What are some examples of argumentative themes in "Hills Like White Elephants"?I am having trouble coming up with an argumentative thesis for this story. I wanted to argue that The American is only...

What are some examples of argumentative themes in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

I am having trouble coming up with an argumentative thesis for this story. I wanted to argue that The American is only concerned with his own best interest but then I realized that there really isn't a whole lot of evidence to support this claim. So, I am having a hard time coming up with something solid that I can use as a basis for my argumentative essay.

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agrinwald eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hemingway's excellent "Hills Like White Elephants" examines a young couple who weighs the possibility of getting an abortion. The two characters, the American and the girl, discuss the topic indirectly, which corresponds with Hemingway's iceberg theory.

Your argued topic that the American is simply looking out for his own interests is a strong one—why not pursue that? Keep in mind that in much of Hemingway's work, the reader needs to do some digging in order to fully understand what's happening.

For one thing, something to start your argument is the fact that the American is the one to start the abortion conversation. When she initially disapproves of the idea, he continues to attempt to convince her. "I know you wouldn't mind it . . . I'll go with you and I'll stay with you all the time."

Meanwhile, the girl seems concerned about the safety of the procedure itself, and she also seems concerned about what will happen after. Seemingly happy with the man, she questions if things will be okay again. She questions whether or not an abortion will actually help their unhappiness, but the American continues to convince her.

Later, she seems convinced to have the procedure, "I'll do it. Because I don't care about me." Why would she say something like that? It's likely because she knows he is the one who truly wants the abortion to happen. When crafting your argument, pay attention to the American's passivity in convincing her. He doesn't demand her to do so, he's simply trying, likely out of guilt, to make the decision on what seems like her own terms. He's likely attempting to convince her to do so in order to save himself the trouble of raising a child. He never truly asks her what she thinks, but convinces her to receive the procedure.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There can be many argumentative prompts to come out of the work.  One significant one would be whether Hemingway's construction is in favor of women's predicaments, against it, or refuses to give an answer to it.  The central idea concerns the procedure for an abortion to which the woman displays resistance, but the man displays support.  Is Hemingway trying to articulate the condition of women as one that needs to be changed or is he content with what is there in terms of the dynamic between women and men?  At the same time, I think that an argument can be made that Hemingway might be trying to construct a situation as it is, outside of the realm of judgments and assertions.  What makes his short story so phenomenal is that it seeks to be a perfect recreation of what is as opposed to what should be, what might be due to bias, or what can only be through human contingency.  The question that we are left with which to wrestle is that if art does this, if art is able to render a perfect vision of what is, does it actually embrace what is as opposed to seeking to change what is into what should be?  At what point does art stop being a mirror and begin being a looking glass?  At what point is this desirable or undesirable?  I think that Hemingway forces all of these questions out of this short story.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An argumentative essay on a piece of fiction can often be approached by making a case for your interpretation or reading of the story. So, your interpretation of any of the following, for instance, could be the basis for your argument:

  • Hemingway lends urgency to the situation between Jig and the man by setting the story in a train station. The approaching deadline to get aboard the train mirrors the deadline that Jig faces on whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Sooner or later she will have to literally and metaphorically decide whether or not to "get on board."
  • A "white elephant" is, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary,
    "a property requiring much care and expense and yielding little profit/an object no longer of value to its owner but of value to others/something of little or no value." Make a claim as to which definition, if any, Hemingway seems to imply in the conversation between Jig and the man.
  • Using key pieces of dialogue, make a case for who has the upper hand in this discursive exchange.
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Hills Like White Elephants

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