“Communicating and the lack thereof in Hemingway’s ‘Hills like White Elephants’“

Essay by griffinmeCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 2013

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"Communicating and the lack thereof in Hemingway's 'Hills like White Elephants'"

The short story "Hills like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway is a portrayal of a young American couple traveling in Spain. The couple, referred to as the American and the girl, is at a train station waiting for a train to Madrid. They are contemplating whether or not to have a procedure that they refer to only as "the operation" but which is assumed to be an abortion. The man tries to talk the girl into having the operation by promising that it is a simple procedure and that their lives will go back to normal afterwards. The girl, however, who appears to be more aware of the extent of both the operation and the status of their relationship, does not seem convinced of either of the American's arguments. Although the girl is more aware of the severity of the situation, she also appears to be indecisive and unable to communicate what she wants.

In "Hills like White Elephants," Hemingway explores a theme of communicating through dialogue, gender differences, and setting, as well as highlighting the importance of what isn't said or done.

Hemingway's short story "Hills like White Elephants" is a story in which very little action occurs. Actually, the only action that does take place is a few drinks are ordered and brought. Not much dialogue occurs within the story, either. According to Hal Holladay, "as with much of Hemingway's fiction, it is not so much what does happen or is said as what does not happen or is left unsaid that is important" (Holladay 1). There is much left unsaid in this story between the American and the girl.

One of the most pronounced symbols in the story...