Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants In A Nutshell

A short story analysis about an unstable relationship from Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” is a short story that emphasizes the conflict between the American "man" and "the girl". In the story, Hemingway uses daily life conversations with deeper meanings and implications. It is understood from the beginning that the couple waiting for the express are in Spain and it is understood that they travel a lot since there are many hotel labels on their bags. Also, the girl relies on the man since she does not speak Spanish, symbolizing their relationship balance as the American man is in control. The narrator implies Jig, the girl, is pregnant but the American man who is portrayed as selfish and goal-oriented does not want the baby. He tries to persuade the girl and makes her feel limited and under pressure. Jig, on the other hand, wants to keep the baby so she does many things to change the American’s opinion. When Jig shares her inner thoughts, he does not even listen to her.

The narrator defines Jig as a girl to imply that she is young and innocent. However, the American is described as a man; unlike the girl, he is an unsympathetic character. The conflict in the story is abortion but "the unspoken conflict" is their relationship. While discussing a life-and-death situation about the baby, the Amerian and Jig symbolically talk about whether their relationship will end or continue.

During that time, abortion was a risky operation and it was illegal. However, the man constantly mentions that the operation is simple. The American acts as if he cared about Jig until he persuades the girl for an abortion. Also, he stresses “I” and “you”, which symbolizes their relationship breakdown. However, Jig emphasizes “we”. The only time the American uses “we” is when he tries to convince the girl.

Jig worries about her relationship, not herself, and she prefers her relationship to the baby. Nevertheless, their marriage cannot be repaired for the American due to the girl's sarcastic comments. Thus, her sacrifice becomes meaningless and the American may not resist her sarcasm.

In the end, Jig realizes neither her husband nor the baby can be with her. Therefore, she feels that she needs to divorce and have an abortion. In this way, she symbolically loses her innocence and becomes independent. Although the minor conflict is resolved when Jig decides not to keep the baby, the main conflict has no resolution in the story. Nonetheless, their relationship will probably come to an end. Even though she wants to drink beer with the man, he does not reply and drinks alone. Thus, the man’s act hints at their coming separation.