Hills Like White Elephants

"Oh, cut it out!" (Hemingway 171). Could this be the true feeling of the American toward his unborn child? In the short story "Hills Like White Elephants" written by Ernest Hemingway, the two main characters find them selves in a moral dilemma in Catholic Spain. Jig, the protagonist, is pregnant by her lover the American. The American, who is not named by the author, wants Jig to have an abortion but she is not convinced. Both are seated at a train station between Barcelona and Madrid. The two rail lines divide the valley into two very different and opposite landscapes. Interestingly, the reader finds many such contrasts in the story. The dualistic nature used throughout the story by Hemingway is evident not only in the main characters' dialogue, but also in the use of setting and symbols. The train station located between two very distinct landscapes is very symbolic. One side is dry and barren while the other is green and fertile. The American and the girl are both sitting at the station on the dry barren side. It is the American who most likely chose to sit on this side. "This side, the side of the abortion, is the American side. The other side, with its imagery of life and fertility, is the girl's side"(Renner4). It is the American who initially is very persistent that the girl have the abortion. When the girl tastes the Anise del Toro, she comments that "Everything tastes like licorice. Especially all the things you waited so long for, like absinthe"(Hemingway171). The American quickly responds, "Oh, cut it out" (Hemingway171). The double meaning of his response is obvious. On the hand he is telling the girl to stop complaining. On the other, he subconsciously and brutally is telling her to abort the baby. When he looks at the suitcases and labels attached to them, the symbolism is clear. It represents a lifestyle that is "a sterile perpetuation of the aimless hedonism the couple have been pursuing"(Renner4). He does not want to give up this carefree, transient way of life. His insincerity about the abortion is very evident when he tells her "if you don't want to you don't have to. I wouldn't have you do it if you didn't want to. But I know it's perfectly simple" (Hemingway171). Several times the American says one thing but means the opposite. This "double talk, assuring her that he will go along with what she wants while stubbornly pressing her to do what he wants" (Renner5) is another example of Hemingway's use of duality in the story. The American's persistence though does not convince the girl. In an interesting turn of events, it is the American whose mind is changed by the girl. The duality of the setting is apparent "when the American carries their luggage to the other side, the whole weight of the story's figurative logic comes down on the conclusion that he is accepting her side of the conclusion that he is accepting her side of the issue"(Renner6). After leaving the luggage on the other side, he enters the barroom to drink an Anis. The people there were "waiting reasonably for the train"(Hemingway173). This scene reinforces the feeling he now has that it was he who was being unreasonable. When he leaves the barroom, he finds Jig smiling. This final smile of hers indicates that she is happy at his change of heart. The girl, unlike her lover, draws comparisons to things she observes in her environment. In looking out toward the barren side of the landscape, she sees a line of hills and comments, "They look like whit elephants"(Hemingway1). She is clearly referring to her pregnancy. White elephants, in her view, means that "although you find it worthless, someone else might not"(Justice2). Initially, it is the American who feels that her pregnancy and her unborn child are worthless. She, however, feels quite the opposite. She wants to keep her pregnancy and her child. Regarding the hill, she comments that "They're lovely hills"(Hemingway171). For the hills are "beautiful with the promise of life, and intrinsically of value, as was the highly esteemed Siamese white elephant"(Kozikowski1). Whereas the American looks at objects without very much thought, when she looks at objects, she creates images in her mind of the things that she sees. She understands the