. If a man is not only pragmatic, but is also selfish as the main protagonist, this will lead to a breakdown which is the apparent end of the relations between the main characters. Girls should mind a wise lesson Hemingway teaches in this story.
In conclusion, the short story “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway is a thought-provoking appeal by the author to young girls such as Jig. Through a variety of symbols such as the scenery at the train station compared to white elephants and barren and fruitful sides of the track, the author suggests that young girls including Jig should make their choices in life in a wise way to become fruitful and happy. In addition, the author teaches his readers that couples will have problems in their relations due to the gender differences, and he also explains how to avoid sad mistakes.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition, New York: Scribner, 1998. Print.