Hills Like White Elephants Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

Hills Like White Elephants book cover
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How does "Hills Like White Elephants" reflect a dissatisfaction with modernity?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Consider the fact that nothing is really resolved in the story.  There is little satisfaction in the ending of the story.  The American might be satisfied, but is not really reflecting anything like this. Jig is not entirely satisfied with the outcome of the discussion, and the reader is far from satisfied with the trajectory of this relationship.  In this, Hemingway has been able to develop an emotional sensibility into a philosophical one.  The dissatisfaction he is able to evoke is one in which there is a fundamental dissatisfaction with Modernity.  The modern predicament is one in which one finds futility with the advent of freedom. There is no institutional structure that prevents the American and Jig from finding freedom and happiness.  Yet, they are dissatisfied with their being in the world.  It is here where Hemingway is able construct a narrative where there is dissatisfaction with modernity.  In doing so, Hemingway is able to integrate the affairs of the heart into a larger philosophical tract.  Modernism is something that either is absorbed by the individual or a social condition that reflects the individual.  Dissatisfaction becomes the only absolute that results from the conversation between Jig and the American and defines their being in the world.

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