illustration of train tracks with low hills in the background and one of the hills has the outline of an elephant within it

Hills Like White Elephants

by Ernest Hemingway

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In "Hills Like White Elephants," has the quarrel been resolved when the story ends?

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The story takes place in Spain and features an unnamed couple, an American man and his girlfriend, sitting outside a train station in Spain and discussing an operation that the woman is to undergo. The particulars of the story are incredibly vague, and readers are to determine what is happening through the dialogue between the couple. The details of the operation are never elucidated, but it is implied that the woman is to have an abortion.

Throughout the story, the American man and the woman deliberate over the operation. The man insists that the operation is the best course of action to take, as he reasons that many people who have undergone the operation are invariably happy afterward. He also insists that the operation is a simple procedure. The woman is willing to undergo the procedure, but she states that she will only do it so that the man will love her. With that in mind, it is evident that the severity of an abortion is not necessarily on the woman's mind. She is merely agreeing to the operation for her partner's sake. However, the man asserts that she should not go through with the operation if she does not take herself into consideration.

As the story progresses, the dialogue exudes the sentiment that the issue at hand is a very touchy subject. The dialogue between the man and the woman displays rather curt and vague responses from both characters. Eventually, the dialogue culminates with the woman imploring the man to cease talking any further. She decides to go through with the operation. The story ends with the man inquiring if the woman is okay, and she insists that she is. Although she is firm in her decision, readers are left with the feeling that the matter is still unresolved. She is unwilling to discuss the matter at hand any further and abruptly ends the conversation despite the notion that something as grave as an abortion should be deliberated further. It seems that she is merely sweeping the problem under the rug, so to speak.

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