Analysis - Hills Like White Elephants

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Choose either of the short stories. Using relevant literary terms, discuss how symbols and imagery used by Hemingway contribute to the readers  understanding about the plot. In other words how we are guided through the story through what is not said directly. Give examples.

Symbolism and meaning in “Hills Like White Elephants”

Many stories contain symbolism that represents many different things. One of the stories that use symbolism is Ernest Hemingway's short story "The Hills Like White Elephants." The story is about a couple in Spain who is talking about abortion and how difficult their problems are. The author does a great job of showing their problems throughout the story by using symbolism.

Firstly, let us take the title to start out with. "Hills like white elephants", the hills symbolize many things, one could be an obstacle that we have to climb over to achieve something. And since they are hills and not mountains, we can overcome them. The hills represent the girl's baby being an obstacle in the couple's life that they can overcome and move on. The hills could also portrait the form of a pregnant woman. The girl saw the hills as a pregnant woman lying on her back. In one part of the story, the girl, watching the hills, recalls that they could have had it all. Meaning that the hills were a new step in life. Then we have white elephants. The white elephant symbolizes something that no one wants, and in this story a child.

Secondly, the train station and luggage are symbolic objects. On one side of the station it is surrounded by a dry, lifeless scenery that represents the loss of their relationship and abortion, while the other side is flourishing and colorful, representing life and new opportunities.

And the suitcase they have with them is full of stickers that show the story of their travels. The luggage could be seen as a map of the journey that led them to this place. And the station is just a stop between this time and the future. Often in stories about train stations, airports, etc gives us a sense of transition, of being between two worlds, choices and experiences. In this case, will the couple jump on the train and in which direction their relationship will go.

And thirdly, one big symbol is alcohol or more specific drinking alcohol. The couple drinks an unusual amount of alcohol. Drinking could be a source of avoiding each other and their problems in their relationship and abortion is just one of the problems. In the story, the girl talks about how they never do anything together except trying new drinks. It gives us the feeling that she is unhappy with how things are between them. And later on, they end up drinking on their own, suggesting they will both end their relationship.


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