in "Hills Like White Elephants." what might the phrase "white elephant" mean, and how might this be applied to the situation in the story?Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A white elephant is an idiom for something that is expensive or costly to the owner; this owner is burdened with it and cannot sell or rid himself of it.  In Ernest Hemingway's short story, "Hills Like White Elephants," the young couple having drinks discuss the "burden" of the young woman's pregnancy; her boyfriend wants to be rid of the baby, but she has misgivings and understands that even if she has an abortion, their relationship will never be as it once has been.

As they sit with their drinks, the girl looks at the horizon and remarks that the hills resemble white elephants, a statement that is significantly symbolic.  For, as the couple disagrees about the meaning of their "having everything," they become alienated from one another.  The young man, Jig, takes their bags to the other side of the station and returns to the table.  However, the story ends without any indication of what the final decision will be, just as people who have white elephants can never have any finality with their inconvenient possession that has distanced them from one another like the far off hills on the other side of the railroad tracks.

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Hills Like White Elephants

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