In "Hills Like White Elephants," why is the man called "the American"?

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The American seems to be referred to in this way to emphasize the idea that he is somehow representative of America and American values during this time period. He is interested in drinking, ordering beer first and then something called Anis del Toro. Perhaps this indicates a desire to numb...

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The American seems to be referred to in this way to emphasize the idea that he is somehow representative of America and American values during this time period. He is interested in drinking, ordering beer first and then something called Anis del Toro. Perhaps this indicates a desire to numb his feelings and to make things less awkward for himself by dulling his emotions. He tells Jig that he wants to "try and have a fine time" without seeming to acknowledge that she does not feel fine. He wants things to be "fine" and seems to prefer to ignore any feelings that do not correspond with that.

The American also spends a lot of time trying to convince Jig to have an abortion, telling her "It's really not anything" or that it is "an awfully simple operation." He fails to recognize her feelings, and she seems a great deal more apprehensive—only wanting reassurance that he will go on caring for her and that they'll "be all right and be happy"—because he is more self-centered. He focuses on what he wants and does not truly listen to her. Even when she asks if they can stop talking, he is quiet only for a short time and then begins speaking on the topic again. He is selfish, self-centered, and out of touch with his feelings and hers. He is not good at communicating and only cares about getting his point across (not listening to anyone else's).

Thus, Hemingway seems to suggest that these are qualities that are typical of Americans during this era, and he makes it clear that he is criticizing Americans by referring to the man only by his nationality.

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That the American is only referred to by his nationality—rather than by his gender (the Man) or his profession—suggests that this is the element of his identity Hemingway most wants us to focus upon when reading the story. As the other answers have pointed out, Hemingway is criticizing particular elements of American culture, namely selfishness and superficiality.

The selfishness comes in the American's treatment of Jig. He regards her as a plaything. Her pregnancy ruins this allure for him since having a baby means having to take responsibility as a father for it. He does not want to be a father or even a good partner to Jig. He's only in this relationship for fun and games.

Secondly, the American is shallow. He might be traveling through Europe, but he is not a cultured man. He only cares to try new drinks for the most part. He cares little for art or culture. Just as he does not care about Jig's feelings or anything beyond her sex appeal for him, he has no appreciation for what traveling abroad might teach him in broadening his horizons mentally.

That the American can neither take responsibility for his actions or conceive of a life beyond cheap physical pleasures like sex and drinking says much about American culture as viewed by Hemingway. During the decade the story was written and published, the 1920s, American culture was defined by frivolity and excitement. Novelty and leisure were championed above anything lasting. Hemingway is suggesting that American culture should grow up, much like the American should take responsibility.

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In "Hills like White Elephants," the man is perhaps called "the American" because Hemingway intended for him to represent the traits of traditional masculinity in 1920s America. We can see this through the American's character: he is worldly, for example, as shown by his ability to speak both Spanish and English and his knowledge of and familiarity with alcoholic drinks. He is also reluctant to accept responsibility for his actions: he has made Jig pregnant and would prefer her to have an abortion, rather than get married and settle down.  As such, Hemingway has created the character of the American as a critique of traditional masculinity.

In addition, by simply calling this character "the American," Hemingway emphasizes the empty and desolate nature of this couple's relationship. They appear to share little in common, and though he claims to love her, he is quite adamant that they could be happy if she had the abortion. This suggests that the man is more interested in pleasing himself. Similarly, Jig is more concerned with appeasing him than doing what she thinks is right, further suggesting that the couple's relationship is empty and not based on mutual love and affection. 

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In Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants, the main character remains nameless and is only referred to as The American. There are a few reasons why Hemingway may have chosen to keep this character nameless.

First off, calling this character The American may be to generalize about Americans in general. He doesn't come off as very caring, considering the serious conversation they are having about "Jig's" pregnancy. Hemingway was an ex-patriot, which means he spoke out against many of the ideals of Americans even though he was one. This is a story about an uncaring American, and by keeping him nameless, it speaks out against all Americans.

It also accentuates the fact that he is the foreigner in the story. While we don't know where Jig is from, she seems to be from another country. Sure, they are in Spain and she clearly doesn't speak Spanish, but the fact that he is called The American suggests that she is not from the United States.

This is also a snippet of the life of this well-traveled couple. Hemingway rarely used names in his short stories anyway, because names create a familiarity, and the lack of names makes them seem like they could be anyone.

Calling him The American basically calls out all Americans on their selfishness, manipulative ways and other negative characteristics Hemingway saw in them.

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