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Symbolism In Hills Like White Elephants, By Ernest Hemingway

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Hills Like White Elephants is the epitome of Ernest Hemingway’s legendarily concise writing. Comprised of basically only dialogue, the story forces its audience to deduce themes from microscopic shifts in the conversation between ‘the girl’ and ‘the American’. Through this meticulous diction, as well as through the use of powerful symbolism, Hills Like White Elephants encapsulates a recurring theme in Hemingway’s works: the superiority of men due to the emotional and dependent nature of women. Following a short introduction that establishes the scene in Spain, the story opens with two main characters in a bar. Hemingway describes the surrounding landscape as “long and white” with “no shade and no trees” (1). After ordering drinks, the female character looks off into this “brown and dry” terrain and notes that the contrastingly pale hills look like “white elephants” (1). The man quickly responds “I’ve never seen one,” to which she answers “No, you wouldn’t have” (1). From this exchange, it can be inferred that the white hills represent something beyond face-value, something that only the woman can understand and interpret. As the story progresses, their conversation begins to revolve around “an operation” (3), and suddenly a possible symbolism of the hills appears: the representation of the emotional and physicals repercussions of abortion. The hills convey the fear that women have following the procedure about infertility, death, and loss. These hills are so important,
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