Abstract: The main thoughts of The Lost Generation, especially in their writings, contribute a lot to Existentialism. Through the conversation in Hemingway’s The Hills Like White Elephants, different perspectives based on gender difference are presented to readers. One is the way to perceive the meaning of life, and the other is the way to choose the life. Those gender differences lead to the thinking of how to reach a harmonious state based on androgyny.
Key Words: Lost Generation, Existentialism, gender difference, androgyny
“The Lost Generation” is used for the generation of young people coming of age in United States during and shortly after World WarⅠ. Most of them were disillusioned by the large number of casualties of the First World War, cynical, disdainful of the Victorian notions of morality and manners of their elders. Earnest Hemingway is one of the distinguished artists in this period, and like any other Roaring 20s, he also struggled with moral and psychological aimlessness as he searched for the meaning of life in a changed world. Furthermore, this search for meaning and these feelings of emptiness and aimlessness reflect some of the principle ideas behind Existentialism. In The Hills Like White Elephants, the conversation between man and woman shows different way of perceiving the meaning of life and making choice, which leads to the thinking of how to reach a harmonious agreement on understanding the world.
Way of perceiving the meaning of life
Existentialism tends to view human beings as subjects in an indifferent, objective, often vague or unclear and even “absurd” universe in which meaning is not provided by a natural order, but rather is created by human being’s actions and interpretations. Both of the characters in the article are live with emptiness and aimlessness, but when we look at the seemingly petty conversation in The Hills Like White Elephants about hills and drinks and an unspecified operation, we can certainly find the contradiction in searching the meaning of life -- one by observing the nature, yet the other creating by himself. In other words, the women is interested in the world around her, concerned with being friendly, vital, and imaginative; the man, on the other hand, is self-involved, phlegmatic, and literal.
In Jig’s mind, she subconsciously perceives the meaning of life from the external world, especially the natural world.
“They look like white elephants,” she said.
“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.
“No, you wouldn’t have.”
“I might have,” the man said.
At the very beginning of their conversation, Hemingway presents us an ironic gap between appearance and reality. The girl was so easily attracted by the sceneries, and she “was being amused” and had “a fine time” by observing the hills, which looks like white elephants. On the contrary, it is seemingly that the man is less amused by those exterior things.
The core concept in Existentialism is Existence precedes Essence. According to this idea, all the meanings are artificially granted to those existing materials or spirits after human’s existence. The landforms may have existed since the establishment of Spain. They are simply the products produced by the order of nature, especially before the age that human developed to think independently and sophisticatedly. There are fewer meanings than a part of nature. However through the observation, Jig connected these two definitely distinguished sceneries – “on the one side of the station, there was no shade and no trees”; “on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro” – with two different life attitudes and future, which attributed to an unarticulated but decisive struggle over whether she continue to live the sterile, self-indulgent, decadent life preferred by the man or elect to have the child that she herself is carrying and settle down to a conventional but, in her view,