Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in July 21, 1899, Oak Park, Illinois. He was an American writer and journalist. Most of his works were fiction characterized by mainly economy and understatements. Owing to his profession of being a journalist he was also an adventurous person. He did his production in the 20th century (the mid 1920s and also mid 1950s). He ventured into journalism after finishing school where he worked for The Kansas City Star. Afterwards he left for the Italian font where he became an ambulance driver during World War I. This is what led to the production of the novel A Farwell to Arms. In 1922 he married his first of four wives, Hadley Richardson. They moved to Paris where he worked as a foreign correspondent. During his stay in Paris, he was influenced by a certain community known as the ‘Lost Generation’. It comprised modernist writers and artists of the 1920s. This is what saw the publication of his first novel The Sun Also Rises in 1924. He divorced Hadley in 1927 and married Pauline Pfeiffer. After his return from covering the Spanish Civil War, he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls as well as divorcing his second wife. In the year 1940, Martha Gellhorn became his third wife. He later left her for Mary Welsh after World War II. After the publication of The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, he went on safari to Africa. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. In 1959 he moved to Ketchum, Idaho where he tragically ended his life in 1961. In total he published seven novels, six short story collections and two non-fiction works.
Hills Like White Elephants is a short story written by Ernest and featured in the book, Men Without Women. It is set in a train station in the Ebro river of Spain. The day is hot and two characters one called ‘the American’ (male) and the other Jig (female) are introduced. They are drinking beer and liquor as they wait for the train to Madrid. These two are intimate with each other. During their waiting, they engage in a conversation which is not interesting and has nothing unusual just the ordinary. However it suddenly shifts and the American has somewhat of an operation which he wants Jig to undergo. Following evidence from statements like ‘it’s just to let the air in’ and ‘but I don’t want anybody but you’, it concludes that abortion is the operation. Jig is pregnant in short and the American does not seem to want the baby. This leads to a heated up argument. Finally Jig agrees to the American’s proposal after which she tries drop the topic. The American persists as he is unsure of his companion’s mental state. He has a fear of what the cost of raising that baby would be.
Hemingway uses symbolism in this short story as a literary technique. The title of the story tries to show the innocence of Jig as she tries to justify her lust for an American man. The man unfortunately is only interested in her physically. This is proven when he asks her to carry out an abortion. Jig’s innocence is also depicted in other instances. At one time she says “everything tastes like licorice, especially all the things he’s waited so long for, like Absinthe”. In this statement she appears to be confused. She expresses his immorality towards her as being sweet which is rather odd for any person in their correct mental state. Again from the title the American compares the unborn child to a white elephant. This is to show that it is an obstacle and it should be done away with hence his abortion proposal to Jig.
Jig’s question, “that is all we do, isn’t it-look at things and try new things” implies that their lifestyle is somewhat metaphorical compared to a white elephant. She is tired of this kind of carefree lifestyle and therefore seeks stability and permanency. “It is ours anymore,” she states directing it to their kind of living from one hotel to another. Her view on life is different compared to the American whose aim is just to have fun. He is manipulative and takes advantage of Jig’s innocence and lust of an American man.
In another instance he uses irony to affect his delivery of the message. All of a sudden, the American takes their luggage and puts it on the other side of the tracks. This is contrary to what they were planning that is to go to the city. It is also taken as a change of mind by the couple to go back to wherever they came from. This act shows that the American has abandoned the responsibility of bringing up a child. He also portrays that the proposed abortion was not an option but a must.
Dialogue is another aspect of style used by Ernest. All through the story, the American and Jig talk to each other in form of a dialogue. For example; “they look like white elephants,” she said. “I’ve never seen one,’’ the man drank his beer. Through dialogue we get to identify the kind of relationship the American and Jig have. At one point the American shouts at Jig, “oh cut it out.’’ This shows that the relationship is not stable and is one that is experienced by fights. The tone and pattern of dialogue indicate that the couple’s state is prone too many problems. It comes out not to be stable. Jig suffers manipulation from her male counterpart who does not seem to care whatsoever. From how the story is set the nature of the couple’s conversation presents resentment and uneasiness.
The short story, Hills like White Elephants is a captivating one as presented by the author Ernest Hemingway. He applies literary techniques in this piece of work. This improves the pattern in which he puts across the message. The use of symbolism is seen even from the topic itself. It gives the reader a notion of what he or she should expect. Furthermore it beautifies the work and makes it even more interesting to read. The use of dialogue is also evident. This sheds light on the kind of relation the characters have. The tone and nature of their conversation is what justifies it. Irony as a style leaves a reader in suspense hence wanting to know more of what happened later. It spices up any piece of literature thus making it admirable. The proficiency of Ernest as an author is best displayed in this short story.
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Fletcher, M. "Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants." Explicator, Summer 1980. Vol. 38 No. 4. p. 16
Smiley, P. "Gender-linked Miscommunication in 'Hills Like White Elephants.'" Hemingway Review, Fall 1988. Vol. 8 No. 1. p. 2
Renner, S. "Moving to the Girl's Side of 'Hills Like White Elephants.'" Hemingway Review, Fall 1995. Vol. 15 No. 1. p. 27
Berryman, John Dream Song 14 "The tranquil hills & gin"
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