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Who are the two main characters in "Hills Like White Elephants?"

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hani7 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 21, 2012 at 4:24 PM via web

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Who are the two main characters in "Hills Like White Elephants?"

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 21, 2012 at 5:00 PM (Answer #1)

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There are two main characters in Ernest Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants." The story takes place in Spain (as denoted by the Ebro Valley the hills overlook). Readers are told very specifically about the young man's nationality, but is not told about the young woman's:

The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building.

The young man is American and the young girl's nationality is not given. The American, at one point, calls the girl Jig, but readers are never given the America's name.

Over the course of the story little information is given about the characters themselves. Instead, readers can only conclude that they are arguing about an operation, which has been popularity assumed to be an abortion. The girl is only worried if the yo9ung man will still love her after her operation.

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:03 PM (Answer #2)

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Hemingway begins his story with a description of the bleak, hot, dry setting, which is obviously in Spain. He chose not to explain much about his two main characters, but it would seem that he realized he had to identify one of them as either English or American in order to avoid having the reader make the logical assumption that the man and woman were Spanish and were talking in Spanish which was rendered or transliterated into English. Since it turns out that the girl obviously knows virtually nothing about Spanish, and since only the man is called an American, we are likely to assume that Jig is English. We can only guess what they look like. We guess that the American looks like a stereotypical American-in-Europe -- tall, gaunt, outdoorsy. The girl is pregnant but doesn't show it yet. She is probably pretty but looks very unhappy and withdrawn. We might assume from her nickname that she is rather petite, cute rather than beautiful, normally a good sport with a good sense of humor, intelligent, witty, a good mixer and a good companion.

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