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Theme and narrative elements - Essay Example

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The short story “Hills Like White Elements” by Ernest Hemingway revolves around the theme of abortion. Although it is never openly named, abortion is what the two people at a table are talking about. Symbolism and setting are two particular literary elements that enhance the theme and help it to be decoded by a reader…
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Theme and narrative elements
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Download file to see previous pages As both are sitting in a bar at a train station, it becomes clear they are waiting for a train to come. The train is heading to Madrid where the woman will have an operation she dreads. At the end, it is unclear whether Jig has made up her mind to kill the fetus or not. Yet, it is obvious that the relationship between the two has grown very distant.
As the story opens, one is immediately introduced to the story’s setting which helps to grasp the theme of the story. To illustrate,
“The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was a warm shadow of the building, and a curtain made strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bars, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.” (Hemingway, p. 211)
This paragraph tells us that the man and his partner are in a place where it is “very hot”, a place without trees and even without any shade. Even the flies must be kept out of the room. The described setting evokes feelings of decay and a meaning of bareness. If to combine these images with the conversation that follows, one may successfully find some clues as to the relationship between the man and the woman....
There is no hope for this relationship to flourish, it is doomed to decay and decomposition. Even if the woman eventually agrees to make an abortion, their relationship will hardly be the same as it was before the problem arose. Bearing in mind the overall theme of the story, one may find a symbol here as well, which may be interpreted as a possible story ending. Namely, barren hills may symbolize the fate of a bay that will never be born. No life, no children’s laughter, no flourishing. In terms of the story’s symbolism, one more profound symbol should be mentioned. This is the symbolical meaning of the hills and “the big white elephant”. Hills may symbolize the breasts of a woman who is pregnant. They are swollen and thus remind hills. At the same time, the big white elephant may be a symbol of an abdomen inside of which there is a fetus. In Buddhism, a white elephant came to Buddha’s mother in her dream and gave her a lotus flower that actually symbolized her pregnancy (Weeks, 1980, p.75). Having provided the examples of symbolism and setting in this story, let us explain how they affect the narrative theme. First of all, these symbols help to predict the story’s major implications. The woman is pregnant – this is conveyed with the help of hills-and-elephant symbol. Next, the relationship is decomposing – this can be inferred from the barren setting. The child will probably be killed in the womb – this can be inferred again from the unpromising setting in the opening paragraph. All in all, symbolism and setting have played the key role in interpreting the story’s meanings. References 1. Hemigway, E. (1998) The complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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