How do I talk about how Hemingway's use of third person point of view in "Hills Like White Elephants" impacts readers?I need some help staying on topic by talking about point of view. It's hard not...

How do I talk about how Hemingway's use of third person point of view in "Hills Like White Elephants" impacts readers?

I need some help staying on topic by talking about point of view. It's hard not trying to use symbolism because this story has a lot of them in it.

Asked on by abrahamim

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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To talk about third person point of view, you'll want to decide if it is limited or omniscient point of view. In limited, the narrator focalizes the story through one character. In many cases, a limited narrator delves into thoughts, feelings and motivations. But this is Hemingway writing, and he is a minimalist and a modernist. Therefore, you'll want to talk about how narratorial observation and comment is restricted to words and actions.

An omniscient narrator also delves into inner realms of feelings, etc, but may jump around from character to character, focalizing the narrative now through one character and then through another. Even though this is a short story, there are instances when Hemingway switches the focalization and narrates through one character's point of view and then the other:

JIG (point of view)
The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. ... The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.

THE MAN (point of view)
He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train. Coming back, he walked through the bar-room. ...He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. ...

You'll want to talk also about whether the narrator is in close proximity or distanced; whether subjective in perspective or objective. Afterward, you'll want to talk about whether the narrator is reliable or unreliable. In this instance, you will do well to examine the text to find indications of a distanced, objective narrator. You'll want to evaluate the text for evidence that objective reporting of words and actions does or does not lend reliability to the narrator.

These points can all be tied into how the third person point of view impacts you as a reader. You can say the impact of having a limited or an omniscient point of view, in other words, of knowing about each main character's words and actions directly or knowing one character directly and the others only as what the main character experiences. You can say how subjectivity or objectivity impacts you and why or why not you find the narrator reliable and trustworthy or otherwise.

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