Ready to take a stroll through the literary hills? Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ Summary is a must-read for any short story enthusiast. In just five pages, Hemingway showcases his signature style – simple dialogue and quick descriptions that reveal an undisclosed topic between a man and a young woman. Don’t believe us? Check it out yourself here before we dive into our juicy summary and analysis of this classic tale.
Meaning of Hills Like White Elephants
In Hills Like White Elephants Summary term “white elephants” holds two distinct connotations. Firstly, it refers to the rare albino elephant, also known as the white elephant, was historically viewed as a symbol of just and righteous rule by monarchs in countries like Burma and Thailand. Its presence at the royal court indicative of a prosperous and peaceful reign.
The second connotation is suggested in Hemingway’s narrative. Specifically, a “white elephant” is a term rooted in Western culture that characterizes an ownership item that cannot be easily relinquished. This item typically incurs high maintenance costs that are disproportionate to its practicality or appeal.
“Hills Like White Elephants” Plot Summary
The literary work entitled “Hills Like White Elephants Summary” commences with an extensive portrayal of the story’s backdrop, specifically a train station situated in a valley in Spain, surrounded by hills, fields, and trees. Seated outside the station, waiting for a train to Madrid, are a couple comprising a man referred to as the American and his girlfriend.
The man orders two beers in response to the heat. The girl observes that the hills in the distance resemble white elephants, to which the American admits that he has never seen one before. They order additional drinks and engage in a disagreement regarding the taste of the alcohol.
The American reprimands her and suggests that they attempt to enjoy themselves. The girl clarifies that she is merely enjoying herself and retracts her earlier statement by explaining that the hills no longer appear to resemble white elephants to her.
The individuals proceeded to order additional beverages, during which the American gentleman referred to the female companion as “Jig” and expressed his desire for her to undergo a medical procedure. However, he did not provide clear details on the type of procedure he had in mind and appeared to be somewhat uneasy. He attempted to minimize the seriousness of the operation by stating that it would be a simple procedure, but later contradicted himself by claiming that it would not even qualify as an operation.
The young woman remains silent for a brief period before inquiring about the potential outcomes following her operation. The man reassures her that post-operation. And things will return to how they were before. Furthermore, he cites numerous individuals who have undergone the operation and achieved contentment afterward.
The young woman concurs with him in a dispassionate manner. The man proceeds by stating that he will not impose the operation upon her but believes it to be the most suitable option available. She responds by stating that she is willing to undergo the operation, if he will continue to love her, and that they can lead a happy life together thereafter.
The gentleman subsequently accentuates the extent of his concern for the young lady, while she maintains a nonchalant attitude towards her own well-being. The American gentleman tentatively suggests that she refrain from undergoing the surgery if her sentiments are truly as such. The young lady then ambles towards the station’s terminus, gazes at the idyllic landscape, and ponders aloud about the feasibility of their happiness if she were to proceed with the operation. A verbal altercation ensues until the young lady becomes fatigued and impels the American to pledge to desist from further discourse.
The bartender from Spain gracefully serves two more beers and informs the patrons. The train will be arriving in five minutes. Although the girl expresses gratitude with a smile. She requests the American to translate the bartender’s message as she is not fluent in Spanish. Upon finishing their drinks, the American assists with the luggage and accompanies the girl to the platform, observing other travelers waiting for the train. Inquiring about the girl’s well-being, he receives assurance that she is fine and there are no issues to worry about.
“Hills Like White Elephants” Analysis
The title of Hemingway’s literary work, “Hills Like White Elephants,” is apt for several reasons. The title does not directly address the central. And most crucial issue of the protagonists’ conversation, which is the girl’s undisclosed “operation” that the man is persuading her to undergo. Instead, the title references a minor aspect of their dialogue as they carefully avoid discussing the matter at hand.
The remark made by the woman regarding the appearance of the Spanish hills resembling white elephants. It serves as a means of delaying the inevitable discussion. She and her male companion are hesitant to embark upon, due to its sensitive nature. The consumption of alcohol aids in easing the tension, allowing them to approach the topic indirectly and with greater ease.
Considering the sensitive topic of the conversation between the man and the girl regarding. They difficult decision of terminating her pregnancy. The symbolism of a “white elephant” takes on a poignant meaning. The unborn child that the girl has conceived with the man is akin to a burdensome white elephant. It would require extensive financial and emotional resources to care for.
However, the woman is facing difficulties in parting with her white elephant. Due to the irreversible nature of the action. There are indications that she may be concerned about the safety of the procedure. It is understandable fact that medical practices. It were not as advanced or as hygienic in 1927 as they are today.
The title of Hemingway’s short story, ‘Hills Like White Elephants’, cleverly alludes to the sensitive topic. There are two characters that reluctant to discuss explicitly. The title thus simultaneously discloses and veils the actual theme of the story in a subtle and indirect manner.
“Hills Like White Elephants” embodies several crucial characteristics of Hemingway’s fiction. Including his signature minimalistic style, straightforward dialogue, and frequent use of the Spanish landscape. However, it can be argued that these elements contrast with or create tension around the story’s themes.
The understated writing style in “Hills Like White Elephants” exposes the uncomfortable dynamic between the couple. Despite his repeated insistence that she make the decision for herself. He is trying to persuade her to have an abortion for his own benefit.
The directness of the dialogue masks the failure of the characters to have an honest conversation about the issue at hand. The Spanish landscape is not merely a backdrop. But an integral detail that highlights the girl’s struggle to address the weighty subject. Because she knows must eventually be faced.
Due to the significant amount of subtext and small talk utilized in the characters’ dialogue. We are prompted to analyze their relationship by closely observing their interactions rather than solely relying on their conversation topics.
The gentleman’s reaction to the young lady’s dismissive statement about his lack of experience in seeing a white elephant. Exemplifies a tendency towards controlling behavior. He appeared to take offense to her casual and insignificant comment, responding in a defensive and petulant manner.
It is worth noting that the young woman in the story recants her initial description of the hills resembling white elephants. She later clarifies that the hills do not bear much resemblance to white elephants at all. But simply remind her of their color. This detail is particularly noteworthy as it highlights the fact that many elephants referred to as “white” are gray or pinkish in color.
This phenomenon is reflected in the protagonist’s indecisiveness concerning the termination of her pregnancy. It is evident that she is reluctant to proceed with the procedure. As is often the case in Hemingway’s writing, the way in which he unveils information through the characters’ dialogue is just as important. If not more so, than what is left unsaid.
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