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Abortion In Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants Essay

Becoming a parent is something most people see in their future, however it often comes at the wrong time for some people. In Ernest Hemingway’s, “Hills Like White Elephants”, we see a couple’s conversation as it leads up to the decision they are making on whether or not to have an abortion. With the white elephants representing a metaphor for the unborn child, we are able to see the struggle of a couple trying to make a decision on whether to keep the child or not, through which it is apparent that the two of them as a couple don’t communicate properly and the girl does not normally know how to make her own decisions.

The characters are presented in a vague way, there names are not even mentioned when they are introduced in the story by the narrator. They are introduced as “the American” and “the girl. ” They are on a train station, which is a stopping point between Barcelona and Madrid. This is where travelers make the decision which direction to go, which parallels how the main characters have to make the decision on having an abortion or having a baby. When they are on the train the girl is looking out the window and she points out that the hills look like white elephants.

The subject changes and she keeps bringing up the white elephants. White elephants are considered an idiom for unwanted gifts, therefore it is not hard to connect the baby to represent the white elephants. She later changes her mind about them, and says, “they’re lovely hills. They don’t really look like white elephants. I just meant the colouring of their skin through the trees. ” This gives a hint that she perhaps wants to keep the baby after all, and wants to convince the American that it’s not what it appears to be, and it’s in fact quite lovely.

The story never uses the word abortion, or mentions the baby, it is just what one assumes based on the context and tone. The word, “operation” is used, however it does not specify what type of operation it is. It is up to the reader to make the connection. The American is obviously trying to convince her to have the operation and the girl is resistant. They both seem to want different things and are trying to convince each other to see their own point of view. Although the story is told in third person by the narrator, it is the main characters that are really telling the story through their conversation.

Because they never say the actual words that we are assuming they mean, it is apparent that they do not communicate well with each other. They both have trouble getting their point across and saying how they truly feel. The girl’s name is mentioned once throughout the story as, “Jig. ” This can be seen as a symbol for how they dance around the subject, but never flat out say it. Although they are both discussing making this life changing decision, it is ultimately up to Jig to make it for herself.

The girl is presented as not knowing how to make her own decisions, and seems to rely on the American for a lot. For instance they are in Spain and has to rely on him to order drinks because she does not speak Spanish and he does. Then when she is asked whether or not she wants her drink with water, she says she doesn’t know, and has to ask the American whether or not it is good with water or not and goes with whatever he says. This further shows her dependence on him and her trouble of making her own decisions.

The American seems to always make decisions for her, but in this case it’s a decision she has to make alone. He tries to convince her to have the abortion by downplaying it and keeps repeating that it’s “so simple. ” Although she seems resistant to the idea, she seems to give in and says, “Oh yes. But I don’t care about me. And I’ll do it and then everything will be fine. ” This shows that she values the relationship more than her wish to have the child. She seems to have stopped caring about what she wants, in order to keep the American happy and have their relationship back to normal.

However it shows that she knows that no matter what, things can never be the same again when the American tells her, “we can have the whole world”, to which she replies, “No we can’t. It isn’t ours anymore. ” Whether she decides to have the baby or not, she can never go back to her old life because she will either have a child to take care of, or live with possible resentment towards the American for being the reason that she does not keep it. Although the ultimate decision that they make is not ever stated, we as readers, learn a lot about what decision they both want to make.

The problem is that they both want different things. No matter what happened, one of them would have to give up what they wanted in order for the other to be happy. With white elephants serving as their metaphor for the baby, it showed how it was not easy for them to properly communicate what they wanted. Although the decision is ultimately up to the girl, one might assume that she would make the decision to have the abortion because that’s what the American wanted, and also because she is dependent on him making all the decisions anyways.

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