Hills Like White Elephants Symbolism Essay

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Ernest Hemingway, a world-renowned classical American author, leaves much to the reader’s imagination and interpretation in his stories. One example of this is his short story, Hills Like White Elephants, in which an unnamed man and a woman, Jig, are deciding whether or not to proceed with an “operation” (referring to an abortion) and may end up going their separate ways in the end. The overwhelming amount of symbolism in this story can be confusing at first, but after a closer look, Hemingway's tale seems to be one of genius.

The story begins with Jig and the man ordering drinks at a bar between two train tracks, one going to Barcelona and the other to Madrid. The fact that the woman orders large alcoholic beverages could be interpreted
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They are currently at a train station, which represents a place of transit from one point in life to another. The train bound for Madrid is surrounded by barren hills that the Jig describes as “white elephant hills,” indicating that the baby is a “white elephant gift,” or one that neither of them really wants, and would end up being a burden. At the time, Madrid was one of the largest cities in Spain, a largely Catholic country that was strongly anti-abortion. This made Madrid one of the only places they could go to safely get an illegal abortion. The other train, heading to Barcelona, is surrounded by “fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro,” which indicates fertility and life. Essentially, getting on the train to Madrid would lead to the abortion, and the train to Barcelona could lead to life, the birth of a baby, and the start of a family.

Hills Like White Elephants is a short-story with a much deeper meaning than first perceived. What can appear to be a casual conversation is actually the turning point in a couple’s relationship, and could either lead to the formation of a family and the birth of love or the backtracking in their relationship. Rereading stories and looking for deeper meaning in symbolism is vital, and can lead to a better understanding of life and it's
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