Hills Like White Elephants Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

Hills Like White Elephants book cover
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What indicates that the couple was talking about getting an abortion in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

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One of the highly fascinating aspects of this story is that what is going on between Jig and her lover is only alluded two once during the story and then not referred to again. However, it is important to realise how the abortion, although never directly referenced, is the weight that hangs around both of the characters' shoulders and determines everything else. Through this topic we see the selfishness of the American in wanting Jig to have an abortion and Jig's profound reluctance to have an abortion, and the way that the American imposes his will psychologically on Jig. The reference is as follows:

"It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig," the man said. "It's not really an operation at all."

He then says a couple of lines later that it is only "to let the air in," and that it is "not really anything." Note here how the man is deliberately trying to downplay the severity and importance of what he is trying to convince Jig to do. This shows his own selfishness and complete lack of understanding, because for Jig what he is contemplating for her can definitely not be described as "not really anything."

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