Compare the settings of "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and "Hills Like White Elephants."

Asked on by maliika314

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Interestingly, I think we can expand our discussion of the role of the hills in Hemingway's classic short story. Note how Jig later on contradicts her earlier statement, saying that now the hills do not look like white elephants. This is of course after her partner has disagreed with her. This is just one sign of how she is accepting his view of the world and on their situation, and it unfortunately foreshadows her potential acceptance of the abortion that he is so keen for her to have.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Has anybody read this blog on eNotes:

The first sentence is this: Hemingway famously (or at least allegedly) wrote a six word story:  “For sale:  baby shoes, never worn.” 

Wouldn't it be interesting to use this in a lesson plan on "Hills...."?

Read it 'cause I wrote it! 

There is some basis in fact for this Hemingway story.  I believe it was Pauline that he was involved with who became pregnant and aborted the baby when he was divorcing Hadley.  (Or perhaps the other way 'round?) 

sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I do agree!  I would also add that the hills in "Hills Like White Elephants" represent the insurmountable obstacle the couple is currently facing - their reality.  It can't be ignored, as the hills can't be ignored.  Their is no fading light to hide the truth from their vision.

lnorton's profile pic

lnorton | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I think you're dead on when it comes to "What . . .," but it's important to recognize the importance setting plays in enhancing "Hills" as well. The story takes place in at a "crossroads"; a couple are waiting to take a train. A train, like a choice, implies options -- one may go one direction, or choose another. This echoes the choice that the girl and the man are facing. Waiting on a platform is similar to pausing, or plateauing--they must decide what comes next.

It's also vital to examine the details Hemingway provides in terms of the natural world. We get imagery that is lush, growing, and fertile (Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains"), and are then offered contrasting view of the dry plain (" the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table"). These contrasting views echo the choice that Jig must make--the choice to be barren, or to be fertile.

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