Theme of Decision in Hills Like White Elephants

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In the short story ‘Hills like White Elephants,’ the author tells the story through conversations between the two main characters, which is an American man and a young woman named Jig. While reading this story the central conflict is created through these characters that are facing an unexpected pregnancy. This short story it was written in 1927, and the setting of this story is taking place at a train station located in Spain surrounded by hills, trees, and fields while both of characters are heavily drinking alcohol.

In the story there a lot of symbolism which includes that every day people make decisions that can affect their future lives. Who are people to say what makes a right decision? Or what makes a wrong decision? What may be right to some people could be wrong to others. In the short story, both characters are going back and forth with what decision could be the right or wrong this varies about how both of the characters are feeling and thinking. The man tries to convince Jig that having an abortion is the right decision for the both of them.

In the man’s mind, he believes having the abortion is the right decision for her to do while she feels it is the wrong thing do to because she is very scared on what she should do. In the short story, Jig begins to think, ‘And if I do it you’ll be happy, and things will be okay like they were, and you’ll love me’ (Hemingway 178). He keeps on reassuring her that he loves her more than ever before and that nothing will not change. Jig becomes more aware of the situation and what the consequences she could be facing.

Jig ends up coming to the realization that she is going to have the final decision, even though throughout the story she keeps on asking reassurance from the man she loves, she also knows whatever her decision ends up being, their relationship may not work out regardless of her decision. When the choice is given to Jig whether to abort or not abort, the baby leaves her with the consequence of the American leaving her. The girl continues with ‘Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me’ (Hemingway 178).

Saying she will do the operation in hopes of saving their relationship. ‘The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station’ (Hemingway 178). Jig begins to look around at the scenery and wonder if they could really be happy after the operation. The man states that he does not want anyone but her, and he does not want anyone else because he knows it is perfectly simple (Hemingway 178), meaning that he does not want the baby, he only wants her. Then Jig makes the American promise her to stop talking and changes the subject by ordering another beer. The story helps the reader realize the importance of making decisions correctly so that in the end, you will find no regrets at all.

What would readers think if they found out she was having a baby and thinking about the abortion? Viewpoints on abortion grew out after the woman’s movement after WWI. During WWI it was analyzed by the role of gender in works of literature. In the beginning, the man is telling the woman what to do and at the end, she is standing up for herself. Jig is a woman who is being oppressed by a man thinking that having an abortion would be better because she believes he won’t leave her and says that he would love her more than he did before. As you read the short story Jig is wanting to be pro-life and wanting her voice to be heard but the American man gets inside of her head to make her think otherwise.

Before an abortion it was illegal, dangerous and immoral this explains why Jig is so hesitant to do the operation. Throughout the story, the couple refuses to speak of the problem. They refuse to speak of it for fear that actually saying it would be admitting that there actually is a problem. The author allowed the reader to figure out what the couple was arguing about. This is able to give some insight to those who struggle with understanding this short story. The author was trying to show how it was an act of rebellion that gives a character realistic of how Americans want or believe they should be perceived by the reader. While both man and woman are able to engage in their desires, neither of them are able to get what they are wanting from each other.

While reading the text, the story shows how a reader can pick up on the different behaviors and formations that can be formed from each gender and be able to identify the rejection from the American man. Jig is really struggling with how culturally she couldn’t have been able to say no because of the gender roles from simply submitting to the man’s desire for an abortion. During WWI years when women did not have the right to defend themselves because they were extremely oppressed by men, women had to become dependent on men as their guardians this was very necessary.

In this short story, it shows how a woman is very vulnerable to a man. The only way if this relationship will only continue is that Jig would have to stay dependent and submissive towards the American man. When the lovers disagree on what path to take. The couple in the story keep bouncing back and forth from the issue and keep on ordering more drinks. It is obvious that in the man’s perspective he does not care if the girl is pregnant or not because she should not be drinking but the man is somewhat encouraging her to drink more.

The American man is aware that he is able to overpower Jig with anything he says because she does not want him to leave and wants everything to go back to normal like her pregnancy never happened. The man does not see this baby as white, an innocent person, but only as an elephant, something that would require time and energy to maintain. The girl says that the man would not have seen this white elephant. This is implying that the girl thinks that the man does not really care about the baby or any type of innocence. The man did not see the innocence when he impregnated her and does not know when he wants to kill the baby.

There are many elements in the story, such as disconnection, manipulation, dominance, innocence, and irresponsibility. In this short story as a reader, you can pick up on how communication is the key to building a strong foundation of trust in this story as a reader you are able to see between a man and woman as we learn how communication can be broken down by a man and woman. The author is giving insight about how important life should be valued. Throughout the story, she experiences over and over again what she wants to do with her life.

Whatever decision she makes will have a major impact in her later years as a woman. If the author had let the reader know what was happening from the very beginning, the story would have lost its punch and it would have been impossible to respond to the emotional response in the story.

As Readers we are able relate to the American girl because the words are unspoken and because the way she responds to the man’s comments clues the reader on how difficult the situation is for her. Even if the reader didn’t know what was going on, which is certainly possible. The author made sure that the reader would feel for the girl and know that whatever it was she was going to do but it would be against her will.


Cite this paper

Theme of Decision in Hills Like White Elephants. (2021, Jun 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/theme-of-decision-in-hills-like-white-elephants/

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