Symbolism in Hills Like White Elephants, by Ernest Hemingway Essay

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What is the use of symbolism in writing? Is it merely to confuse the reader or is its true intent to make the reader think about the meaning of the story? A symbol is a person, object, or event that suggests more than its literal meaning (Meyer 220). In Ernest Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants," Hemingway uses a plethora of symbols to convey the idea that the young girl, Jig is ambivalent to having an abortion and that her older American boyfriend does not want to have the baby. Although the word abortion is never used in the story, the reader understands the concept through Hemingway's symbolism.

In the beginning of the story, Jig and her boyfriend are waiting for a train in the valley of Ebro. They did not take a car
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Jig knows that having the child will make her look like a whore in the eyes of her community, thus she knows that she has to get rid of the baby, but in her heart she wants to keep it.

Moreover, the story contains the word "two” throughout it, which reinforces that Jig and her boyfriend only are not ready to be a three unit family, that they are happy right now with two people. They had "two glasses of beer and two felt pads," the train only "stopped at this junction for two minutes" (614), and they only had "two heavy bags" (617). They are not ready for a child and that is why there is an emphasis on the word two. Ironically, the word “two” could also mean that Jig feels that she is ready to have the baby. She could be seeing herself and the baby as two and thus she is thinking of keeping the baby.

Jig might be having the abortion because she is drinking during her pregnancy. Jig does not even think twice about drinking, she is the one that even said, "let's drink beer" (614). Even though in this time period a pregnant woman drinking was acceptable, it was suggested that the woman drink very little alcohol. However, Jig does drink a lot of alcohol at the train station. She continues to drink through out the story and even tries Anis Del Toro, which is illegal alcohol drink in most countries due to the drink killing people when consumed in large quantities. She is already