Euphemism In Hills Like White Elephants

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In Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, a young couple in Barcelona is waiting for a train to Madrid. The man, simply referred to as “The American”, and the pregnant woman, Jig, discuss an ominous “operation”. As they continue to talk, it becomes clear that the American is trying to persuade Jig to have an abortion, but she is hesitant to comply. However, the characters never candidly indicate what the “operation” is; it is up to the reader to infer what the topic of the conversation is about. Through their laconic discourse and a lack of description, a lot about their relationship remains concealed. Still, though it is not clear where the two stand with each other, the disingenuous and antithetical nature of their relationship is…show more content…
From the beginning, the reader observes the couple struggling to engage in any deep discussion; their interaction is made up of small talk, and a hint of rigidity. Although there is a cumbersome elephant in the room, not once does the couple directly acknowledge, nor does their conversation reveal the subject of their discussion: abortion. Eventually, through subtle references and an awkward strain on the conversation, the reader detects the topic. Jig tries to dance around the issue, talking about irrelevant matters such as the assortment of drinks she wants to try, and the scenery around them. When the American tries to confront the idea, Jig expresses a clear discomfort with discussing her pregnancy, or the possibility of an abortion. She begs the American: “Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?” (203). Jig, in an effort to permanently end this strenuous conversation, says “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine” (204), although she is still disgruntled. Their inability to partake in critical conversation, or address the elephant in the room, reflects the general nature of their relationship: uncommunicative, artificial, and
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