Essay on Setting in Hills Like White Elephants, by Ernest Hemingway

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In the short story by Ernest Hemingway, "Hills Like White Elephants," a couple is delayed at a train station en route to Madrid and is observed in conflict over the girl's impending abortion. In his writing, Hemingway does not offer any commentary through a specific character's point of view, nor, in the storytelling, does he offer his explicit opinions on how to feel or think about the issues that emerge. The narrative seems to be purely objective, somewhat like a newspaper or journal article, and in true Hemingway form the story ends abruptly, without the couple's conflict clearly being resolved. The ambiguity of the ending has been a subject of much debate; however, the impact of what is not said in words can be gleaned through the…show more content…
Being at a railway junction (a parallel to the junction in their lives) they are in veritably the "middle of nowhere" in northeastern Spain. This physical isolation The time constraints imposed by their mode of travel only magnifies the exigency of their decision. They are only at this junction for forty minutes, and once the train arrives they have only two minutes to board. The detail that it is the "express from Barcelona"(142) is a contrivance employed by Hemingway to add a sense of urgency to their situation. The two tracks, each one representing an individual and their wishes, run parallel to each other, never crossing, and hence leave no room for compromise. It is either one track or the other.

The pair is sitting outside at a table facing the dry hills. The girl looks out at the bleak, arid landscape and comments to her paramour that "[the hills] look like white elephants"(143). He brushes off this remark as a flight of fancy; after all, the hills bear no physical resemblance to white elephants. The girl is looking at these hills as being emblematic of their current lifestyle, and is trying to find some good in it, perhaps to convince herself to heed her partners wishes and go through with the abortion. She is trying to find magic in something very grim, but this self-pacifying tactic fails. His callous response to her attempt at finding beauty only furthers the emotional and ideological
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