Bittersweet American ( hills like white elephants ) - Essay Example

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Literary Interpretation of ‘Hills like White Elephants’ Introduction “Hills like White Elephants” is a short story written by Ernest Hemmingway, and was first published in 1927.The story is about a couple who have been travelling from hotel to hotel in Spain and are having drinks at a train station in the Ebro river banks in Spain “He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station…
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Bittersweet American ( hills like white elephants )
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Literary Interpretation of ‘Hills like White Elephants’ Introduction “Hills like White Elephants” is a short story written by Ernest Hemmingway, andwas first published in 1927.The story is about a couple who have been travelling from hotel to hotel in Spain and are having drinks at a train station in the Ebro river banks in Spain “He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights” (Hemmingway 478). The couple, a man (referred to as the American), and his female companion, (referred to as Jig in the story) are having a discussion. The American is trying to convince the girl to undergo an “operation”. The operation in question is an abortion but Jig is reluctant to oblige, an indication that she wants to keep the baby. The American’s insistence on her to undergo the abortion can be seen as a way for him to avoid the responsibility of having to take care of the child so he can maintain the carefree lifestyle he and Jig have been living .At the end of the story, Jig agrees to have the abortion, not for her own sake but because her partner wants it and she does not want to disappoint him. The story employs a lot of symbolism in its title, the scenery of its setting and in the drinks they are having. The Bittersweet American The attitude of the American in the story is displayed as bitter sweet, with regard to the effects the abortion or lack of it will have on his lifestyle. If Jig goes through with the abortion, which is what the American wants, he views this as a “sweet” outcome. This is because he can go back to the free and easy lifestyle he was used to before Jig became pregnant. He goes on to assure Jig that they will be happy again after the operation. ‘We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.’ ‘What makes you think so?’ ‘That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.’ ‘And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.’(Hemmingway 476) Having shared a pleasurable period of his life with her, the American may want some more after the abortion, although he might not be interested in a long-term meaningful relationship (The Free Library par 14-15). Therefore, the abortion will have a “sweet” effect on him in as far as pleasure is considered. On the other hand, if the girl does not go through with the abortion and decides to keep the baby, the American is faced with the responsibility of bringing up a child. The use of “white elephant” symbolizes the attitude the man has towards the effect the baby will have on his life. This is a “bitter” effect. The term white elephant means something that is a great burden (Gary par 1). In Asian countries albino elephants were worshiped, but anyone who owned one had to feed it special food and build a place for others to come and pray. It was a great burden on money and time, but anyone who owned one was considered blessed (Gary par 1). Hence, to the man, this baby is like a white elephant and he does not want to be involved with such a burden. The bittersweet symbolism effect is also brought out by the choice of drink the couple orders. The couple orders a drink called Anis Del Toro, but this has a different connotation to the American. According to Sherlyn Abdoo, Anis del Toro is very bitter, because of the wormwood it is made from. Wormwood is described as being ‘acutely mortifying or vexing to a person’ (Oxford English dictionary). To the American, this baby will be vexing because he does not want to assume the responsibility of raising a child. He tries to evade this with his numerous excuses. ‘It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,’ the man said. ‘It’s not really an operation at all.’(Hemmingway 476) His use of the words “really” and “just” shows the simplicity with which he regards the operation, in order to convince Jig to undergo an abortion. The drink absinthe, symbolizes that the pregnancy has made the couple and especially the man, unhappy “Absinthe has a bitter aftertaste which hides the initial sweetness” (Blakemore par 3). This symbolizes that the man is feeling the bitter aftertaste of their initially sweet relationship. In conclusion, the use of symbolism in this story has been very important because it has enabled the writer to communicate the effects of the “operation” to the lifestyles of the two main characters. The use of the words “white elephants” demonstrates the astronomical cost, to the American, of bringing up a child should Jig not go through with the abortion. In addition,”absinthe” the drink mentioned in the story symbolizes the “bitter” aftertaste the pregnancy has on the relationship of these two main characters Works Cited Abdoo, Sherlyn. The Hemingway’s hills like white elephants. Web. 2013. Blakemore, Amy. Life is a Journey not a Destination. Web. 2013. Gary, Martin. The White Elephant. Web. 2010. Hemingway, Ernest. Hills like White Elephants. Legacies: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. 4th Edition. Edts. Jan Schmidt, Lynne Crocket, Carley Bogarad. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2006. Print. 654-657. Hills like white elephants, the jilting of Jig (par 14-15) .The Free Library. Web. 2013. The Oxford English Dictionary. “Wormwood.” 2007. Print. Read More
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