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What is the “awfully simple operation,” why is it unnamed, and how do the man and...

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tinagunderson34 | Student, College Freshman

Posted February 16, 2008 at 5:09 AM via web

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What is the “awfully simple operation,” why is it unnamed, and how do the man and girl each feel about it?

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renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 16, 2008 at 5:47 AM (Answer #2)

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The subject the man and the girl are discussing is that of an abortion. The fact that they discuss the "operation" without calling it an abortion relays a lot about the couple and their relationship. By not naming the operation, they are attempting to trivialize the seriousness of the situation. Clearly, the relationship has many flaws, seen in the way they are dealing with the subject. It is not a straightforward or honest conversation, especially on the part of the man.

The man clearly wants the girl to have the abortion. He makes light of the seriousness and psychological impact it would have for the girl. He attempts to sway her by telling her it would damage their relationship.

The girl is torn in trying to make a decision. She realizes that it is not nearly as simple a decision as her lover is making it out to be. A part of her wants her baby, and another part of her wants to hang on to her lover.

The end of the story does not give a resolution to the decision that is finally made. It is up to the reader to draw a conclusion.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 16, 2008 at 10:41 AM (Answer #3)

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The man also attempts to trivialize the abortion by making it sound simple, but abortion in Spain was not legal at the time. It wasn't made legal in Spain until 1985, and sometimes women died. Many doctors were not willing to risk their careers on being caught performing illegal abortions. Many times, the only doctors who performed them were doctors who weren't very good or whose offices were less than sanitary.

The man wants Jig to have the abortion, but she looks at the situation realistically. The man might leave her anyway, and she might be physically and psychologically scarred from the abortion, even if nothing goes wrong.

The subject of the abortion isn't specifically named, but is alluded to. An "elephant in the room" is when you have a situation or topic of major importance that no one wants to talk about, but the topic is there nonetheless. It can't be ignored, but no one wants to deal with it because they don't know how. Jig tries to deal with it, but the man refuses to. He just wants her to have it, so his responsibility is ended. This is the allusion that leads to the title. The "elephant in the room" is the abortion.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 17, 2008 at 6:00 PM (Answer #4)

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Abortion was dangerous and scary then...it still is since at some clinics the doctors get shot down in the parking lot on their way to work by anti-abortion protesters.  Funny way to demonstrate that you don't approve of taking lives, don't you think?  At any rate, it is obvious that the girl is nervous and possibility doesn't want the "operation" but he is adamant about her going through with the act.  Abortion is difficult to talk about, but especially after the action.  I personally know girls (now women) who had them in their youth...fathers or boyfriends paid for it and expected everything to be just fine.  What they didn't count on was the psychological effects a woman suffers as a result.  My friend, Kim, still thinks about her little boy and how old he would be each year and what he would look like.  Her abortion was 20+ years ago.  There will definitely be scars...physical or otherwise.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 20, 2008 at 4:52 PM (Answer #6)

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The man also attempts to trivialize the abortion by making it sound simple, but abortion in Spain was not legal at the time. It wasn't made legal in Spain until 1985, and sometimes women died. Many doctors were not willing to risk their careers on being caught performing illegal abortions. Many times, the only doctors who performed them were doctors who weren't very good or whose offices were less than sanitary.

The man wants Jig to have the abortion, but she looks at the situation realistically. The man might leave her anyway, and she might be physically and psychologically scarred from the abortion, even if nothing goes wrong.

The subject of the abortion isn't specifically named, but is alluded to. An "elephant in the room" is when you have a situation or topic of major importance that no one wants to talk about, but the topic is there nonetheless. It can't be ignored, but no one wants to deal with it because they don't know how. Jig tries to deal with it, but the man refuses to. He just wants her to have it, so his responsibility is ended. This is the allusion that leads to the title. The "elephant in the room" is the abortion.

ya, but this story is not called "elephant in the room" 

   In a way, it is.  Traditionally, a ""white elephant" refers to items that are put up for sale that no one wants and are really without value, though the seller hopes that someone will take their trash for treasure. 

