While comparing and contrasting two stories, it is necessary to highlight the common theme of both pieces of literature. First of all, I would like to point out that the stories I chose for my analysis are An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge written by a well-known American short story writer Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce and Hills Like White Elephants written by Ernest Hemingway. Generally, I have to state that both short stories seem to reflect the Naturalist literary movement. Despite the fact that they were written in different time periods, and reflect different plots, the issue of naturalism seems to represent the common theme, which combines the stories.
The thesis statement
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Hills Like White Elephants are famous short stories, which major theme is naturalism. The works are of different styles and genres; however, their common theme allows us to consider the main aspects of naturalism deeper.
While discussing the above-mentioned pieces of literature, there is a need to clarify some key points. Thus, one is to keep in mind that naturalism can be regarded on the basis of two major concepts. On the one hand, it should be noted that naturalism appeared in 1880s and lasted till early forties. It is a literary movement, which is based on the accurate depiction of details.
Naturalism states that social conditions, a person’s environment and his or her inherent physical and mental characteristics are considered to be extremely important forces, which determine a person’s worldview and character. On the other hand, it is also necessary to point out that the literary movement is opposed to Romanticism. In other words, one can conclude that issues description in a realistic way is one of the key principles naturalism is based on.
So, let’s consider the major theme of each short story in detail. Ernest Hemingway’s short story Hills Like White Elephants provides us with two striking features. The first one is related to the story’s setting; the second one reflects the dialogue, which carries the plot.
The issue of naturalism is based on “a conflict between sterility and fertility” (O’Brien 19). Naturalism in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce is also based on a conflict; however, the author represents the conflict between the main character and the world his character lives in.
One of the main characters of Hills Like White Elephants is a girl, who wants to keep the baby. However, the man she is in love with wants her to make an abortion. On the one hand, the girl wants to save the relationship; on the other one, she is sure that noting can be done to restore their love to life.
One can trace back the conflict between two persons, taking into account the following sentence: “But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?” (Hemingway 231). So, the girl’s uncertainty seems to reflect her dependence upon the man. However, the second part of the quotation gives us an opportunity to suppose that there is no way to save broken relationship.
In other words, the author provides us with a detailed depiction of inescapable forces, which impact on the main characters’ decisions. A detailed description of the main character’s thoughts in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge gives us an opportunity to reveal his past.
The author not only describes Farquhar’s environment and social conditions he was brought up within, but also provides us with an opportunity to trace back the events which formed Farquhar’s worldview. The author shows us that his main character appreciates life: “I’m not gonna be safe until I can get home. My wife needs me and I need her” (Verranault 3).
Although the short stories reflect different plot, the issue of naturalism is recognized to be the common theme American writers represent. The authors show different kinds of conflict their main characters experience; however, the major point, which is to be taken into account, is that the dark harshness of human existence is considered to be the burning problem of any society in all the times.
Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants, 1927.
O’Brien, Timothy. Allusion, Word-Play, and The Central Conflict in Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, 1992.
Verranault, Katey. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, 2007.