“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway remains one of the greatest writers in the whole history of literature. This paper discusses and analyses his magnificent creation, which is called “Hills like White Elephants”. Although this novel seems to present a riddle for a non-experienced reader, it describes a widespread situation in today’s world. Therefore, the story should be analyzed in order to provide a better understanding of the plot to other readers.


The plot of “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway narrates a story of a man and a woman who were sitting in the train station cafe in Spain and waiting for their train to Madrid. The temperature was very high, so young people decided to have a couple of beers. Their conversation seemed to be pointless at the first time, but suddenly, the American man started to persuade Jig (woman’s name) to undergo an operation. After a few arguments, he finally convinced her into doing it. Although Jig agreed, she said that she did not care about herself (Hemingway). An American man then took his train cases to the platform because their train was about to arrive. He returned to the lady and asked her if everything was good. She smiled at him and replied that everything was fine.

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Kenneth Johnston wrote one of the fascinating reviews on the novel by Hemingway. Therefore, all the following conclusions correspond to his opinion and statements. This story is tough for understanding because audience is not aware of anything about these people in at the train station. The only thing that was discovered is the meaning of the idiom “Hills like White Elephants”, which refers to something precious, but useless (Robertson 40). Hence, these people were discussing an abortion that the woman was about to make. Although Hemingway did not provide a single word or a hint to describe the subject of these people’s conversation, every reader intuitively understood what the young people were talking about. A person is able to see the hidden message due to such words and phrases as “operation,” “injection,” “everything is going to be all right,” and so on. Besides, the whole text gives the readers an image of relationships between the characters of the narrative, which provides the reader verbal information for making one’s conclusions and hypothesis.

Some people were able to see symbolism in the text of “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway (Bausch 7). For instance, an image of a white elephant and hills prefigures female’s breasts and abdomen during her pregnancy. The pale white color of shining hills associates with an infant’s skin. Moreover, the main characters were having their conversation at the train station, which was situated on the edge of barren on one side and flourishing trees on the other. Hence, Hemingway was using the landscape in order to depict a separation between the young people.

The phrase “the hills like white elephants” is very frequent in the young people’s conversation. It appeared for the first time when the young lady looked out of the window, and her companion replied that he had never seen white elephants in his life. This dialogue emphasizes that the white elephants were only the tip of the iceberg (Johnston). Meanwhile, the subject of this conflict was changed – the couple started to discuss their attitudes towards the operation question. Hence, this could be considered as a primary verbal type of a quarrel between two people – it was not a dispute anymore. The white elephants were not mentioned after this dialogue. Furthermore, it remains a metonymic concept of the novel, which depicts an idea of loneliness.

The further context of “The Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway was formed with pretermission figure, which caused many controversies between people who analyzed this novel. Some say that the railroad along with the dramatic situation refers to some tragedy or any other deplorable epilog (Tyler 134). The main characters of Hemingway’s novel were very tempted to commit suicide, but they had enough volition to hold themselves from this unreasonable action. The general picture of this dialogue implied that Jig’s agreement for the operation would change the plot because she was lible to go into hysteria due to her companion’s persistence. Nevertheless, Jig did not get emotional and remained confident with a forced smile on her face.

Jig only smiled at the waitress of the local cafe and at her companion who asked her if she was fine at the end of the story. She replied that nothing concerned her and that she felt great. Hemingway’s novel has a structure of a dramatic text because all the descriptions were reduced to a minimum. A sudden smile on the character’s face was considered as a non-verbal communication gesture, which implied a lighter flow of this conversation (Gale Cengage Learning 5). Jig’s gesture of looking away had the same purpose. The last two episodes were taken into account because the young lady did not have an eye contact with her companion, as she was looking at the hills. Jig’s observations were described a lot, whereas the American man’s sight was mentioned only twice in the novel. His eyes said that he was not very confident, but he continued insisting on his viewpoint. Finally, Jig asked the young man to stop talking, which made him starting at their suitcases. This gesture could emphasize that the man agreed to a compromise.

Writing Process Summation

There are several reasons why I chose this story. The first argument is a genius writer of this novel, Ernest Hemingway – his creations are always extremely interesting to read. Besides, the novel “The Hills like White Elephants” is somewhat mysterious because people usually read it over multiple times in order to understand the message of the story. In fact, it was complicated for me understand the message at the first time, so I discussed this question with people online.

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I arrived at my understanding and assertion about this poem due to the conclusions of people who analyzed it before. I watched a few screen adaptations online, which gave me a better image of the scene at the railroad station. Besides, I consulted some credible sources that described the professionals’ opinions of this poem.

The main point that I reflected in this essay was about Hemingway’s “iceberg principle” of writing. It means that he did not describe every detail of the scene – he just provided one-eighth of the picture, so other seven eights were left to be discovered by a reader. Another point is that the constant conflict identifies the whole perspective of the plot because there is no logical conclusion or epilog along with a destructive final.

My revision of this novel was accomplished by consulting various online sources that discussed this story. There were many interesting thoughts expressed on different websites and articles, but I considered only accredited authorities’ works. The only thing I want a reader to see from my essay is a desire to read the original version of this novel. In my opinion, every person has to see an authentic material at the first time because then a reader will have many questions in his or her mind. If one answers these questions in an original way, there will be more theories to discuss.

Works Cited

Bausch, Richard. The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. W.W. Norton and Company, 2015.

Gale Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”. The Gale Group. 2016.

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Robertson, Deborah. Semantic Congruence and Simile Construction in three Ernest Hemingway Short Stories. California State University, 2014.

Tyler, Lisa. “Hemingway Lives!: Why Reading Ernest Hemingway Matters Today by Clancy Sigal.” The Hemingway Review, vol. 34, no. 2, 2015, pp. 132–135.

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