‘Hills Like White Elephants’ is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway, first published in 1927. Set in Spain, the story revolves around a couple engaged in a tense conversation at a train station. Through the use of symbolism, Hemingway explores themes of communication, decision-making, and the complexities of relationships. The story’s title itself serves as a symbol, hinting at the underlying issues faced by the characters. By delving into the symbolism employed throughout the narrative, readers gain a deeper understanding of the story’s central conflicts and the characters’ internal struggles.
The Significance of the White Elephants in Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’
Ernest Hemingway’s short story, ‘Hills Like White Elephants,’ is a masterful example of his minimalist writing style. Set in Spain, the story revolves around a couple engaged in a tense conversation at a train station. While the dialogue between the man and the woman is seemingly mundane, Hemingway expertly weaves in symbolism to convey deeper meaning. One of the most significant symbols in the story is the white elephants, which serve as a metaphor for the couple’s unborn child.
Throughout the story, the white elephants are mentioned several times, both directly and indirectly. At first glance, the mention of white elephants may seem insignificant, but upon closer examination, it becomes clear that they represent the couple’s unborn child. Just like white elephants, the child is a burden that the couple must carry, and they are unsure of what to do with it.
The symbolism of the white elephants is evident in the opening lines of the story. Hemingway describes the landscape as “brown and dry,” with “no shade” except for the “line of hills” that looks like “white elephants.” This description sets the tone for the story and foreshadows the couple’s dilemma. The barren landscape represents the couple’s relationship, which lacks vitality and fertility. The white elephants, on the other hand, symbolize the burden of the unborn child that the couple must confront.
As the story progresses, the symbolism of the white elephants becomes more apparent. The man suggests that the woman undergoes a procedure, which is implied to be an abortion. He tries to convince her that it is a simple and painless procedure, just like getting rid of the white elephants. However, the woman is hesitant and expresses her desire to keep the child. This conflict between the man and the woman mirrors their conflicting views on the white elephants. While the man sees them as a burden, the woman sees them as something precious and worth keeping.
The white elephants also serve as a metaphor for the couple’s relationship. Just like the white elephants, their relationship is burdened by the weight of the unborn child. The man’s insistence on the procedure highlights his desire to maintain the status quo and avoid the responsibilities of fatherhood. On the other hand, the woman’s reluctance to undergo the procedure reflects her desire to preserve the relationship and embrace the challenges of motherhood. The white elephants, therefore, symbolize the tension and conflict within the couple’s relationship.
In conclusion, the symbolism of the white elephants in ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ is crucial to understanding the deeper meaning of the story. They represent the couple’s unborn child and the burden it poses to their relationship. The white elephants serve as a metaphor for the couple’s conflicting views on the child and their differing desires for the future. Hemingway’s use of symbolism adds depth and complexity to the story, making it a thought-provoking exploration of love, responsibility, and the choices we make.
Analyzing the Symbolism of the Train Station in Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’
Ernest Hemingway’s short story, ‘Hills Like White Elephants,’ is a masterful example of his minimalist writing style. Set in a train station in Spain, the story revolves around a couple engaged in a tense conversation about a life-altering decision. While the story’s surface-level plot focuses on the couple’s discussion about whether or not to have an abortion, the train station itself serves as a powerful symbol that adds depth and complexity to the narrative.
The train station, with its tracks stretching into the distance, represents the couple’s diverging paths and the impending decision they must make. Trains are often associated with movement and change, and in this story, they symbolize the couple’s potential for a different future. The tracks, which run in two different directions, mirror the couple’s conflicting desires and the choices they face. The train station becomes a physical manifestation of the couple’s emotional and psychological state, as they stand at a crossroads in their relationship.
The setting of the train station also creates a sense of transience and impermanence. Train stations are typically transient spaces, where people come and go, and this mirrors the couple’s own uncertain future. The story takes place in a liminal space, neither here nor there, reflecting the couple’s own state of limbo as they grapple with their decision. The train station becomes a metaphor for the couple’s emotional state, as they teeter on the edge of a life-altering choice.
Furthermore, the train station’s white elephants add another layer of symbolism to the story. White elephants are often associated with something burdensome or unwanted, and in this context, they represent the unwanted pregnancy that the couple is grappling with. The phrase “hills like white elephants” is repeated throughout the story, emphasizing the weight of the decision the couple faces. The white elephants loom large in the background, just as the couple’s impending decision looms over their relationship.
The train station’s bar also serves as a symbol of escape and avoidance. The couple seeks solace in alcohol, using it as a means to avoid confronting their true feelings and the difficult decision they must make. The bar becomes a temporary refuge, a place where they can momentarily forget their troubles. However, the bar also represents the couple’s inability to communicate openly and honestly. Instead of addressing their fears and concerns directly, they turn to alcohol as a means of escape.
In conclusion, the train station in Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ is a rich source of symbolism that adds depth and complexity to the story. It represents the couple’s diverging paths, their uncertain future, and the weight of the decision they must make. The white elephants and the bar further enhance the symbolism, highlighting the couple’s emotional state and their attempts to avoid confronting their true feelings. Through the use of these symbols, Hemingway masterfully explores the complexities of human relationships and the difficult choices we face in life.
In conclusion, Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ is a thought-provoking short story that utilizes symbolism to explore complex themes such as the challenges of communication, the weight of decision-making, and the consequences of choices. Through the use of the white elephants, the hills, and the contrasting landscapes, Hemingway effectively conveys the underlying tension and conflict between the two characters, highlighting the difficult choices they face regarding an unwanted pregnancy. The story serves as a powerful commentary on the complexities of relationships and the consequences of decisions made or left unspoken.