What is the contradictory element in the story "Hills Like White Elephants?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The contradictory element in the story is that there is a subtext of emotional dynamics transpiring between the man and the woman.  The contradictory element is that neither of them are speaking openly to one another about what they want.  For example, the man wants the woman to have the "procedure" which is an abortion. Yet, rather than tell her outright that he wishes her to have an abortion, he contradicts his own intent by saying that it is "her choice."  With all his references to the ease of the procedure, it is contradictory that he insist in this when his own personal sentiments are that he will most probably leave her if she does not have the procedure.  The woman is much the same way.  She feels different expressions about the condition in which both of them are in through her subjective.  Yet, her outward statements seek to articulate simplicity and a sense of lucidity, when her emotional state internally is far from this point.  For example, when she talks about how they can be happy towards the end of the story, this is a complete contradiction than the emotional state she is experiencing.  In this, there is a clear and definite contradiction between what is felt and what is spoken.  It is Hemingway's genius that he is able to bring out the difference between what is felt and what is said in a relationship.


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