What are points of comparison and contrast between the "Hills Like White Elephants" and "Good People" in terms of elements such as characters and settings.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most significant points of comparison between both short stories deals with subject matter. Both works address the challenging reality of how couples progress when the issue of an unwanted pregnancy presents itself.  In both stories, the couples have to wrestle with the reality of a pregnancy that weighs itself on the respective relationships.  Both authors take special pains to detail the emotional awkwardness that confronts them in seeking to navigate a reality that neither is effectively able to address.  The moments in which the couples have to comprehend the full implications of the pregnancy is a significant comparative point between both works.

How the trajectory of each story is developed in light of the unwanted pregnancy is one area where there is difference.  Hemingway's focus is not necessarily the reality of "the operation."  In many respects, Hemingway wishes to create a moment, an instant in time and seeks to bring everything out in that moment.  While the abortion exists, Hemingway constructs a narrative in which it is part of an instant, a moment in time where language seeks to transcend its elusive quality and recreate in exact terms the emotional and physical sensations of the instant.  This condition of playing with temporality is not as present in Wallace's story.  While there are some points in the story where this feeling is evident, Wallace's primary motivation seems to be a delving into the spiritual implications of the unwanted pregnancy:

He so fervently wished it never happened. He felt like he knew now why it was a true sin and not just a leftover rule from past society. He felt like he had been brought low by it and humbled and now did believe that the rules were there for a reason. That the rules were concerned with him personally, as an individual. He promised God he had learned his lesson. But what if that, too, was a hollow promise, from a hypocrite who repented only after, who promised submission but really only wanted a reprieve?

Wallace's story is driven by the notion of spiritual identity in the face of life altering reality: "What if he has no earthly idea what love is? What would even Jesus do?"  The characters in Hemingway's story are part of this instant, this moment in time.  The settings of Spain and provincial United States is another aspect in which difference can be seen.  Hemingway uses his setting as a part of the recreation of the moment, while the setting in Wallace's work helps to However, in Wallace's story, the setting helps to enhance the religious implications in the narrative.  In contrast to what Hemingway offers, the setting and characters in Wallace's story are part of the spiritual exploration of modern consciousness.  The infusion of spiritual identity is a significant difference between both works.

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Hills Like White Elephants

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