Ernest Hemingway’s ability to depict deep worries, serious challenges, and strongly negative occurrences with the ease, simplicity, and even certain positivity is truly amazing. “Hills Like White Elephants” is a great example of hidden symbolism which reveals much more between the lines of the text than actually through words of the story. The author manages to give the reader a good understanding without referring directly to the problem.
“Hills Like White Elephants” seems to be quite a senseless title at the first sight, but if to read the story carefully, one understands that the dialogue between a man and a woman awaiting the train centers on the undesired pregnancy and possible abortion which the woman intends to make. However, the problem is not as narrow as it sounds. The context of this lack of desire to have a baby is much broader, namely, the economic situation of the couple caused by the economic situation in the country.
The American seems to observe the child as a white elephant due to the cost, whereas the young woman cannot imagine having to care about someone but herself and her pleasurable life in the world of careless travelling and mindless drinking. White elephant is both a swollen abdomen as well as inconvenient burden that do not fit into any niche in the life of young people. Hills can allegorize the swollen breasts of the pregnant woman. Furthermore, knowing the high competence of Ernest Hemingway, the animal can also symbolize a dream of the woman who later on became a mother to Buddha, when the white elephant came to her in her sleep.
The author’s frequent use of the theory of omission, or the iceberg theory, is present in this story, too: The reader gets the message from subtext. For example, the word “˜abortion’ cannot be found in the whole work but it is clear that the male protagonist is trying evasively to persuade his woman to go on the operation.
From more obvious features of the story, Ernest Hemingway provides the reader with more implicit symbolism that is deeply interwoven into the settings of the plot. The conflict and the growing tension that enshroud the young careless couple seem to be increasing with each word that leads the story to an end. The railway road as if create a segregation line between the deserted area that stretches far towards the hills and the fertile, green farming land from the other side, symbolizing the difficult choice the protagonists have to make as well as the difference in their interpretation of the situation with pregnancy.
It is interesting to note how the girl constantly avoids the eye contact with the American, appearing to be distracted by the landscape outside the window. It means that she does not share his views, and maybe that he has become unpleasant to her running away from the responsibility of the committed action. She is obviously doubting what to do, and her decision appears to have only negative outcome: If she delivers a baby, the American would not like it as he already now shows a great deal of discontent, despite being the one to blame for such occurrence, on the other hand, if she makes an abortion, how she will continue her careless life knowing that one day in past she killed a small world. Moreover, she may experience a lot of complications or even life-threatening changes in her organism which will make her life different.
Despite the dilemma, the depiction of “Hills Like White Elephants” is marked by positivity, probably due to the fact that despite all the doubting, the girl knows deep in her heart what decision she will make. She is not depending fully on the American, and this is the issue which she needs to figure out on her own in spite of his direct participation in it. The man, on the other hand, is torn by his multiple doubts and feeling of weakness, helplessness that he cannot change the happened: It is symbolized by the delayed train which everyone waits for and which is still not seen in the distance. Happiness in life is about taking the responsibility for your life, and the perplexity of the main characters, particularly the man who is supposed to the strong shoulder of support for his woman, only stresses on the importance of leading a reasonable, thoughtful life.