The story written by Ernest Hemingway entitled “Hills like white elephants” talks about a couple arguing about abortion. The story starts with a description of river Ebro and white hills beyond this river from a train station located in Spain. A woman named “Jig” and an American man are having some beers at a bar and waiting for a train that will take them to Barcelona. The author has not used the word abortion anywhere in the story, but he succeeds in making the readers understand about abortion through the use of symbolism and the setting. At the beginning of this story, the setting is described and the plot seems pretty straightforward. The story is all about a man and a small girl who are together in a train with other seasoned travelers. There are several thematic traces of responsibility and feminism in an ambiguous dialogue and a light descriptive narration. The girl does not want to imagine that she would have an operation so as to deliver, and nature has allowed her to go in a different world where the hills can have a skin and she can change her decision. The man with this girl is forcing her to dwell on the situation, but the girl tries to run away again where she notices the whole landscape. The girl is longing to see the world in the landscape, but then, she knows very well that she can never go there. At the train station where they are waiting, there is no shade or trees. This is symbolic to their relationship. Their relationship is almost becoming barren as they quarrel more and more in the day. Their life is also reflected by the calm, simple setting and the lack of a colorful imagery on the side of Ebro hills. As the two continue having beers, the woman comments that the white hills near the brown and dry country resembles a white elephant. The man carelessly reacts to this statement and the pivotal issue in the story is established. Tension grows between the two and they continue ordering more drinks. On one hand, the American wants the woman to undergo an operation, but the woman does not want. The man encourages Jig to undergo the “awfully simple operation” where they will just let air in then it is perfectly natural. Here, it becomes apparent that the simple operation that the American is talking about is abortion. On page 214, the girl seems angry where he tells the American “can’t we maybe stop talking”. She seems convinced after sitting down at the table.
The title of this story insinuates pregnancy by using the term white elephant. The term white elephant can be used to describe the unborn baby in Jig’s womb. This child requires unconditional love, care and expenses when it is born hence it means problems to the man. The hills as well as the curves of Ebro are imageries describing a pregnant woman, and they symbolize that this relationship could be a large barrier in their relationship. The American does not want to be a father as he fears losing his possessions to the new born. However, he enjoys travelling with Jig and her lifestyle as their relationship is based on what they have, not what they will have in the future. The American promises to support Jig after the small operation and assures her that nothing will change even if she aborts.
The climax of this story appears after Jig is agitated by the irritating conversations as well as their romantic relationship. Jig questions his feeling for her and their uncertain future. Towards the end, she seems persuaded by the man to have an abortion despite her needs and wants as she does not care about her life. She realizes that life may not be the way she wanted or planned. She points out that she likes trying new things like drink, but she is often disappointed. The American is confident that at last, Jig has accepted to have the operation for the sake of their future happiness. This is ironic since he is the one causing the trouble by insisting that Jig should have the small operation.
The story ends in a suspicion as the reader does not know the final destination of the couple. The American says at the end that he would rather take his bags on the other side of the station where there is life and growth. The two sides of this train represent two types of life. The author also chose the setting at the valley to symbolize the situation of the couple and the options they have in life. The author also succeeded narrating extensive amount of information considering the repetitive dialogue. Some people may agree with the decision to have an abortion while others may differ. Hemingway calls the man simply an American and the girl “Jig” to show commonality of their problems in the society. He points out elements such as honesty, communication, understanding and maturity are crucial in a healthy relationship and lack of any of them may lead to disintegration of the relationship. The short story is educative as there are many things to learn.