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The “Hills Like White Elephants” Short Story by Ernest Hemingway

The given analysis will primarily focus on Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” It is a short story about a man and a woman who are having a conversation at a Spanish train station and waiting for their train to Madrid. The key theme abortion, where a male character wants his partner to have the operation, and a female one is faced with confusion and seems not to want to undergo the procedure. Despite the lack of sufficient information within the text, it is evident that it raises a wide range of topics on both genders’ perspectives on the issue. Therefore, the story explores the theme’s aspects and uses symbolism, such as white hills, and leaves the decision to the readers.

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In case of abortion, there are two opposing points of view around such a complex and delicate topic in bioethical literature. Abortion is a purely personal, intimate problem that concerns no one except the woman herself, in which no one should interfere. It is one of the medical operations, and, as with every surgical procedure, all problems are solved by the doctor and the patient. The second point of view is the opposite pole, where abortion offends a moral basis, and, therefore, there is an ethical problem. After all, before coming to the doctor, a woman solves a moral issue. It is the life or death of an unborn person, and even after she turns to a doctor, the ethical meaning of the problem not only appears but becomes even more complicated. A doctor, as a third person, is involved in it, and, if they do the job, they become an accomplice in the murder. However, the writing primarily focuses on the first point of the argument, whereas the second aspect is ignored.

The plot resembles a conversational iceberg, where what characters say is a small fraction of the actual context of the interaction. At first glance, it seems like a simple, sometimes tense conversation between a couple waiting for a train to Madrid. Reading closer, however, it can be understood that they are discussing whether Jig should go through the procedure. This was a period when abortion was illegal in most parts of Europe and America, and where women could face ramifications if they did it. Suddenly, the conversation between the American man and Jig becomes one of the most important, both for their own personalities and for their relationship. However, no one wants to be open about what choices they would like to make. This text deals with the topics of choice, communication disruption, and gender roles.

The main theme of the story is abortion, which is a highly controversial subject to this day. The first hint regarding the problem emerges when a man states: “it’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig” (Hemingway 230). After the given statement, it becomes evident that the male character is encouraging and wants the procedure to take place. As for the female character, it is not as obvious and clear whether she is for or against the operation. The confusion from her side can be seen when she states: “and you think then we’ll be alright and be happy” (Hemingway 230). She also says: “and if I do it, you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” (Hemingway 231). Therefore, the woman represents an ordinary female, whose main concern is her relationship with the man.

The conversation does not explore the issue of abortion from the ethical and logical perspective, but rather from the point of love and gender dynamics. The couple does not discuss whether an unborn child has a right to live. The American simply wants to get rid of the burden of fatherhood, whereas Jig’s objective is to remain emotionally and physically healthy and be loved. Artificial termination of pregnancy is considered here primarily as a social phenomenon. There is no disclosure of abortion as an ethical problem, and there are no offers to work with an open moral issue. The question of abortion will remain such a moral problem until ethically worthy ways of solving it are found. An analysis of the situation shows that the main difficulty on the way to this goal is the question of the status of the human fetus, which is the cornerstone in this regard. This issue plays a huge role in disclosing abortion as an ethical issue.

The story also presents a number of symbolisms, where the main one is hills resembling white elephants. The woman states: “they look like white elephants” (Hemingway 229). One can observe that the described shape is also similar to a pregnant person’s front. In addition, a white variety of the animal is a rare occurrence, which might mean that they are planning to abandon something precious and uncommon.

In conclusion, Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” addresses the issue of abortion from the perspective of a regular couple with an illustration of gender dynamics. There is no heated debate regarding the logical and ethical implications of the procedure but mere relationship-based interactions between the man and the woman. The male character wants his partner to undergo the operation, whereas the female is filled with confusion and emotional distress.

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Work Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. Men Without Women. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1927.

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