Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hills Like White Elephants

First published in transition in August of 1927, “Hills Like White Elephants” became an important piece in Hemingway's second collection of short stories, Men Without Women. Hemingway wrote the story soon after the publication of his 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, while living in Paris. Men Without Women was well-received, as were Hemingway’s other early works. He was embraced by the expatriate literary community in Paris and received strong reviews on his work in the United States and abroad. Although he continued to write novels and stories throughout his career, the early short stories are often considered to be among his finest works. ‘‘Hills Like White Elephants,’’ a widely-anthologized and much-discussed story, offers a glimpse at the spare prose and understated dialogue that represents Hemingway’s mastery of style.
The story, told nearly in its entirety through dialogue, is a conversation between a young woman and a man waiting for a train in Spain. As they talk, it becomes clear that the young woman is pregnant and that the man wants her to have an abortion. Through their tight, brittle conversation, much is revealed about their personalities. At the same time, much about their relationship remains hidden. At the end of the story it is still unclear as to what decision has or has not been made, or what will happen to these two characters waiting for a train on a platform in Spain.
Hills Like White Elephants Summary
The story opens with the description of distant hills across a river in Spain. An American and his girlfriend sit outside a train station in the heat. No other details about their relationship are provided at the beginning of the story. They decide to order beer, and the woman who works at the bar brings the drinks to their table. The girl remarks that the distant hills look like white elephants, but the man discounts her remark.
The story continues to unfold through dialogue, and it becomes clear that the girl, Jig, does not understand Spanish while the American does. In addition, it begins to become apparent that the two are having some sort of disagreement. The subject of the disagreement, however, is hidden, until the man says, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig. . . . It’s not really an operation at all.
D.N. Aloysius

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