The Ultimate Choice Without standing up for what is right in a disagreement, manipulation often wins. Ernest Hemingway wrote his short story, “Hills Like White Elephants” according to the iceberg theory. In the story, a couple is discussing an unknown operation in which they have different opinions on. Hemingway doesn’t come right out and say what the operation is because he believed the deeper meaning of the story should not be evident on the surface, but instead shine through implicitly.
By analyzing the setting, a reader can come to the conclusion that “Hills like White Elephants” is about a couple’s decision on abortion. In the beginning of the story, the couple is sitting outside of a bar sharing drinks. Although they’re sitting in the shade, it is very hot outside. After their drinks had been ordered, the girl started to look off at the line of hills. On one side of the hills, there was shade and vegetation growing. On the other side of the hills, “there was no shade and no trees” (1).
Through different landmarks, it is shown that a lot of “the country was brown and dry” (1). Jig, the pregnant girl, focuses on the land that is barren. The hills are too poor to produce much or any vegetation, so they are worthless. As both Jig and the American discuss the operation, it is hinted that Jig is pregnant. Although she is fertile, she hasn’t decided whether or not she wants to continue with her pregnancy and have the child. By looking at the river and the hills, Jig is exposing herself to both the fertile and the sterile side.
If she decides to look at the fertility side of the hills, she will continue on with her pregnancy. Though if she decides to focus on the sterility or the barren side of the hills, Jig will abort the child. Hemingway sets “Hills Like White Elephants” at a train station to emphasize the fact that the decision between the American man and the girl is at a crossroads. The American had a different opinion regarding the pregnancy, and wanted Jig to abort her baby. Through manipulation, the American made it seem as if he had Jig’s best intentions in mind.
Jig wanted to have a nice night out, but the American continuously brought up the operation. As Jig would comment on the mountains, he would explain to her that the operation is “awfully simple” (2), and all the doctors would do is “let [some] air in” (2). To him, having the abortion would get rid of any responsibility. To her, the abortion would eliminate any joy that would come from having a child. Anytime the operation would be mentioned, Jig wouldn’t participate in the conversation.
She knew that she wanted to have the child, but she didn’t want to lose the relationship she had with the American. After the American explained to her that the operation would be simple, Jig started to question “what [would] [happen] afterwards? ” (3). Instead of taking responsibility for getting Jig pregnant, the American made it seem as if the pregnancy made both of them unhappy. Although he knew that he wanted the abortion to happen, he kept telling Jig “if [she] [didn’t] want to” (3) go through with the abortion, “[she] [didn’t] have to” (3).
Although still pondering whether the abortion was “the best thing to do” (3), Jig is at a crossroads with her decisions. Regardless of her decision, the American promised that he had and always would love her. Amidst the crossroads the couple is in, Hemingway wanted to show the decision Jig is leaning towards. She is so consumed in losing her child, she started to believe that keeping the baby was the best thing to do. As the American was feeding the fuel of manipulation, Jig started to look at the side of the hills with “fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro” (3).
She wanted to have the child, and was trying to explain to the American how they could “have everything” (3) but “everyday [they] make it more impossible” (3). She knew exactly how the American felt, but she couldn’t get past the idea of losing her child. All of the things that the American was telling her started to hit home. Once again, Hemingway used the setting to describe the thought process of how Jig decided on abortion. Jig knew the relationship would fail, and started to look “at the hills on the dry side of the valley” (pg 4).
Before, she was so consumed in the thought of losing her child, but her attention quickly shifted to the relationship with the American. She told the man that she “didn’t care about [herself)” (pg 4), and after it was done, everything would be fine. Instead of putting faith into the difficult decisions she had to make, she put her faith in the American who manipulated her. Including the baby, he said “he [didn’t] want anybody but sher)” (4). Though the man stated that he didn’t “want [her] to do it if [she] [didn’t] want to” (4), he said it merely because he wanted the process to go a lot smoother.