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Interestingly, much like Hemingway's story "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," his story "Hills Like White Elephants" is predominantly composed of dialogue. This dialogue between the American, referred to by Hemingway simply as "the man," and Jig, his girlfriend exemplifies what has been called "the Iceberg Effect" of Hemingway's writing. That is, there are deeper meanings encrypted in the words of the speakers.
One way that Hemingway gives the dialogue between the American and Jig more meaning is through the use of symbols in the brief narrative. For instance, Jig looks at the sterile land on one side of the railway and comments that the hills look like white elephants, a symbol of something unwanted that a person is burdened with. The white, rounded shape of the hills also can suggest the rounded abdomen of a pregnant woman while the infertile land presages what Jig may become. On the other side of the tracks, the ground is fertile; there is grass and the land is productive. All these symbols, then, in conjunction with the somewhat ambiguous dialogue serve to clarify meanings for the reader. For example, Hemingway writes,
The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.
‘And we could have all this,’ she said. ‘And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.’
Thus, the reader comes to understand that Jig tells her American boyfriend that they can be happy with a baby if they love each other, for the baby will add life to their relationship.
With such abbreviated paragraphs and so much dialogue, the reader is obliged to carefully analyze the dialogue in conjunction with the symbols that lend meaning to the conversations between Jig and the American.
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