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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Why did the woman choose to continue the pregnancy in "Hills Like White Elephants"?

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This short story clearly shows Ernest Hemingway’s skillful craftsmanship in part through the way he conveys the idea that the girl is pregnant without anyone ever saying so. The dialogue between the man and the girl reveals that they are enmeshed in a serious disagreement, but the exact subject is never stated.

The man seems to believe that he is behaving reasonably, as he tries to cajole the girl into doing what he wants her to do. That action seems to be terminating the pregnancy. He imagines that, if she did so, their relationship would continue the same as before she got pregnant. She knows better. His attitude toward the possibility of having a baby is teaching her what an immature, selfish person he is. As she will likely have to accept complete, solo responsibility for the child, perhaps she will be able to rejoin her family and get some support from them.

There were many risks involved in abortion, which was illegal everywhere in those days. Depending on the country, those risks included surgical errors that might cause excessive bleeding or perforate the uterus, and numerous future complications including infection or hysterectomy and even death could occur. Furthermore, both doctor and patient might be arrested.

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