Hills Like White Elephants
By Ernest Hemmingway
In many works of literature the reader finds that a story is difficult to understand until he/she is approaching the end. At that time the reader discovers either proof of his/her assumptions or evidence that cancels out original opinions. Such is true with Ernest Hemmingway s Hills Like White Elephants.
In the beginning of the story, the reader is presented with a conversation between two people that is very awkward. The dialogue they use is unusual for the average reader, especially the girl s reference to hills that look like white elephants (Hemmingway). Although this is a familiar phrase, for it is also the title, it is hard to discover its significance through the text. Their conversation is very bland and leaves the reader searching for a point. The only information the reader is able to concur is that the girl s attention is elsewhere, for she is constantly looking off into the distance.
As the story progresses, the reader finds that there is a conflict between the two main characters. Evidence is given that the girl will have an operation. The man feels that it will be simple, but the girl does not feel the same. The reader is left guessing what the operation could be, but with no textual evidence, the possibilities are endless. However, when the reader arrives at the last scene of the story, as with many stories, the cloudiness begins to clear and an understanding is negotiable. With Hills Like White Elephants, the story finally begins to make sense as you get to the end dialogue. The conversation between the two becomes less bland and textual clues are given to help the reader to better understand what is taking place.
I feel the last scene contains the whole story because in this scene, the characters are more verbal of their attitudes and feelings. You ve got to realize that I don t want you to do it if you don t want to. I m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means any thing to you (Hemmingway). From this, the reader knows that the operation is not life threatening since there is a choice involved. When the man states I don t want anybody but you. I don t want anyone else. The reader can confirm that if they go through with it instead of having the operation, there will be someone else in their relationship. To keep it just the two of them, she has to have the operation an abortion. Once this is brought to light, the entire story begins to make more sense. We find that the girl is feeling pressured into having the operation. Her body language suggest she wants to get off this subject, but the man needs a further concession from her if they are going to last as a couple.
At the end of the text, I came to the conclusion that throughout the story the girl was trying to get the man to realize she did not want to get an abortion and neither did he. The last scene of the passage also sends the reader back to the earlier conversation between the two. The reader finds the significance in the hills that look like white elephants and the two very contradicting descriptions of the landscape. After referencing white elephants the reader finds that it was a slang term used to describe an unwanted gift that lacked tastefulness. The girl s white elephant was the abortion and the trip they were taking to have one performed. She did not want to go through with it, but wanted to please the man.
In the beginning of the story, the girl sees the land as barren. In the last scene of the story, the land is described as being more fertile with grain growing and water flowing. From the text of the last scene, I inferred that the descriptions of the landscape characterized the emotions of the girl. The barren landscape represents the relationship between the two as it stood. The setting represents the couple s options in life. They come from the dry side of the valley, where there is no shade or trees. Jig no longer wanted to live in such conditions, but her companion did not want to give it up. She was longing for the kind of life that awaited them on the other side, where there were fields of grain and trees and children. And we could have all this, she told him. In the end, she finally convinced him that their lives were in need of a new direction.
The end of a story always helps to improve the understanding of a text. Although the beginning of a story is necessary to connect the entire text, the end is the most important because it provides all the evidence needed to wrap the work up as a whole. The beginnings always have many different angles a reader could go from, but the end ties all the strings together.