Hills Like White Elephants Literary Analysis

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Literary Analysis of Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
This short story is about a man and a woman pondering over whether they should abort
their baby or not. This short story requires one to read carefully to be able to understand the literary
devices the author uses and what they are meant to communicate to the reader. Hemingway uses a
number of literary devices which he embeds into the story. Looking at it superficially, one may
think that it is just as plain as any other story. However, at a deeper look, one notices that
Hemingway has used a combination of dialogue, symbolism, and setting. These he puts into use
in showing how people try to conflict confronting the future, escape of responsibility and the
world-wide mindsets of post-war lifestyles. The purpose of the essay will be to explore the various
literary devices Hemingway uses in letting the reader understand the meaning of his short story.
Hemingway begins by describing the couple’s setting “The hills across the valley of the
Ebro were long and white.The hills represent the challenges that people face in relationships
while the river here shows the innocence and purity of the baby. In addition, Hemingway shows
that the couples were at a railway station where trains go to two different destinations, Barcelona
and Madrid. “On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines
of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building
and a curtain.This that the couple is at a stage where they have to make a crucial decision.
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The author uses many terms to represent the tension between the couple. Hot is one such a term
“It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes.” Here, the tension
is in that while the girl wants to give birth to a baby, the man wants her to abort. The tension is
further seen where the girl says, "…everything tastes of licorice. Especially all the things you've
waited so long for, like absinthe." This serves to show the man as selfish and wanting the party
life they had had before pregnancy.
While the girl symbolizes the vulnerability and inexperience of youth, the American man
shows strong character. The girl asks many questions which show she cannot make decisions on
her own. She asks what they should drink. This shows the depiction of women in the society at
that time as inferior to men.
Hemingway uses the new drink called Anis del Toro at the train station to show that the
baby belongs to the American man as the words Anis del Toro are Spanish for the seed of the bull.
He makes the girl, one of the characters to describe the baby as an elephant, which is seen as both
a blessing and a burden. The man tries persuading the girl by telling her that abortion is “…an
awfully simple operation.” The fact that the girl looks at the legs of the table implies she is not
comfortable. She reaches the bead string which shows she is connected to the baby and tells the
man that the abortion will not make them happy and that “everything is not going to be alright”.
The man tells her not to abort if she does not want to do it, but that she should actually do
it. He uses reverse psychology so that he cannot be blamed for the abortion if it is done. The girl,
however, says that if she procures an abortion, it will be because of him and would mean she does
not care about herself. This shows she wants to bear the baby. She is now decided. She walks to
the tree fields at the end of the station. These are representative of the life of the child. She says to
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the man that if they decide to have the child, they could have everything, “we could have
everything.This means they would be happy. The man does not think they can have anything
because while everything for the girl is family, everything for the man is freedom.
The author uses irony where the man says he would do anything for the girl but accepts
none of the things she wants from him. She is tired of his persuading her to abort. He is
manipulative and stubborn. Looking at the bags representing their pre-pregnancy lifestyle, she tells
her “I don’t want you to, I don’t care about it.” Here, he contradicts himself and causes the girl to
go emotional where she says she will scream. This going emotional is typical of the woman of that
In conclusion, Hemingway uses a number of literary devices in this short story. It is these
that help bring out the meaning of the story and allow the reader to understand what it means.
Hemingway has communicated his message effectively to the reader. He wants the reader to
understand the attitudes of people towards lifestyle at that time. He shows how the man wants an
abortion so that he can escape responsibility and be free, while the girl is ready to have the baby
and take full responsibility.

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