Skip to content

Background Hills Like White Elephants Essay

Show More

Symbolism in "Hills Like White Elephants"

What is symbolism and what is the use of it? Is it simply created to confuse the reader or is it dedicated to make the reader think about the meaning of the story? What is the symbol? Is it a person, object, or event? Those are the questions we should ask ourselves before we start reading a short story "Hills Like White Elephants," written by Ernest Hemingway. "Hills Like White Elephants" is a perfect example of a wide use of literary symbols demanding all readers to read in between the lines and figure out the true meaning of them. This short story is filled with symbolism, some of which the reader may not even discover.
In the beginning of the story the reader is lunge into the lives of two…show more content…

Later though, the girl pulls back the comment, giving a delicate hint to American that perhaps she wants to keep the baby after all - a hint the American misses. Comparing the hills and, metaphorically, the baby to elephants suggests that expression “the elephant in the room,” is an understatement for something painfully obvious that no one wants to deliberate about.
Very important symbol which is outshined by the hills and elephants is the bamboo curtain. It sets us up to consider the boundaries, thresholds, and separations – all the issues the couple is facing. And because Jig wants the baby and the man doesn’t, the pregnancy itself acts as a curtain between them, through which only simple things, like what they want to drink, can be communicated clearly.
Other symbols are train, the railway station and a luggage. Train station is a place of transition, not a destination in itself, but somewhere where you stop en route to where you are going. Usually, a train goes one way and once it comes, it goes. The train represents Jig’s decision. Like the coming of the train, if she decides to abort the baby, there is no turning back. The train will keep on going, just as her life will keep going; but will she ever be the same? The American tries his best to make his view known, that his and Jig’s life will be easier, if she just goes through with this “awfully

Ernest Hemingway is well known as a man’s man. In his life and in his writing, he occupied an extremely masculine world—a world of war, hunting, and bull fights. Hemingway’s macho characters are so strongly drawn that critics created a new prototype to define them: the “Hemingway hero.” This hero has almost always been a man.

But what are readers to make of Hemingway’s women? Many feminist literary critics find Hemingway hostile toward woman. Women, they argue, are portrayed as a corrupt influence on men, somehow diluting their masculine powers.

In Hemingway’s short story, “Hills Like White Elephants,” we discover a female character, Jig, who contradicts this conventional theory. In this essay we will argue that Jig, “a mere girl,” and not the American man, conducts herself more truthfully to the characteristics of the traditional Hemingway hero. We will define the supremely heroic, distinctly Hemingway concept of “grace under pressure” as courage, honor, and the ability to cope with pain and suffering in the most difficult situations.

No doubt, the man and the girl are in an extremely tense situation. She is pregnant and he wants her to have an abortion. They are discussing a life and death situation, literally for the unborn child, and figuratively for their relationship. Hemingway has set a stark scene at a remote train station on a hot afternoon.

Courage to Face Challenges
True heroes demonstrate courage in all aspects of their lives, not just on the battlefield. In this story, Jig is the courageous one. She is willing to call the situation what it is, to speak out, if sarcastically, about their shallow relationship. “That’s all we do isn’t it—look at things and try new drinks?”

It seems that she is brave enough to go through with the pregnancy while he is too selfish and afraid, “But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else.” He cannot face up to the change and challenge that life brings them. Ironically, he’s the one trying to build...

(The entire section is 849 words.)