In "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway, how does the relationship between the man and the woman change?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the start of the story, the relationship between the man and the woman is very uncertain, because as we discover, they have to decide on whether the woman is going to get an abortion or not. It is the man who clearly wants her to have an abortion, and the woman who is unsure about this. However, what changes during the course of the story is the way in which the man is completely unthinking about what the girl is facing. He keeps on talking about the abortion, repeating again and again how painless and easy the procedure is, until she says the following:

Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?

Even this is not enough to get him to shut up, and the girl is forced to threaten to scream in her efforts to make him stop refering to the abortion. At the end of the story, her final words and the obvious deception that they include clearly tells us a lot about the nature of the relationship they have and how it has changed. When the man asks his lover if she feels better, note how she responds:

"I feel fine," she said. "There's nothing wrong with me. I feel fine."

During the course of the story, it has become clear to the woman that her lover's will is something that cannot be denied or challenged. She faces the terrifying future of living in a relationship where he has all the power and where he will not stop until his desires are achieved, no matter what she thinks or wants.


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