What is the significance of the title Hills Like White Elephants?

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junebug614 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The significance of the title is twofold: one, a white elephant gift is a gift that nobody wants. This is symbolic of the unwanted pregnancy of the girl and the American. Early in the story, she notices that the hills look like white elephants; however, as they continue to talk she says that the hills are actually very lovely and don't resemble white elephants at all - reminiscent of her change in feelings about being pregnant. 

Another reason for the title is that the two never come out and say exactly what they are talking about, but it is very awkward and tense - sort of like the phrase " the elephant in the room" (something awkward and obvious that no one discusses outright).

tictac10 | Student

 The girl is fascinated by the distant hills, which she compares to "white elephants."  These "white elephants" are something out-of-the-norm, a bright spot amidst the "brown and dry" land, an innocent (thus the white color) and unwanted inconvenience to be brushed away...just like this couple's literal 'elephant in the room':  a baby. The girl hints at her true feelings about this ˜white elephant™ many times..."especially all the things you've waited so long for." ; "once they take it away, you never get it back"; "if I say things are like white elephants, and you'll like it," and -- most telling, most simple -- "I'll scream."  Also, she admires fields of grain and rivers, both constituents of life.  Yet, the man is consistently forever clueless, or forever evasive, about the operation:  the abortion.He will not become attached. Or, perhaps more accurately, he cannot.

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Hills Like White Elephants

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