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Hills Like White Elephants by Hemingway, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 841

Essay

At first look, Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway appears to be a simplistic argument between a man and a woman. The reader is provided little information about the couple, and is therefore forced to infer information about their situation based on the details. When the text is analyzed, one can learn a great deal about the pair that is not immediately apparent. Such understanding of detail is important because this conversation is representative of how a sensitive topic might be discussed in public. Ultimately, tone, symbolism and the use of context are among the literary devices utilized to confer an understanding of the story to the reader.

One of the most important literary elements that help the reader understand the meaning of Hills Like White Elephants is the tone. When the reader is first introduced to the characters, it appears that the two are having a casual conversation and decide to drink beer while waiting for the train. After the initial word exchange, the careful reader can observe that the woman feels forlorn, as she abandons her empty conversation about beer to stare longingly at the mountains in the distance. The conversation that follows becomes an argument, and although the two seem to be arguing about nothing, it clearly concerns the matter that put the woman in such a strange mood. After more debate, now regarding an operation, the man convinced the woman to calm down. In the end, she proclaims that she feels fine and that there is nothing wrong with her. The tone of this story is therefore indicative of the plot. As a consequence of this literary element alone, the reader is now aware that the woman was worried about an operation that is traveling to receive. However, it appears that the operation is optional and that the man would prefer her to get it done so things can go back to the way that they were “before”.

Symbolism also plays an important role in the meaning of the story. The woman keeps telling the man that she believed that the hills resemble white elephants, and that he wouldn’t know much about white elephants. After all of the details of the story have been compiled, it becomes clear that the operation that the man and woman are talking about is an abortion and that the white elephant is symbolic for the woman’s pregnancy or the potential of her having a child. When she looks at the hills, she thinks about whether or not she is making the right choice by getting an abortion. At first, she engages in an argument with her partner because she believes that there’s no way he had ever seen a white elephant, which is indicative of the fact that he couldn’t possibly know the struggle that she is currently facing. By the end of the story, the woman ceases to discuss the beauty of the hills, demonstrating that she has been convinced by her partner to get the surgery. The symbolism of the white elephant is important to this story because it reflects the changing mood of the woman towards her impending situation. After recognizing what both options would entail, she finally decides to ignore the beauty of the hills because doing so will be more immediately relevant to her happiness.

The use of context is also an important literary element that helps one to gain a greater understanding of this story. In this case, the two clues that are the most helpful are those that indicate that the man and woman are located at a train station and that the woman will be receiving an operation. This information allows the reader to infer that this is the purpose for travel and question why this is necessary. This evidence, combined with the tone of the story in addition to an understanding of symbolism helps the reader understand why the woman must travel out of the country for the operation. Since she is getting an abortion, she must do so away from her friends and family since this type of operation is not considered to be socially acceptable. Furthermore, it is likely that the operation is not legal where she is living. The details of this situation demonstrate the extent to which the woman must go to in order to make her partner, and potentially herself, happy in the end.

In conclusion, knowledge of tone, symbolism, and context are necessary to gain a true understanding of this story. The author is very subtle throughout the passage so that only one who has great analytic skill can gain a true understanding of the words before them. Ultimately, these literary elements allow one to be aware that the plot concerns a man and woman traveling so that the woman can receive an abortion. She is sad about the situation, but is convinced to go ahead with it, which ends her sadness. The use of these literary elements make the story more meaningful because it reflects the secrecy of the situation that the couple would have wished to have.

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