What is a central issue in Hills Like White Elephants?
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This is a tough question on a couple of levels. The first is that any discussion of a central issue of the short story remains unfulfilled because Hemingway does not render much in way of absolute judgment and clear certainty. I would say that one issue that comes out of the short story is the difficulty in relationships. Jig and the American are involved with one another, certainly reflecting some level of commitment to one another. Yet, there is difficulty in both of them in terms of their approach of the "procedure" that is the center of their discussion. On one hand, the American continually stresses that he is fine with whatever Jig chooses to do. Yet, there is an undercurrent in his conversation and discussion with her that he wants her to go with the abortion. This psychological dynamic is only mirrored by Jig's challenges with trying to determine what the right thing is to do and how to reconcile with this in her relationship. The questions that end up dominating her mind only add to the complexity of the choice needing to be made. In this, the central issue of the short story becomes evident in that relationships make choices and consequences even more complex than they already are. The traditional thinking would be that a relationship would make the issue of choice and the reality of consequences clearer because of two reasonable people engaging in a process of reasonability and clarity. I think that this becomes the central issue of the short story, and something that makes clear the often confusing and lack of clarity that exists in relationships and the emotional challenges within them.
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