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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This story focuses on the communication between men and women.  The man in this story attempts several different strategies to influence the woman, from belaying her fear to asserting his authority.  She reacts with varying degrees to each one, and he struggles each time to build upon what she seems to be swayed by.

Secondly, Hemingway uses this sparse and unresolved story to demonstrate the ambiguity inherent in life's decisions.  The woman is so uncertain because she can not predict where each possible choice will lead her.  Will she be left alone?  Will she drive him away?  Will she be ridiculed?  By leaving her decision unstated, Hemingway focuses on the difficulty in choosing but not on choice itself.

Finally, although Hemingway does not develop or resolve the abortion decision - in other words, although he doesn't present the morality of the decision between life and choice - he does hint at the theme of fertility.  The relationship of the couple, like the landscape, is barren.  It has little understanding and sparse communication.  The one fertile element of the relationship, the baby, may not survive.  Having suffered through the horrors of World War I, Hemingway seems to be pointing at the barrenness of modern life, the lack of fertility - the opportunity for things to grow and flourish.

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Hills Like White Elephants

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