In the world we live in there are many things which happen and eventually change the course of life. These things happen in our day to day lives and have a great bearing on the direction which we take. These occurrences have come to be mentioned by authors and writers as they try to bring to the fore the issues which face the human beings.
One of the renowned authors is Hemmingway. In 1927, Hemingway skillfully brought to light issues which affected and still affect relationships. In his book Hills Like White Elephants, Hemingway utilized the setting to enable the reader to understand the theme and the character behind the story. During this time, Spain was a country which was considered to be religious.
This was characterized by many catholic churches which stood to represent the moral arm of the society. It is this setting that Hemmingway tries to illustrate the important of morals in the society that is seemingly dwindling from the moral path, following a path that is characterized by pursing selfish and lustful desires. Symbolism This is a story which can be considered to be deceptive in its simplicity.
The couple opts to sit and drink as they wait for the train to Madrid. During this moment, they talk about issues of life. However, the talk comes to an end even before the train arrives. Yet within this quiet scene is a moral struggle, an investigation of the spiritual barrenness of modern love that is piercing its precision.
Hemingway does not cast moral judgment on the operation itself but on the narcissistic selfishness of the man, his ability to hear the young woman’s voice plea for home and family. Her surrender at the end is no less poignant than the death of a soldier on the battlefield, both because of its inevitability and the powerlessness of her morality and desire in the face of his more modern egotism.
The story opens as the man and the woman sit in the shade of the station cafe, discussing what to drink to cool them down from the oppressive heat. During a conversation, Jig comments that the hills resemble white elephants. In actual sense, the white elephant is a term which is used to describe or symbolize a situation or a thing which is considered to be useless. This symbol describes the kind of relationship that is exists between Jig and the American.
The man refuses to acknowledge her imaginative view, though, and an argument sparks between them. She changes the subject, asking about the words painted in the bead curtain of the cafe. It is the name of a drink, Anis del Toro, and after tasting it she says its licorice taste reminds her of absinthe. “Everything tastes of licorice (Hemingway). Especially all the things you have waited so long for, like absinthe.” “Oh, cut it out,” he says, and again it is unclear why they are quarrelling (Hemingway).
Only when the reader realizes that she is remarking obliquely that everything she had longed for seems the same, in that it is ruined, does the emotional intensity of the scene make sense. The river in the story reflects life. Ebro River is a river which originates in the Cantabarian Mountains. This river flows into the Mediterranean, which is 550 miles from her source. It is worth noting that the river in this play represents vitality. This notwithstanding, the river also represents time.
That is the passage of time from one era to another. The baggage that is being carried by the travelers can be associated with the issues of the past (Resseguie). The landscape is in a dry and desolate state. This state of the landscape represents death and a sense of wastefulness. On the contrary, the greenside represents newness and a sense of promise. The newness is a representation of a baby and the anticipated new beginning. Jig’s inability to face the real landscape, the brown and dry hill suggests lack of acceptance of the real life ahead.
She fails to realize that the relationship between them is deteriorating as is the case with the parallel railroads, which denotes that they are not likely to meet on the matter at hand. Unfortunately, she opts to hold on to the belief that the American man will commit. She is hopeful that the pregnancy means something to the man. Unfortunately, to the man, the relationship is nothing more than an illicit affair.
The “wind” of the hills simply defines casually and literally what an abortion is: As “the warm wind blew the bean curtain against the table,” he is quick to say, “I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in. I’ll go with you….They just let the air in and then it’s perfectly natural” (Bloom 50). The rail road junction represents the decisions that have to be made by both parties. This junction is used as a symbol to represent the quagmire of whether to carry out an abortion or not.
It also brings to the fore the question of changing directions which is sought by Jig and the American. In conclusion, it is quite clear that there are many lessons which a person can pick from this story. First, is the role of men and women in intimate relationships. This is clearly captured by the way Jig and the American are relating especially in light of the pregnancy. Secondly, it brings an emphasis with regard to responsible behaviors in relationships.
This is captured when Jig conceives (Bloom). Following this eventuality it seems that the American is not willing to take full responsibility. Hemingway paints a bleak, amoral world where people are trapped by “the good times.” The story is effective because there is not only a hero, but a credible woman struggling against him, defining his shallow and selfish desire to have only Jig (but not the child) thereby authorizing the abortion as the only plausible solution.
Bloom, Harold. Ernest Hemingway, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2002.Print.
Hemingway, Ernest. Men Without Women, New York: Scribner, 2002. Print.
Resseguie, James. Narrative criticism of the New Testament:an introduction, New York: Baker Academic, 2005. Print.