In "Hills Like White Elephants," how can Hemingway’s writing be considered masculine and as presenting "just the tip of the iceberg"? What is the procedure that the couple is discussing? How is interpreting the setting fundamental for our understanding of the issues this couple is facing? How is it symbolic?

Expert Answers

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1. Writing style is not something that is based on gender, so to consider Hemingway’s prose “masculine” is problematic. However, he has popularly been portrayed as a “man’s man,” someone who hunted, got in bar fights, and was popular with the ladies. Likely for this reason, some may consider his spare writing style an extension of his masculine persona. In this story, Hemingway uses a third-person objective point of view that reveals “just the tip of the iceberg.” This fly-on-the-wall narrative technique makes the reader feel like they are watching the events unfold through a camera without knowing what the characters are thinking.

2. The reader can infer that the couple in the story is discussing the woman's getting an abortion.

3. The setting of this story is a train station in northern Spain on a hot day. The title “Hills Like White Elephants” comes from the long white hills the couple can see as they talk, waiting for their train. When the woman says the hills look to her “like white elephants,” this description has a deeper significance. The couple avoids directly saying what procedure the woman will have. The topic is the proverbial elephant in the room. Additionally, white hills can conjure the image of a woman’s pregnant belly. The train-track imagery may signify the tracks the couple will soon follow. Just as they are physically stuck at the train station, the couple is “stuck” in not being able to explicitly communicate about their relationship and pregnancy and “stuck” in not yet having had the abortion they talk in circles around.

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