In addition, the snowcapped mountains can be seen as representative of the coldness of the couple's relationship and the visual reminder of what her belly will look like fully pregnant, an idea that neither one is comfortable with.  Hemingway's title shows his genius by never naming the condition (the proverbial "elelphant in the room") either in the title or in the story; by calling it a "white" element nuances the subject by showing that the pregnancy is unwanted and unvalued, at least by the man. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 20, 2008 at 5:05 PM (Answer #7)

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In my college freshman lit. class eons ago, we read this story and were assigned to write an ending for it. It was amazing how many people made the man have a change of heart, marry the woman, and live happily ever after with their child. Very few people caught the "white elephant" connection.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 20, 2008 at 7:53 PM (Answer #8)

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In my college freshman lit. class eons ago, we read this story and were assigned to write an ending for it. It was amazing how many people made the man have a change of heart, marry the woman, and live happily ever after with their child. Very few people caught the "white elephant" connection.

First, asking students to write Hemingway or suggest that it needs an ending makes me shudder.  Like suggesting Jesus needed to add seasoning to those fish he doled out. I hope this was a male professor so Hemingway could feel content rising from his grave to sock the guy...

Anway, I can do one better than not getting the elephant connection.  I have taught this story many times to undergrads and there are always, always a few who are stunned (stunned, I tell you!) to be told the topic was abortion. 

 

 

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 25, 2008 at 6:50 PM (Answer #9)

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Abortion was dangerous and scary then...it still is since at some clinics the doctors get shot down in the parking lot on their way to work by anti-abortion protesters.  Funny way to demonstrate that you don't approve of taking lives, don't you think?  At any rate, it is obvious that the girl is nervous and possibility doesn't want the "operation" but he is adamant about her going through with the act.  Abortion is difficult to talk about, but especially after the action.  I personally know girls (now women) who had them in their youth...fathers or boyfriends paid for it and expected everything to be just fine.  What they didn't count on was the psychological effects a woman suffers as a result.  My friend, Kim, still thinks about her little boy and how old he would be each year and what he would look like.  Her abortion was 20+ years ago.  There will definitely be scars...physical or otherwise.

Abortion is still dangerous and scary, and not just for the people performing the abortions.  I'm glad that you went on to mention the fact that it is not an easy thing for women to experience, but just so everyone knows, it's not just the people who are against abortion who put people's lives in danger daily as a result of this supposedly simple operation.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 28, 2008 at 7:53 PM (Answer #12)

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ok! now that abortion is been discussed, what other social issues are mentioned in the story?

The story was first published in 1927, so another issue besides abortion is societal attitudes toward unwed mothers. There was no such thing as government aid back then, so Jig would have had a tough time raising a child without a father. Unless she was independently wealthy, she would have had a hard time finding a job. The issue of illegitimacy would have arisen as well. Her child would have been branded a bastard in 1927. If the father refuses to fulfill his responsibility, the only choices open to her were abortion, adoption, or illegitimacy.

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pookle | Student, Undergraduate

Posted February 19, 2008 at 5:43 PM (Answer #5)

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The man also attempts to trivialize the abortion by making it sound simple, but abortion in Spain was not legal at the time. It wasn't made legal in Spain until 1985, and sometimes women died. Many doctors were not willing to risk their careers on being caught performing illegal abortions. Many times, the only doctors who performed them were doctors who weren't very good or whose offices were less than sanitary.

The man wants Jig to have the abortion, but she looks at the situation realistically. The man might leave her anyway, and she might be physically and psychologically scarred from the abortion, even if nothing goes wrong.

The subject of the abortion isn't specifically named, but is alluded to. An "elephant in the room" is when you have a situation or topic of major importance that no one wants to talk about, but the topic is there nonetheless. It can't be ignored, but no one wants to deal with it because they don't know how. Jig tries to deal with it, but the man refuses to. He just wants her to have it, so his responsibility is ended. This is the allusion that leads to the title. The "elephant in the room" is the abortion.

ya, but this story is not called "elephant in the room" 

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olivaresrico | Student, Undergraduate

Posted February 28, 2008 at 7:20 PM (Answer #10)

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ok! now that abortion is been discussed, what other social issues are mentioned in the story?

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olivaresrico | Student, Undergraduate

Posted February 28, 2008 at 7:31 PM (Answer #11)

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ok! now that abortion is been discussed, what other social issues are mentioned in the story?

are there any reasons why he wants her to have the abortion, is it because he does not want to form a family with her? perhaps he doesn't want to quit partying her?  

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