Iceberg Theory In Ernest Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants

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Set in the early 1920s, Ernest Hemingway (1927) writes the short story “Hills Like White Elephants” in limited descriptions of the background and the main characters with the intention of using iceberg theory, while immersing readers into the conversation of the main characters deeply by skillfully using the objective third person point of view. The protagonists, a girl named Jig and an American man, are waiting for the train heading to Madrid in the shade while discussing “an awfully simple operation” (Hemingway, 254) that the man urges the girl to have. In the course of the discussion, the man hypocritically comforts the girl that it is okay if she insists she would not have the operation but actually suggests the operation is what the girl…show more content…
With that being said, casual readers may take Jig for an innocent and naïve character after noticing her allegation like “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” (Hemingway, 254) or pitiable defense like “Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?” (Hemingway, 255) but led down to a misinformed path as the outcome. As a matter of fact, dialogues mentioned above are actually helping form the duality image of Jig in readers’ stereotypical minds, though it is reasonable for them to resonate like that. As thus, they are easily unable to discover the cunning and manipulative moments hidden in the story. For example, when the American tells Jig that she should not be afraid of the operation since he has “known lots of people that have done it” (Hemingway, 254), Jig responses “So have I… And afterwards they were all so happy” (ibid.), which is a veiled sarcasm suggested by a so-called artless girl. Besides, while it is clearly that Jig doesn’t want to abort her baby, she has still “smiled at him” (Hemingway, 256) for several times which is fake and lied to the American that “There 's nothing wrong with me. I feel fine” (ibid.). Even the smartest of social groups, as the American man, fails…show more content…
Set in a barren background depicted as “The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun” (Hemingway, 252), the contrast of these symbols of death next to symbols of life and springtime - “Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains” (Hemingway, 254) - is striking. Moreover, it can be discovered that while the American represents the darkness that forcing the girl to abort, Jig herself has a sense of connection with light. Such connection can be confirmed in Jig’s own recognition of the environment surrounding her - she is “looking off at the line of hills” (Hemingway, 253) and they are “white in the sun” (ibid.) The narrative of the story then shows furthermore evidence such as the girl says “the mountains looked like white elephants” (ibid.) and then immediately asks the man “wasn’t that bright” (ibid.). The minute details like “the girl smiled brightly at the woman” (Hemingway, 255) suggest the profound psychological insights of the girl, too. All of these scenes or contrasts mirror the existential ambivalence and hope inside the superficial-looking girl and eventually
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