“Hills Like White Elephants” by Hemingway

“Hills like white elephants” is a story that shows the lives of many couples during pregnancy. The author shows the challenges many women face during the process of bringing up babies; where in this case there are a number of challenges that may lead to the couple deciding to carry out an abortion. Based on the story, many couples see pregnancy as an obstacle to their lifestyle thus leading to the need for abortion. In this case, many couples don’t look at the value of the unborn baby but concentrate on the limitations brought about by the pregnancy. Based on the research, the author bitterly prohibits abortion and calls for maximum protection of the unborn child.


“Hill like white elephants” is an old story probably dating to the 1920s which features two characters; one an American man and a young woman. From the story, the two characters were waiting for a train heading to Madrid; which gave them an opportunity to have a deep conversation as they took the beer. Based on the story, the woman referred to as Jig was pregnant with regard to which the American man was proposing that an operation be undertaken on her. From the story, it is accounted for that the two characters were discussing how to carry out an abortion; where the conversation continues for some time having the American man trying to justify the need for the operation. In this case, the American man is unresponsive to Jig’s opinion but manages to convince her about carrying out the abortion. After having the lengthy discussion, Jig gives in to the idea of the operation and tells him that she would not mind having an abortion (Diyanni, 1554-1578).


Based on the story, there is a conflict of opinion between the two characters where in this case the baby is referred to as the white elephant and looked at as a big burden to their lifestyles. In addition, the American man relates the cost of bringing up a baby as being enormous; which in this case would amount to unbudgeted expenses on the family’s daily life which in this case makes him see the baby as a liability and an additional responsibility. On the other hand, Jig sees the baby as an increased burden to her lifestyle of drinking and mindless traveling; thus making a justification for the abortion (Diyanni, 1554-1578).

From the story, the two characters are in a disagreement regarding whether to carry out the abortion or not. Based on this discussion the lifestyle of the two characters is the main cause of their ideas of carrying out the abortion; where the woman seems to lack a moral command. As a result, this case makes her decide to take beer which she had never tasted before, showing a sign of her lowered dignity. In addition, Jig gives in to the man’s opinion regarding the abortion after a short conversation making her give in to the need for the abortion. From the story, it is also clear that the woman is not much concerned about her life; as she only worries about the relationships she had and her lifestyle. In this case, the American only focuses on the happiness he gains from living with the lady and the lifestyle of drinking together with their mindless traveling. In addition, the man fails to worry about the physical and psychological effects of drinking and abortion on the life of the woman (Reagan, 210-243).

Based on the study, the morals of the two characters have deteriorated beyond control as in this case the characters see everything they do as being normal. Further, the woman associates the happiness of her actions with the taste of licorice thus can’t imagine abstaining from these behavioral actions. In addition, the American does not think of the physical and emotional harm he poses to the lady after sleeping with her, introducing her to alcohol, and worse still advising her to ‘‘cut out’’ the unborn child. Another point worth noting here is that immorality is seen as the nature of the day which in this case sounds sweet and inevitable for their living happy lives (Beckwith, 123-145).

Based on the study, pregnancy is seen as a barrier to the many pleasures of life; in this case, the American man sees the unborn child as an obstacle to his carefree lifestyle. In addition, pregnancy is seen as a limitation to the ‘status quo’ of the couple where in this case the additional cost in raising up a baby would mean extra spending on the couple’s resources. In another instance the body of a pregnant mother is put into consideration; whereby in this case it is considered that pregnancy leads to the loss of the figure of the woman thus limiting her freedom towards socialization. Based on this study, the two characters have an adequate justification regarding the need for an abortion thus showing that no barrier should have hindered them from carrying out the abortion. Further, in this case, the baby is portrayed as very insignificant to their lives thus not capable of acting as an obstacle to their carefree lifestyle thus a justification to the need for an abortion (Baumgardner, 150-200).

However contrary to the characters’ ideas, the unborn baby is seen as a white elephant due to the high value attributed to him; as in this case, the value of the unborn baby is more than the costs of their upkeep thus the couple could not afford aborting the baby. On this basis therefore a conflict builds up between the characters regarding whether to carry out the abortion or not. Further, the potential of the couple to bear a child is seen as a privilege that should not be taken for granted; as in this case, the couple starts seeing themselves as being very blessed over those who are barren; making the act of abortion appear unforgivable (Baumgardner, 150-200).

Based on the study, the couple thus changed their mind regarding the essence of carrying out the abortion making them decide to move on with protecting the pregnancy. Another point to be noted is that the cooperation of the couples is very important in the making of family decisions; where in this case the advantages and consequences of carrying out an act should be wisely decided on. In addition from the story, the woman is viewed as a mere sex object where under the context this perspective and attitude should be changed so as to establish a good place for the women and children within the society (Allen, 30-53).

After keenly following the story; it is clear that it was intended to enlighten couples and the public in general regarding the evils of abortion, whereby in this case the author is very bitter about the perception of many couples regarding abortion. Further, from the story it is clear that the author is worried about the peoples’ understanding regarding the value of the unborn child; where in this case the author says that the value of the unborn child is so high as compared to the cost of keeping him or her. The author further raises questions about the worth of the woman; where in this case he argues that the woman should not be viewed as a mere sex object (Wicklund, 56-95).


Based on the study, the characters came up with an informed decision that made them forego their idea of aborting the pregnancy; which the writer portrays as a very positive move that needs to be further employed. Additionally, from the story it is clear that the public should be adequately guided about the need for protecting the unborn child; as in this case, there are many benefits that a couple and the society, in general, get from saving the newborn babies. As a result, the conclusion from the work is that newborn babies are very essential regarding the future continuation of society; thus the need for their protection from abortion (Allen, 30-53).


  1. Allen, Meyer. “Humble Bumbles’ Baby Journal: A Keepsake Journal for Baby’s First Three Years (featuring the adorable Humble Bumble characters) Spiral-bound”. New York: WS Publishing press. (2002): 30-53
  2. Baumgardner, Jennifer. “Abortion & Life”. New York: Akashic Books press. (2008): 150-200
  3. Beckwith, Francis. “Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion”. Cambridge, UK. : Cambridge University Press. (2007): 123-145
  4. Diyanni, Robert. “Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama”. New York: McGraw-Hill press. (2006): 1554-1578
  5. Reagan, Leslie. “When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973”. California: University of California Press. (1998): 210-243
  6. Wicklund, Susan & Kesselheim, Allan. “This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor”. New York: PublicAffairs. (2008):56-95