ANALYSIS OF HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS
English 301 - 01
September 14th 2000
Who is the boss?
Society is pressuring people so much to succeed in life and to become someone they can not be, that people act in any way they can to reach this goal. Often, they use power and domination to show that they are important and can influence the world. Hills Like White Elephants reflects the power of men over women. The plot, characterization and semic codes prove this claim.
First of all, the plot of the story ¹ shows that the man has more control and authority than the woman. Since he is the protagonist, he takes more space in the story. He has more influence because he is the main character and because the story is based on what he wants. His goal is to convince Jig to get aborted; so once again, he is more important since he wants something in particular. On the contrary, Jig is the antagonist because she is opposed to the idea of getting an abortion. She wants to keep her child, but her husband is insisting so much that she can not transmit her opinion and express how she feels. The plot of Hills Like White Elephants clearly demonstrates the power of men over women.
Secondly, the man has more power than his wife because the characterization proves it very well. The woman is very weak and consults her husband before doing anything, as if she could not make a decision by herself.
'What should we drink?'
'Should we have another drink?
She is unable to use her judgment and has to have her husband's approval before doing anything. Also, even though she would like to keep the child, she puts his feelings before hers and would do almost anything to make him happy.
'And you think then we'll be all right and be happy'
'And you really want to?'
'And if I do it you'll be happy and things will be like they
were and you'll love me?'
She is willing to sacrifice what she desires the most to please her husband. This is a very big sign of inferiority and being manipulated by her husband. She cares more about his happiness than hers. Finally, the girl has no confidence in herself and does not consider herself as someone important: 'I don't care about me'. On the contrary, the man is very forceful and dominant. He is always repeating that everything will be fine but deep inside, he only wants to get rid of the baby.
'But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want
any one else'
'I don't care anything about it.'
He insists that she must do the operation and is putting a lot of pressure on her.
'It's really an awfully simple operation'
'You don't have to be afraid, I know lots of people that have
'I won't worry about that because it's perfectly simple.'
He is so persistent and almost commands her to get aborted that she feels she has no choice but to accept. He is also playing with her feelings by saying that things will be great. He tells her he will love her and everything will be like they used to. Of course, she is very tempted but still confused because she really wants this baby. He is very manipulative and almost compels her to do it. His strategy is to repeat the same words
over and over again to convince her:
' Well, if you don't want to you don't have to.
I wouldn't have you do it if you didn't want to.
But I know it's perfectly simple'
The girl is so fed up of hearing his persistent comments that she says: 'Would you please please please…stop talking'. She feels overwhelmed and powerless about the situation. The characterization shows that men have more power than women.
Finally, the author tells society that men dominate women through the semic codes ². The man is opposed to the girl. He manifests superiority while she is inferior. He has a lot of influence, but on the other hand, she is being influenced. He wants the death of their child, yet she wants him to live. He uses his reason to cope with the situation, but she is much more emotional. He is strong and confident, while she is weak and fearful. The man is very determined, but she is hesitant. Brief, the man has a more confident attitude and uses his authority on his submissive, weak, and undecided wife. The semic codes demonstrates the power of men over women.
In short, Ernest Hemingway transmitted the message that men control and dominate women and it is noticeable through the plot, the characterization and the semic codes. Who is the boss today? Are men still leading society or have women taken more room and have they begun to influence a bit more the world?
x = the man / domination
y = abortion / power over the woman
z = Jig / inferiority
2 Semic codes:
man / girl
superior / inferiority
having / being
death / life
reason / emotion
sterile / fertile
decisiveness / hesitation
Word Count: 875