illustration of train tracks with low hills in the background and one of the hills has the outline of an elephant within it

Hills Like White Elephants

by Ernest Hemingway
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Who's story is it in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

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Hills Like White Elephants ” is the story of an American couple, an unnamed man and his girlfriend, Jig, who are having a discussion of sorts about something quite important. They talk about an “operation” that the man wants Jig to have. She, however, is hesitating. They talk all...

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Hills Like White Elephants” is the story of an American couple, an unnamed man and his girlfriend, Jig, who are having a discussion of sorts about something quite important. They talk about an “operation” that the man wants Jig to have. She, however, is hesitating. They talk all around the issue, trying to keep the conversation light. Jig thinks the hills look like white elephants. The man thinks this is ridiculous.

Yet the conversation keeps coming back to the “operation.” The man keeps assuring Jig that it is “all perfectly natural” and not really anything at all. He says that he does not want her to do it if she doesn't want to, yet he keeps pressing her. He wants them to be just like they were before, apparently free and able to do what they want with their lives.

At this point readers might realize that the man and Jig are talking about abortion. Jig wants to begin to settle down, to appreciate the beauty of life, and perhaps to keep their child. The man is self-centered. He wants freedom and the shallow life they currently lead.

We never find out the results of the conversation. Jig says she will go through with the “operation,” but she may or may not when the time comes. The story, then, may potentially be about three people, rather than two, depending on Jig's final decision.

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