Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Short Story Review: Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

The "Hills like White Elephants" is a very different sort of short story by Ernest Hemingway, first published in 1927. From then on, the story is included in different compilations of short story selections and collections and was also adapted in a movie in the last decade.
The main theme of the story is very feminist and depicts the misery of the girl. On one hand it shows how the selfish is the man towards the girl, while on the other hand, the writer highlights the sacrificing nature of the girl for her man. It depicts how a man for his own sake, asks the girl to go through physical and mental pain to pursue a happy life and how a girl for his man’s sake, sacrifice or give up her source of happiness.
The intense discussion between the two took place in a rail station in the Ebro River valley of Spain. They were deciding whether Jig will get an abortion or not is mainly of what the story comprises. Waiting for the train to Madrid, the different viewpoints and perceptions of the two leads the story towards an interesting end.
After several tries by her to make the guy understand what she thinks and imagines, Jig steps back and stops making efforts. The man seems to be self-centered and his vision is limited by his own needs and desires. Momentary pleasure is all that he needs, and he runs away from responsibilities and commitment of any sort. The factor of pregnancy proves to come in between their life and results to be a big issue for the man to overcome.
The time of crises for the girl is important for her as her life is to be affected by the decision that she makes. On one side, the girl fears losing the baby, and on the other side she fears losing her companion for life. Even after the discussion is near to end, the guy proves to be equally reluctant as he was in the start of the discussion. The fear of taking the responsibility of that child makes the guy do and say things that are extremely against the girl. The fear leads him towards a completely indifferent behavior, and fails him to understand anything that the girl has to say. In the end of the story, the decision remains unclear of whether the girl goes for the operation or not. The last thing that leaves a hint for the climax is when the guy asks the girl about how she feels, and she replies to be fine. The man picks up the briefcases of both of them and heads towards the train. 
The name of the story is symbolic, which can be interpreted in two ways. One is that the hills and the big white elephant can be thought of as the images of a pregnant woman's swollen breasts and abdomen. While other interpretation is that American see the baby as a white elephant and does not want to raise it because of the cost.
Hemingway has used iceberg theory also known as theory of omission, in which a message is communicated through a story's subtext. For example, in this story the word "abortion" is never said by any of the character, although the man seems to be trying to persuade his girl to have an abortion.
This story portrays a very important social issue of that era. Although this issue is irrespective of region, race, religion etc and exists all over the world, however, due to increased social awareness, literacy level and human’s level of understanding, this issue is reduced to a great extent. 


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