Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

Hills Like White Elephants book cover
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What is so important about the setting in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

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Gracie O'Hara eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"Hills Like White Elephants" is a story about the "lost generation," a term used by Hemingway explicitly in his novel The Sun Also Rises to describe the young adults of the period immediately following the first world war. The characters in his works about this period exemplify this by being rootless expatriates, lacking close and permanent ties to other places or people. 

The setting of "Hills Like White Elephants" in a railroad station exemplifies this sense of being "lost." A railroad station is not a permanent place anyone inhabits but a place one passes through in transit to somewhere else. This lack of permanence is emblematic of the relationship between Jig and the man. Rather than getting married and raising their child, Jig is preparing to have an abortion, and the couple is drifting apart. Their efforts to be free of anchors to place, community, and person have left them adrift and unmoored, constantly in transit between places but never becoming part of those places. 

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As symbols, the hills which resemble "white elephants," the treeless railroad tracks, and the station, represent the characters and their...

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