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«Hills Like White Elephants» by Ernest Hemingway

Hills like White Elephants is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway. This work is a real masterpiece being rich in various themes and concepts. The author managed to create an atmosphere of sophisticated relationships and family metamorphosis. He strived to depict a kind of conflict between hedonism and personal responsibility. This story is considered to be rather symbolic containing the disclosure of psychological and rhetorical manipulation. It is important to stress that the short story created by Hemingway appeared to be a literary treasure touching the principle problems of social relationships.

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The centralized issue of the story is related to abortion; despite the fact that this notion is not observed within the text, the author managed to depict it through symbolism and setting. The atmosphere preserved in the story is tense from the very beginning.

“The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes” (Hemingway, Hills like White Elephants)

The events are described in the way that the couple feels the necessity of the problem decision. All the details such as the heat and the landscape seem to be the signs of pressure being the center of the conflict expressed through extensive symbolism.

The introduction of the simile is devoted to the description of the hills having the form of elephants.

“They look like white elephants…”(Hemingway, Hills like White Elephants).

This episode is compared indirectly to the birth of the child being foreseen by the girl. It should be stressed that the white color dominating in the author’s symbolism stands for the purity and innocence of a girl’s unborn child. She was completely involved in the atmosphere of light and calmness.

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“The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were the fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro.” (Hemingway, Hills like White Elephants)

The girl’s pregnant state was symbolized through the fruitfulness and fertility of the depicted trees; the life is also presented by means of the Ebro River germinating the fields. The author managed to show the contrast between cloudless life and that being full of problems and frustrations. At the moment of the girl’s appreciation of admired panorama, the author depicts the “shadow of a cloud” symbolizing abortion, the end of new life. From this very moment, the atmosphere is perceived differently by the girl.

“They sat down at the table and the girl looked across the hills on the dry side of the valley…” (Hemingway, Hills like White Elephants).

Hemingway showed that the man supported the idea of abortion pushing the girl to take this step without hesitation. At one moment she considers his position and the author illustrates the valley dry side being sterile and barren as if showing the girl’s body after abortion.

The problem faced by the girl can be analyzed from different angles. On one hand, the idea of abortion is criticized by the author proving it by the symbolic representation of the natural phenomena. But on the other hand, Hemingway tries to show that abortion can be the way to the happy life of the girl. He presents it as the dream realization connected with the traveling of the girl and her opportunities to see the world. The end of the story shows the train’s arrival expected in five minutes. The decision and the resolution as to abortion making are not clearly identified by the author. It should be noted that Hemingway made the story thought-provoking; he managed to intend the readers for concluding the story individually. The only aspect described at the end is devoted to the direction chosen by the girl; Hemingway showed that the place was filled with sun, mountains, river, trees, and other life symbols. These aspects may mean the decision of no making abortion taking into account the way it was perceived by the girl. Hemingway tried to show the lack of details characterizing the characters of the story; this feature is a characteristic of major his works. The characters, the American and the couple, are to express themselves individually through the vision of readers. The author’s aim was to leave some room for the story interpretation taking into account the personal vision of the problem by the readers. (O’Brien, 1990).

The analysis of the story Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway showed its central problematic issues and symbolism. The author managed to depict the mood of his characters and at the same time allowed the readers to evaluate the problem through personal perception. The problem of personal relationships and the threat of abortion made the story be close to life highlighting the principle issues of modernity. Hemingway successfully reflected a deep sense of his story through the mood of the nature and rich panorama of Spain. Hills like White Elephants is a great contribution to the world of literature involving the reader into the characters’ life and showing the author’s emotions and prom perception at the same time.


  1. Booth, A. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 9th Edition. New York, 2005.
  2. Hemingway, E. Hills like White Elephants.
  3. O’Brien, T. Allusion, Wordplay, and the Central Conflict in Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants”. Studies in Short Fiction. 1990.

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"«Hills Like White Elephants» by Ernest Hemingway." StudyCorgi, 25 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "«Hills Like White Elephants» by Ernest Hemingway." October 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "«Hills Like White Elephants» by Ernest Hemingway." October 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "«Hills Like White Elephants» by Ernest Hemingway." October 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '«Hills Like White Elephants» by Ernest Hemingway'. 25 October.

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