Hemingway's Use Of Symbolism In Hills Like White Elephants

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Economy of words: Hemingway’s use of symbolism

Ernest Hemingway’s work polarises audiences with his economy of words. The lack of direct explanation frustrates some readers. On the other hand, some readers marvel at his use of symbolism to help the patient reader understand more about his stories. In “Hills Like White Elephants”, symbols play a large role in helping the reader understand the relationship and decision being made between the American and Jig.
The curtain made of beads is symbolic of the couple’s attitudes toward each other and toward the abortion. It acts as a cover that keeps the actual topic the characters must discuss covered up. For the first part of the stop at the station, Hemingway’s characters seem to engage only in
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Hemingway’s character Jeb comments, “Everything tastes like licorice. Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.” (27) The man, was a young, stylish, wealthy American as most were on the Ille de France, the stylish ocean liner that made her maiden voyage in mid-1927, about the same time Hemingway wrote this story. (Othfors 1) At this time, the drink was banned in the United States and much of Europe but was referenced often in French literature; seen. The journey aboard the ship was taken by the man to seek out the unknown and mysterious things of Europe, such as the absinthe. He likely also sought companionship, leading him to Jig early in his travels in France. Early in his travels, he likely felt a strong attraction to the mystique of absinthe. As with all things new and shiny, time tends to dull their …show more content…
One side is hot, dry and shadeless with rolling hills. The story begins with her describing the hills as “white elephants” (Hemingway 9) . The hills, resembling an expectant mother’s abdomen, symbolize pregnancy. This side represents her pregnancy as an unwanted burden. The American is dismissive of Jig’s description of the hills, because he already has his mind made up to abort the fetus and need not ponder any further. There is a shift in Jig’s thinking toward keeping the baby when she says to the man, “They don’t really look like white elephants.” (Hemingway 36) She is beginning to see the beauty in the hills. Next, she looks to the other side of the tracks where she sees a fertile river valley with mountains in the background. This side represents the beauty of having a child. She begins thinking of the completeness that would come if she were to keep the fetus. She says to the man, “we could have everything.” (Hemingway 73) Jig looks to the beautiful, lush landscape as if she is looking for advice on whether to keep the fetus. The symbolism is lost on the American, he does not require further contemplation, he has his mind made up. “They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills… and the man looked at her and the table.” (Hemingway 90) Finally, the author references the other, fertile, side again when the man sees that Jig is unwilling to have

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