Who is the speaker in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The speaker in this excellent short story is a character who is external to the story, and not involved in it. As a third person narrator, the speaker is notable by his extremely detached perspective on the story. In no way can the narrator be described as omniscient, as he does not reveal the thoughts and feelings experienced by Jig and her American partner. The narrator is very careful only to report what is said and what can be observed, and this is shown through the way that the majority of the text is reported dialogue rather than introspective comments about the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Note the following example:

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

Here, the reader is left to infer that what the man keeps on trying to discuss with Jig is that he wants her to have an abortion. This is not stated at all, but rather the detached narrative perspective means that the reader needs to infer this from what is said and how they conduct their speech. In short, this excellent short story is a perfect example of how Hemmingway shows the reader what is going on rather than telling them directly, and as a result his narrative voice in this text is detached and not intrusive.


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