Hills Like White Elephants Essay

In the story “Hills like White Elephants” the vague dialogue conveys an allusive tone, in order to be represented correctly the author puts more emphasis in the character’s interaction with the setting. The setting is at a stopping point before their final destination. The dialogue mainly transpires throughout between the Girl and the American. This story is based around a vague dialogue, but is filled with the observations of the setting in order to express the pressure, significance, and opinions upon the subject at hand. In order grasp these messages, the reader interprets through the vivid imagery that is depicted by the author.
The style of writing conveys this picture with an intended amount of clarity to leave the rest up to the reader to elucidate. This clarification is necessary in order for the reader to truly grasp the decision at hand and the weight of it as well. A metaphorical aspect of the setting is the “Elephant in the Room [2]”. This implies that there is a subject that no one truly wants to discuss, and is left there to fester within the subconscious of these two characters until they have finally reached their decision. Another extended metaphor throughout the story is “…Like White Elephants”.
This symbol can be interpreted as a great gift given to a person, but it is also a heavy burden that most would not desire. At this time they are having the discussion on whether or not to have an “Operation”. There are four main aspects of the setting that reflect upon the tone. The first are the hills mentioned in the beginning of the story. The second is the isolation between the two characters within the train station, and this is mainly because of it’s opposition to the tone, The first part of the setting that is mentioned is the hills along the Ebro Valley that from their perspective has no shade or trees.

The absence of shade represents the blatant manner of how the American goes about convincing the girl in this story. Over and over again he promises happiness if she agrees. The trees represent life she is considering having. The absence of shade also shows why there is an absence of trees. As the “sun” overwhelms the “trees” they start to wither away. For example, later in the story as another form of persuasion he says “I don’t want you to do it if you feel that way [1]” in order to coax her in to making the decision he wishes for without making it seem that he had any influence with it.
This displays the American’s true intention to rid Jig and himself of the baby. The lack of shade may also symbolize the lack of thought the girl goes through for the American’s suggestions. For example, the girl does not speak Spanish and therefore relies on him in order to get her a drink, and after that she also asks him if a drink is good with water claiming that she couldn’t decide this on her own. Her dependency on the American in these situations indicates how reliant she is on him. This is an example of why she is so incapable of making such heavy decision.
The second significant aspect of the setting is the Train station. The statement “the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. [3]” this has two significant observations. The first is the fact that the station is between two lines. This means that the conversation and the two’s relationship is at a “Stop” or a crossroad. At this point they are to make an important decision about whether or not to keep the baby. In this story you’ll notice the dialogue of the girl sounds somewhat ambivalent due to the way her decision sways back and forth. This is a prime example of why.
What she sees on that side ultimately depicts the choice she is about to make. For example; in the story the reader may notice that there are “no trees” along the hillside. Later in the story the American is still busy trying to convince and then she gets up and she walks to the other side of the station she notices fields of prospering vegetation full of life alongside a flowing river whose viscosity emphasizes the idea of moving forward. These enticing promises from the American paired with the barren valley are dwarfed by the cornucopia of life seen within the field on the other.
The juxtaposition between the two sides represents the heaviness of the choice on whether to give life or take it. The second tone-related characteristic of this station was the drinking between the American and the girl. As the girl and the American sat, she asked him what they should drink the American suggested alcohol. The beer was a way of escaping the serious discussion the two were trying to avoid. The alcohol was a method of getting around the “Elephant in the Room” with such dry small talk as “The beer is nice and cool [4]” or “They look like white elephants….. I`ve never seen one…no you wouldn’t have [5]”.
The girl points out that this routine of “look at thing and try new drinks? [6]”has grown tiring. This is the first change in her mood that is noticed, but after this small inquiry she recedes into her submissive nature continues this throughout most of the story. The third aspect of the setting that expresses the allusive tone is the juxtaposition between the two sides of the valley. This is another example of the reader relying on the setting in order to understand the representation of the tone. One of the sides features long white hills that resemble white elephants and are without shade or any trees.
White Elephants are a symbol of burden, which anyone would normally abhor from. This mainly represents the American’s view on how this pregnancy will affect the two of them and how they’ll live. He states “We`ll be fine afterwards [7]” and “That’s the only thing that bothers us. [8]” in order to convince her about the positive things that will come out of this operation. The girl later retracts the statement about the hills looking like white elephants but states “They’re lovely hills….. They don’t really look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring through the trees. 9]”. This portrays a sudden change within the girl; from being very submissive to what the American suggests (Reason why she sees the hills without trees and lifeless) to questioning the reason for avoiding the true matters at hand (Reason she now sees flaws in his logic and starts form optimistic views about how the baby should not have an effect on how their relationship functions. ). The trees on this side of the station ultimately resemble the life she can hope for, but the other side of the station represents a promise of homogenous happiness.
This side is showcases the joys of not having to worry about the “One thing that makes unhappy”. The fields of grain and the river appeared to represent the progress that the American promised. While the girl stares into this auspicious land a cloud’s shadow is cast upon it. This shadow foretells the future that land that would prosper will have the shadow’s influence over, meaning the American will most likely take over her will and rid her of independent thought. Moreover there have already been examples of her relying on him for the simple decisions, and taking his desires as a primary concern instead of her own.
The fourth aspect setting that reflects the allusive tone is the train. This part of the story conveys a sense of pressure to the story since it occurs within a time period of 40 minutes. Also since this in an unpopulated train station the sense of isolation also has an effect on the characters. This sense of isolation forces them to face the “Elephant in the Room” no matter how much they want and they must face it within the time frame. In order to avoid “talking with her” or communication between each other he speaks to her as if his attention was omewhere else. This explains why the American’s compelling reasoning is being heard over and over again. It’s mainly because he wants her to see his view and submit to his “Suggestion”. Once his suggestions fail he entices her with promises of affluence in the future by showing her the land and saying all this could be ours. The girl once again falls under the pressure of the time frame she has to make the choice and looking for relationship security, but after her acceptance of this the American perseveres with his insistence.
In response the asks for silence or otherwise she’ll scream, this symbolizes the need for seclusion in order to steal away from the constant battering and pressure of another’s thoughts. The Woman then comes out with more alcohol in order to break the tension, also adds more pressure by saying “The train comes in five minutes. [10]”. Instead of reiterating his last point he decides to take the heavy bags to the other side of the station, and when he comes back he decides to sit at the bar instead of the table with the Girl. He asks her if she felt better now and she replies with “I feel fine….
There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine. [11]” This tells us that she has resolved the issue by herself and is ready to continue with what she desires. In conclusion, we see that the different parts of the setting portray different methods of expressing their decision due to the lack of direct dialogue. Through things such as scenery like the hills; the change in how she sees them represent how her forms and has changed from when the story started. It has also been depicted through how the different sides of the train station juxtapose one another.
On one side prosperity and promising futures are seen, but on the other side the desolate, dry, and lifeless hills promise nothing but a lack of progression. Another way the train station represents the tone is the change in what the girl sees alongside the hill as she abjures her previous statement and restates the hills no longer seem like white elephants but only appear that way through the trees. This change in viewpoint shows how she is starting to no longer lean on the opinion of the American and form one of her own.
This retraction of her statement also means that she no longer sees this birth as the burden or the “Only thing that makes us unhappy” anymore. And lastly the inclusion of a timeframe increase the amount of weight that is felt within the decision making process. The train shows why the American is trying to be overly-persuasive in this conversation in order to convince her to go through with the operation. Overall, Ernest Hemingway expresses the majority of the decision through the characteristics of the setting and how the characters are willing, unwilling, or unable to interact with one another.

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