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Symbolism In Hills Like White Elephant By Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway presents his readers with a story unlike most in his short story “Hills Like White Elephants.” Authors often give their readers a story with a beginning, middle and an end, Hemingway however, leaves his readers wondering where the characters came from and where they are going. The setting of the train station and its surrounding landscape gives deeper meaning to the conflict surrounding the couple. The couple constantly drinks alcohol throughout their conversation, giving an insight into their lifestyle together. The most significant symbol of their dilemma is in the title, white elephants. Through symbolism, Ernest Hemingway presents a couple with a shaky relationship who seem to be in a petty squabble that ultimately transforms…show more content…
Although Hemingway never blatantly states what the operation is, the reader is lead to believe the operation they discuss is an abortion. The couple has two choices, to have the abortion or not, these two choices are symbolized in the description of the landscape. The description of the two sides also symbolizes the decisions themselves and how Jig feels about her choices. On one side of the station “it was very hot” and “there was no shade and no trees” (525). This side is described as barren and lifeless which symbolizes what Jig’s state would be if she had the operation. On the other side there “were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro.” (527). In contrast, this side is green and full of life, Jig would be full of life if she continued with the pregnancy. Not only does the greenness symbolize life, the hills do as well. Hemingway’s use of hills symbolizes her pregnancy as well, a woman’s stomach looks like a hill when she is pregnant. Hills represent the dilemma the couple is facing, they are an obstacle. The pregnancy is an obstacle, a setback in Jig’s life, but it is something she can overcome with either decision she makes. Jig seems to be torn between the two decisions, she comments on the beauty of the hills but she physically walks to the end of the platform and gazes out at the barrenness surrounding the station. The drastic difference in the two sides represents the two completely different choices the American and Jig can choose to
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