Ernist Hemingway: Hills Like White Elephants
“Hills like white elephants”, this is a term not many may understand. The term “White Elephants” has an underlying meaning of something that is unwanted or not needed. This short story starts out in a train station surrounded by hills, fields, and trees in a valley in Spain. A man known simply as the American and his girlfriend sit at a table outside the station, waiting for a train to Madrid. They order beer and speak about an “operation” that the male wants the female to have. The primary theme to this story is tension, isolation, and mainly the hidden speech of abortion.
As the man and woman order drinks, the man refers to her as ‘jig’ as he mentions to her that he wants her to have some sort of ‘operation’. He seems frustrated and argues that the operation would be a very simple procedure. The woman asks what will happen after she’s had the operation and the man replies that things will be fine afterward, just like they were before, and that it will fix their problems. The American continues to claims that he won’t force her to have the operation but thinks it’s the best course of action to take. She tells him that she will have the operation as long as he’ll still love her and they’ll be able to live happily together afterward. “‘Well,’ the man said, ‘if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.’ ‘And you really want to?’ ‘I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to.’ ’And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?’ ‘I love you now. You know I love you.’”(Pg. 2)
This so called “operation” they speak of is an abortion. The woman is pregnant with the Americans child and he is telling her to get the abortion so they can be happy again. The woman is scared and discouraged with following through with the operation as the man try’s to explain to her that he knows many women that have had the operation done and were all happy in the end. The definition of an abortion is “A
Spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation or the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.” (Webster)
Abortion is the primary theme of the story, and is seen not only when they are talking at the bar, but also when the women is speaking about the mountains looking like white elephants. Not in direct context it is said, but the woman is comparing her own body to the mountains, her stomach will get bigger and swell as the hills are; large and white. This is where the term ‘white elephants’ comes into play, the meaning of a white elephant as said before is something that is unwanted or unneeded, as the baby she is carrying is compared to a white elephant. This is proven as the man and woman speak about getting rid of the unborn child through the procedure of abortion. Lets take a look at why Ernist Hemingway might have chose to write on this topic.
Ernist Hemingway was born in 1899 and was an