Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

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At first glance, the story Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway may seem simple enough.  It appears to be a tale of two people waiting for the train.  However, deeper analysis would reveal that the theme of the story is of great relevance.  Though not directly indicated in the text, the story deals with the issue of abortion.  The young girl named Jig is being persuaded by her male companion to have an unspecified operation.  It is the theme of abortion is what makes Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants very memorable. because it gives the seemingly simple story a moral dilemma.

Hills Like White Elephants is memorable due to the moral dilemma it presents.  The depth of the story is founded on the seemingly vague conversation between Jig and the man identified simply as “the American” (Hemingway, 1927).  The man and his pregnant young companion lived seemingly carefree lives, only to be confronted with such problem.  The man attempts to convince Jig to go through with the abortion because he sees the unborn child as a hindrance to their happiness.  He told Jig: “It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy” (Hemingway, 1927).  He tried to present abortion as a simple procedure to be done in Jig’s best interests.  While it is unclear in the end if Jig will go through with the procedure, she expressed her desire to go through with it when she remarked: “I don’t care about me” (Hemingway, 1927).

The story is also memorable because of the symbolism regarding the theme.  The title itself presents a symbolism.  The hills, which according to Jig resemble white elephants, can be considered as a reference to the body of a pregnant woman.  It can represent the swollen breasts and expanding abdomen.  Also, the different kinds of land in the opposite sides of the train tracks represent the opposing viewpoints of the couple about the pregnancy.  The barren side of the tracks represents how the American perceives the pregnancy while the lush side represents how Jig sees her situation.

Indeed, Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway is a truly memorable story.  From the surface, the story may not seem remarkable, but careful reading will show that it has an important lesson to teach.  Through its discussion of abortion, the story presents it readers the moral dilemma of choosing between life and death.


Hemingway, E. (1927). Hills Like White Elephants. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://www.moonstar.com/~acpjr/Blackboard/Common/Stories/WhiteElephants.html

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