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Assess the status of the relationship between the American and Jig have in "Hills Like...

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aileenbaliwag | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM via web

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Assess the status of the relationship between the American and Jig have in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:12 PM (Answer #1)

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I tend to think that the state of the relationship between both characters in Hemingway's short story is one that is in trouble.  Either way, this relationship does not seem to possess the lasting power or sense of emotional balance or understanding needed for sustaining it. The fundamental issue is that the man is desiring something that is opposite of what the woman is desiring.  Even if one makes the argument that Jig is uncertain of what she wants, it's fairly clear that she is not on the same page about the abortion as the American is.  For his part, the American is more concerned with not moving the relationship towards a realm where roots are evident.  The stickers on the suitcase is an excellent symbol for how the man sees the relationship, moving from one place to another, preventing the establishment of roots and foundations, as well as constantly being emotionally on his own.  Jig seems more willing to embrace the idea of starting a family or, at the very least, settling down into a state of permanence.  This is where they are in the story.  Hemingway constructs a setting where the debate about the abortion is almost secondary to the fact that both of them are in different locations.  While they are together and while they are a couple at this point in time, it does not seem as if they will remain as one.  Even when Jig seems to be at a point where she doesn't want to continue talking about it, something is clear that in this silence, some bar has been crossed, some point has been passed, and something has fundamentally changed.  It might not bring itself out immediately, but it seems like there is a change.  It seems like there is something that has moved and with it the chance of a permanent relationship has gone with it.  Hemingway develops the narrative of the couple as one who are moving in different directions.  It is for this reason that their dialogue is almost like a verbal snapshot of that moment, an instant where their sense of being together is probably the opposite of where consciousness will end up taking them.

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