“Hills Like White Elephants” is an outstanding short story written by Ernest Hemingway. At first sight, it describes a common situation in a life of a couple who spends time in a rail station bar while waiting for a coming train. A man and a woman are drinking beer and anise, having a seemingly senseless and routine conversation. However, symbols that fill this story help readers to understand a genuine matter of a described situation.
The story’s title is already a symbol of the story’s taboo subject and the characters’ attitude to it. In general, a white elephant symbolizes a useless gift that may be regarded as a burden. Thus, in “Hills Like White Elephants,” hills are a woman’s pregnancy, and white elephants refer to her unborn child. A man forces her to have an abortion, however, emphasizing that he does not want her to do it if she is unsure, putting his decision’s responsibility on her (Hemingway 213). While a woman, Jig, agrees with her partner, at the same time, she hesitates and wants to keep a child. That is why those hills that initially seemed bright for both of them become not like white elephants for Jig as she does not see an abortion as a right decision.
At the same time, the necessity to make a decision is symbolized through nature, the station, and a coming train in particular. The station is a point in a couple’s relationship when they need to decide where they will move. Jig sees green trees and fertile land on the river’s opposite bank – for her, it is their future life with a child that will be rejected. “We could have all this, and we could have everything every day we make it more impossible,” she says (Hemingway 213). However, by taking the train, they both make another decision in their life.
This short story leaves multiple questions without answers and one of them is whether Jig will keep a child. In general, the couple’s luggage symbolizes their past together and the way how the man “picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks” indicates his desire to stay together with a decision concerning a child made in his favor (Hemingway 213). At the same time, Jig waits for him, smiles, and states that she is fine supporting his actions. This means that there is a great probability that the couple will not keep an unborn child.
Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants. Men Without Women, 1927.