I need help expressing the way the characters manipulate each other in Hills Like White Elephants. I can see how they do it but I just can't put it into words. Thank you

Expert Answers
sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

And it really is so subtle!  The woman plays a game of emotion, while the man plays the reverse psychology card.  See these examples:

'It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig,' the man said. ...The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on.

'I know you wouldn't mind it, Jig. It's really not anything. It's just to let the air in.'

The girl did not say anything.

Here, the girl is deliberately avoiding his gaze and refusing to answer.  She is playing the "moping" card, which causes him to continue to argue the point until she hears something she specifically wants to address.

'I'll go with you and I'll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it's all perfectly natural.'

'Then what will we do afterwards?'

Here she has changed the subject.  She is seeking for information about their relationship, and not dealing with whether she'll have the operation.

Next, the man pulls back, reversing his argument to "its all up to you".  This is the reverse psychology and gets her to immediately address the issue:

'Well,' the man said, 'if you don't want to you don't have to. I wouldn't have you do it if you didn't want to. But I know it's perfectly simple.'

'And you really want to?'

When it all gets too much, she returns to emotion:

'I'll scream,' the girl said.

In a way, you could suggest that she wins.  The last thing he does is ask after her emotion:

'Do you feel better?' he asked.

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Hills Like White Elephants

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