How does Hemingway's use of language (diction and tone) reveal the two character's attitudes toward their situation in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

epollock | Student

It is clear, when Jig says "every day we make it more impossible" (paragraph 71) that she is no longer thrilled by the American’s wishes, as she might have been at one time. Her annoyance with him, requesting that he not talk (paragraph 98), indicates her frustration with continuing to hash over their division of opinion. Hemingway handles the dialogue with the skill of a master. The language he gives his characters is simple and ordinary. A major quality of his control is that he arranges things so that there is no need to fill the page with the many "he said" and "she said" phrases that in other stories are as obvious as speech prefixes in a play. His great skill is that readers can nevertheless identify the speakers easily because the speeches are so closely connected to the clearly delineated interests and wishes of Jig and the American. Readers learn in paragraph 42 that the American and Jig have earlier been discussing the possibility of an abortion. The dialogue in the story up to this point has been largely a diversion from this topic. From Jig’s attempt to explain the resemblance of the hills to white elephants, however, it appears that she is thinking seriously that she has been gaining little ground in explaining her position to the American about not wanting an abortion. At the story’s end, when she smiles at him, it would appear that their opposing interests are irreconcilable. It may well be that each person has made a determination about the future, and that their decisions do not take the other person into their plans. We may presume that if they had made a joint decision, the story would have described it. As it is, the two are not reconciled, and so we must conclude that their dispute has caused their permanent alienation.

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Hills Like White Elephants

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