The Overly Symbolic, “The Hills Look Like White Elephants”

May 7, 2018 General Studies

Like an iceberg that is only revealed at the reface of the water, his stories only present a small amount of information so that the reader must dive in and discover ALL the rest. Not only is the meaning Of “the operation” not presented efficiently but also the characters have a lack of substance and background. The dialog is choppy and the only imagery that is given is where the conversation is taking place. The reader must imagine what the characters, the American and Gig, look like by simply our own perception.

At the end of the story the readers must determine, with the help of their conscious, what the outcome is for the couple and their unborn child. There is nothing alluding to a decision just a vague ending. In the beginning of the story’ we are presented with the title within the first 7 lines of dialog, “The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry. ‘ They look like white elephants,’ she said”. We must keep on reading to relate the hills that look like white elephants to “the operation”.

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The first mention of “the operation” comes as a surprise because its sounds like the American just blurts it out after ordering their third round of drinks, ‘Its really an awfully simple operation, Gig,’ the man said. It’s not really an operation at all. ‘ Even after the operation is finally mentioned, the reader may not come up with a consensus of what the true meaning of it is due to the ambiguous word play that the author distinctively uses to hide the true meaning such as, ‘l know you wouldn’t mind it, Gig.

It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in. ‘ Just to let the air in? How would any reader find this sentence in relation to an abortion? Ironically, the symbolism that effectively aides the reader to believe the operation is an abortion is the title itself. The meaning behind a ‘white elephant’ is of something of great value but as well of great burden. Hemingway unnecessarily uses dialog to throw off the reader to keep them guessing, but it just became confusing.

The characters are known to be the American and the girl (also known as Gig which only was referred to by name twice). There is absolutely no background to go off of concerning their relationship or who they are individually. We evidently can determine that the American is from America but where is Gig from? Even though we know the setting takes place somewhere in the country forty minuets from Madrid, Spain, Gig never speaks in Spanish. Ironically, the American only speaks in Spanish a few times when addressing the woman behind the beaded curtain (the waitress).

Even her name doesn’t present a hint of where this confused young woman is from. Hemingway also does not give any description for neither character. All the imagery that is given is that Gig takes off her hat. He may desire us to focus on the dialog but a reader can only assume that Gig was young and naive. She clearly doesn’t want to have the operation butte earnestly desires the validation from her lover. A description of the couple would of better helped us readers in judging he outcome of the situation.


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