From what point of view is "Hills Like White Elephants" told?

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This story is narrated form a third-person objective point of view. This means that the narrator is not a participant in the events that take place and does not use first-person pronouns like I or we; this is the third-person part of the label. The word objective, here, means that the narrator can only report on what is visible or audible to any person who might be present. The objective narrator cannot report on what the characters are thinking or feeling but, rather, can only report what is said or what actions are taken. For example, early on, the narrator reports,

"What should we drink?" the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put in on the table.

Again, the narrator does not tell us if the girl, who we learn is called Jig, is nervous, upset, angry, or hopeful; the narrator can only tell us what she says and what she does. Later, this point of view seems to place the reader in a position similar to that of the characters, who do not understand one another and want to know what the other is thinking without, it seems, revealing their own wishes. Jig doesn't say exactly how she feels, and she clearly gets frustrated with the American as she asks him to "please please please please please please please stop talking." Jig wants to know how he really feels, and he seems to want her to get the abortion but doesn't want to seem to pressure her into it. With the objective narrator, the reader feels the awkward silences and is made uncomfortable by the stilted dialogue because they are not softened with descriptions of thoughts or feelings. We see and hear what the characters do and must come to conclusions based on that, just as they must.

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"Hills Like White Elephants" is told from a third-person point of view. It is not omniscient because the narrator does not access the thoughts of Jig, the American, or the waitress who brings their drinks as they wait for their train. The story consists mainly of a dialogue between Jig and the American. The narrator does not offer any of his own thoughts; it is essentially reportage, a style that Hemingway was familiar with from his work as a journalist.

Hemingway was interested in breaking away from fiction-writing models of the past, and this story reflects his embrace of Modernism. The reader must piece together through the dialogue the nature of the conflict between the two characters. There is no exposition or conclusion. The reporting of the conversation and the descriptions of ordering drinks and walking through the train station are presented objectively, leaving it the reader to interpret the story's meaning through almost solely what is said.

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"Hills Like White Elephants" is told by a third-person, objective narrator who primarily observes and records what he sees from the outside. In other words, he does not get inside the two main characters' heads and tell us what they are thinking and feeling. After an opening passage of description, he primarily relies on dialogue to communicate the dysfunction in this relationship.

It is as if the narrator is taping the scene with a videocamera, although the main characters' bodies are in the shade or gloom so that we can't see them as more than outlines. Primarily, we can hear what they say.

The dialogue is spare. We don't even get a "he said" or "she said" to show who is speaking. Hemingway relies on the reader to do the work of figuring this out. He also relies on the reader to do the work of deciphering the tone of the conversation without the narrator intruding and cluttering the text with explanations.

This stark, minimalist, journalistic style is characteristic of Hemingway's modernism.

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In "Hills Like White Elephants," Hemingway makes masterful use of the objective point of view. In so doing, he brings the reader deeper into the conversation of the main characters because the reader must try to understand the content and emotional import of the conversation without any aid from the narrator. 

The objective point of view is a variety of third-person narration in which the narrator's function is to relate events that occur in the story from a context external to the thoughts and feelings of the characters in the story. This type of third-person narrator may also be referred to as a camera-on-the-wall or fly-on-the-wall narrator, as the point of view is of a non-sentient thing or device that merely captures the events of the story.

Hemingway uses this type of narrator in “Hills Like White Elephants” to force the reader to pay attention to the conversation itself, not the people having it. To enhance the effect he wants to achieve, he also limits his descriptions of the setting and the main characters. We know almost nothing about how they look or act, and even the expressions they may have while talking are a mystery to us. All the reader can do is try to understand what the characters are saying and then extrapolate what they are feeling from what they say and do not say. Thus, the reader in essence becomes an eavesdropper on the conversation—a third person to that conversation in terms of conversational roles—who must use his or her own experiences and understanding of the world to make sense of the meaning of the overheard conversation.

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