Hills like White Elephants': a Formalist Criticism

Hasty and clumsy decisions would definitely result to regrets and the urge to conceal those mistakes. It is visible in Ernest Hemingway’s short fiction entitled “Hills like White Elephants” published on 1927. This 'Hills like White Elephants' literary analysis essay will make a deep critical analysis of the story that was written by Ernest Hemingway. Throughout the story, it is dominated with specific details that convey the viewpoints of both characters– an American man and a girl referred as Jig. Though it was written during the 1900s, the issue that it tackles is still relevant in today’s society. Through the years, the story became the subject of critical interest of people. The brief tale is introduced in fairly unique way on the grounds that the importance or the primary idea of the story is exhibited. The sensitive issue that the story tackled was abortion, the way it bothers the man and the girl in the story, the ambiguous conversation that they had regarding the matter, and the application of the issue in the contemporary times.

Hills like White Elephants is in a form of short story, with around a thousand words. The actual story is involved for the most part of discourse. Despite the fact that there is something going on, there is no immediate plot; despite the fact that there are words expressed between the characters, there is still no noticeable resolution. It is narrated in third person because the narrator does not participate in the story. In this way, both of the characters are placed in the middle without evident disruption in the unfolding of the story. Hemingway utilized his own style of writing which is the iceberg theory also known as the theory of omission wherein there are some details inflicted to reveal greater twists and symbolism in the story. The story started when the two main characters, the man and the girl arrived in the train station for a trip to Madrid. As described in the story, “the station lies between the lines of rails in the sun.” In this description, it is notable that the man and the girl are having a disputable issue, an issue that haunts them both. With the way they were addressed as “man and girl”, it is obvious that the man is a young bachelor while the girl is younger than the man. The woman may be a teenager ages eighteen to twenty while the man’s age is between twenty to twenty-five, yet they are strong-willed to pursue their doings such as travelling and drinking. They were certainly confronted with an unexpected circumstance that may ruin their lifestyle, if it will prevail. It is easy to arrive in a conclusion that the conversation of the main characters is just about a petty matter. However, as I tried to read multiple times, the essence of the story became known and that the characters are not just discussing about anything but they are trying to come up with a decision to either live their usual life by killing an innocent life or let that innocent life ruin their lives.

The diction portrayed in the story comes with several aspects. The “white elephants” does not refer to a literal figure but is a paradoxical term. A white elephant, in one significance of the term, is anything interesting, costly, and challenging to keep; any oppressive belonging; an item at this point not regarded by its proprietor however not without worth to other people. This perspective on the elephant is the way the man feels towards the unborn kid. He is overlooking the way that it's a youngster's life. White elephants are holy yet a weight to the ones that keep them. Another is when the girl took off her hat and placed it on the table, it means that she is now ready to deal with the issue. It was mentioned about the taste of the licorice, especially the things that the boy wanted for so long, tastes like absinthe. If it is read symbolically, the absinthe represents the will of the man that is awful for the girl, a bitter one. The way that the girl said it made the boy a bit anxious and the girl counter claimed by saying that the boy started it and she is just having a good time with the environment she is in. The man replied that they should try and have a good time and the girl said that she is trying, it implies that both of them are worried about what will happen next. Both of them are trying to calm themselves with the possible things to come. For some time, the girl did mention about the hills that are like white elephants referring to the color of its skin through trees. The symbolism of the white elephant in the story is a burden–the unborn child. It is possible that she is now thinking about her unborn baby. It is visible that there is tension building up between the both of them as it is implied through the warm wind that blew the bead curtain. As the story progresses, the man started to call the woman as “Jig”. He then convinces the girl to do that simple operation that is awful, accordingly, not an operation at all. It made the girl look at the ground, meaning that she is not certainly ready for it. The man insisted that it is certainly not a thing meaning, he drastically does not want a child that time. He then assured the girl that he will be by her side all the time and after letting the air in, all would be flawlessly awesome. The girl then replied that what would they do afterwards, and the man said that all will be like before. The man literally urges the woman to undergo the not-so-really operation for them to continue their lifestyle, without having inclusion of another individual or simply a disturbance. They both knew a lot of people who undergone that not-so-really operation and witnessed how they have been happy after doing it. Although it is illegal, many couples have done it because of the feeling Moreover, the man said that it is the best thing to do. The symbolism that the “white elephants”, the characters, the setting, and the conversations reveal so much about what the short story wants to convey. All of these worked together to come up with a meaningful and relevant literary piece.

The girl doubted the man’s love for her and the man comforted the girl saying that he loves the girl now and he will be happier if the girl will agree to do it. The girl suddenly became careless of herself, which means that whatever it is, she would just go-with-the-flow. She suddenly stood up and walked towards the end of the station. On the first few lines of the story, the hills on the brown and dry country and then on the latter part, the rich fields of grains, trees, mountains, and rivers were stated. It implies the stake of the relationship if they would not choose the right decision, this time. The girl poses a statement saying that they could have everything yet disagreed to it later on. The man may be thinking that after the abortion, they could already have everything, again, however the girl thinks differently as she said that “it isn’t theirs anymore”, “once it was taken away, they can never have it back”-she is referring to her unborn baby. The girl got annoyed in their discussion and asked the man to keep quiet. It is typically the emotions of a pregnant woman. They easily get angry and annoyed on things. They have spent thirty minutes in talking about the abortion and in the course of their conversation, it is still vaguely distinguishable if the woman really agreed in having an abortion but one thing is for sure, their decision would definitely haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The man in the story is a perfect example of a person who does not want to take on responsibilities. It is right to say that he is a happy-go-lucky person. He made a thoughtless act yet he does not want to withstand its consequences. Throughout the story, he told the girl numerous times that if she does not want to do it, then she does not have to. However, he quickly refutes it by saying that it would be perfectly simple and describing abortion as a not-so-really operation and she just have to let the air in. He stating those words so that if in the future the girl regrets doing it, then he could abruptly say that she also wanted it so there is nothing they can do about. It is just a mere mislead for him to not get involved in it. Those times, he may not be ready in having a child because all he wants to do is to spend time with the girl, drinking and travelling wherever they want to, it is clearly implied when he stated that he does not want anybody but only the girl. When the girl asked him indirectly if the baby means something to him, he agreed yet he is just not ready. The woman in the story is the perfect example of a person who does not have enough knowledge on what she entered and the consequences it may result. In the story, it is visible that she is uncertain with her decisions, thinking of her unborn child and agreeing on having abortion. It is undoubtedly visible that she loves the man and only wants the happiness of her beloved. Something is bothering her, not the abortion, but the mere fact of losing a child and not being able to have one in the future.

For several years, the issue of abortion is still present and rampant even in our contemporary world. People, especially teenagers are somehow, not all, unconscious on the things that they are doing. This stigma could be conquered through ethical dissemination of information stating that one should be held liable to his or her actions that is why think first before you act. The issue on abortion made the couple’s relationship a tarnished one, clearly visible on the way they communicate with each other. It is also noticeable that things would not be the same if the so-called operation is not performed. In all possible ways, the short fiction teaches us the disadvantages of quick decisions and how it gradually affects the relationship between people–may it be lovers or something else. It is important to note that in life, decisions should be thought deeply to avoid regrets. Concealment of mistakes are not a right practice especially for youngsters because in the long run, they would be accustomed to it. In some circumstances, we should not let our emotions govern us, to avoid adversities.

11 February 2023
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