The Tone of a Story: Analyzing Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’

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Last Updated: 26-Jun-23
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Elephants standing on a Hill Ernest Hemingway`s fictional story, Hills Like White Elephants, carries a strong underlying meaning between the two characters, the conflicting views on what to do with their problem, which is an unexpected pregnancy and the thoughts of an abortion. In this story a man and a women are drinking beer and discussing a problem in their relationship. At a first glance of this story, many readers may not see the symbolism and the direct meaning. They discuss a procedure but they do not come out and say what it is exactly, you have to read into it. The man states "I know you wouldn`t mind it Jig. It`s really not anything. It`s just to let the air in"(pg365) This is where symbolism and deep reading play into this story.

Symbolism contributes strongly to the meaning conveyed in this story and it is what leads you to believe it is an abortion they are talking about. A white elephant is an old term referred to as something that won`t go away. Yard Sale items that never sell would be called "white elephants". The couple was not expecting to have a child and the man is strong is his belief that they will be fine if the women just has an abortion. The hills going up and down could be symbolism of the women`s pregnant stomach or her thoughts of what she may look like if the baby is kept. The hills could also represent the highs and lows she is having in her relationship and her own mind set on whether or not to continue the pregnancy, which is why she is constantly distracted by the hills.

Symbolism also comes into play at the end of the story and constantly runs throughout the story. The fact that they are always drinking is a sign that they both are tense and worried but trying to hide their fear. In the beginning of the story the girl notices a beaded curtain with a drink`s name painted on it. She ends up ordering the drink and they ask her if she wants it with water. The curtain that was blocking the way to another room could symbolize her drinking blocking the way to another life, one with a child. Towards the end of the story the man "picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up but could not see the train."(pg.367). This could be a way the man is viewing this problem. The heavy bags could represent the baggage and the strains in their relationship over the pregnancy. The train not being in sight could represent the fact that a common ground and feeling on this situation is not in the near future, and he must wait, the ultimate decision is hers, no matter how hard he fights it.