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What is the point of the comparison of the hills to white elephants in "Hills Like...
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In American culture, a white elephant is a possession that is useless and a burden to its owner as it is often expensive to maintain and difficult, if not impossible to dispose of. Thus, it is significant that in "Hills Like White Elephants," Jig envisions the hills, like a pregnant womb, as white elephants. For, it is this pregnancy of Jig that causes the rift between her and her American boyfriend, who perceives the pregnancy as an inconvenience and impediment to their carefree lifestyle.
The American tells Jif if she has an "awfully simple operation," they, then, "can have the whole world...We can go everywhere." But, Jig realizes that, like a white elephant that often comes back to the owner who has tried to dispose of it, their life can never be the same if she has an abortion: "And once they take it [her innocence] away, you never get it back," she tells her boyfriend. She and he cannot move forward in their lives with their former insouciance because the memory of the unborn child will always loom over them, creating a burden on their happiness.
Posted by mwestwood on January 4, 2013 at 8:38 PM (Answer #1)
High School Teacher
The title of this short story is used to refer to the comparison that Jig makes between the hills she sees in the distance and white elephants. So much of this story lies in the subtext, of what is not actually being said, and this is true of the comparison. The reader is presented with a woman who is desperately trying to please her lover, and is willing to alter her vision of the world as a result. Note how she backtracks a few lines later:
They don't really look like white elephants. I just meant the colouring of their skin through the trees.
Through this modification of her original view, Hemmingway establishes that what is really at stake in this short story is her body and her will. In the context of the story, the reader comes to understand that Jig needs to make a terrifying choice about whether to stay with her partner and get an abortion, or to keep the baby and lose her partner. The way in which she modifies her vision of the hills strongly suggests that she will take the former option. The comparison to the hills therefore points towards the real topic of the title: a conflict of wills.
Posted by accessteacher on January 4, 2013 at 6:26 AM (Answer #2)
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