How would the narrative of "Hills Like White Elephants" be different if told from the point of view of either of the two characters? 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" typlifies his famous style of writing, a style referred to as the "iceberg effect" in which meaning lies deep beneath the surface of the narrative.  Through the use of a tightly controlled dialogue, Hemingway subtly suggests that the American and Jig are two lovers who have become alienated since they express their feelings covertly.  In addition, with the narrative in the form of a dialogue that is so strategically controlled, the reader is forced to become deeply involved in breaking through to the underlying meanings of the conversations. At the same time, though, Hemingway yet maintains an ambiguity connotative of the misunderstanding between Jig and the American.

If, then, the narrative were told from the point of view of either of the characters, the intriguing ambiguity would be lost as well as the reader's involvement in interpretation of Hemingway's nuances.  Also, if first person point of view were used for Jig, for example, the perspective of her lover would, of course, be subjective.  Likewise, if the narrative were told from the man's point of view, the presentation of Jig would be clouded by his perspective. In this dialogue for, instance, the reader must delve beneath the "iceberg" of conversation in order to find the deeper meaning of the coversation and the different denotations of the word everything:

"What did you say?" (the American)

"I said we could have everything."

"We can have everything."

"No, we can't."

Certainly, then, the originality and interest of the story would be greatly mitigated if told from first person point of view as much of the subtleties of the story would be lost, and the reader would not need to examine the exterior facts and symbols for meaning.


Read the study guide:
Hills Like White Elephants

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question