Pegah Espantman's Reviews > The Complete Short Stories

The Complete Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway
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Apr 29, 11

Read on April 29, 2011

Type of Work

......."Hills Like White Elephants" is a short story that observes the classical unities--that is, the action follows a single storyline (without subplots) that takes place in one place on a single day.

Setting

.......The action takes place in the mid-1920s at a train station in Zaragoza, a major city in northeastern Spain on the Ebro River. Zaragoza is approximately 170 miles northeast of Madrid. The region around Zaragoza receives scant rainfall. The greenery observed by Jig may have flourished through irrigation.

Characters

Jig: Woman traveling in Europe with a male companion. The author does not disclose whether they are single, engaged, or married; however, it appears likely that they are girlfriend and boyfriend.
The American: Man traveling with Jig.
The Woman: Waitress at the train station.
People in the Barroom

Plot Summary
.......On a hot day at a train station in Zaragoza, Spain, a man and woman sit at a table on the shady side of the building while they prepare to order drinks. Because only the man speaks Spanish, he orders for them—first beer, and then Anís del Toro (absinthe, a powerful liqueur). A set of tracks runs on each side of the station. The train for Madrid will arrive from Barcelona in forty minutes on the sunny side of the building.
.......In front of them, the land is dry. There are no trees. Distant hills appear white in the sun, and the woman says they look like white elephants.
.......While they sip their drinks, their conversation reveals that the woman, Jig, and the man, identified only as an American, are at odds over her pregnancy. She wants the child and hints that she would like to settle down. He wants her to abort the child, saying the procedure “is awfully simple” and “not really anything.” Afterward, he says, life for them can continue as before.
.......Jig observes that the liqueur tastes like licorice. In fact, she says, everything tastes like licorice. Her remark, apparently made out of boredom, irks the man.
.......“Oh, cut it out,” he says.
.......They go back and forth on the question of the child. Jig finally says, perhaps with a taint of sarcasm, that she will have the procedure “because I don’t care about me.” The man says he does not want her to have it “if you feel that way.”
.......Jig gets up and walks to the end of the building. There, she looks around to the land on the other side. She sees trees, grain fields, and the Ebro River, then says, “And we could have all this.” When the man tells her that they can have whatever they want—“We can have the whole world”—Jig says, “It isn’t ours any more . . . And once they take it away, you never get it back.”
.......A woman brings them two more beers and alerts them that their train will arrive in five minutes. The man then carries their two suitcases, each displaying labels from all the hotels at which they lodged, to the other side of the station. When he returns, he asks how she feels. She replies, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.”.



Narration

.......Hemingway wrote “Hills Like White Elephants” in third-person point of view that limits the narration to what the characters say and do; it does not reveal their thoughts. Hemingway's style—developed in part when he worked as a newspaper reporter and correspondent early in his career—is simple and compact, with short sentences and paragraphs devoid of verbosity
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