In American culture, a white elephant is a possession that is useless and a burden to its owner as it is often expensive to maintain and difficult, if not impossible to dispose of. Thus, it is significant that in "Hills Like White Elephants," Jig envisions the hills, like a pregnant womb, as white elephants. For, it is this pregnancy of Jig that causes the rift between her and her American boyfriend, who perceives the pregnancy as an inconvenience and impediment to their carefree lifestyle.
The American tells Jif if she has an "awfully simple operation," they, then, "can have the whole world...We can go everywhere." But, Jig realizes that, like a white elephant that often comes back to the owner who has tried to dispose of it, their life can never be the same if she has an abortion: "And once they take it [her innocence] away, you never get it back," she tells her boyfriend. She and he cannot move forward in their lives with their former insouciance because the memory of the unborn child will always loom over them, creating a burden on their happiness.