Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

La Casa Verda visitors center, Ebro delta National Park, Spain. The hills seen in the background are part of the same range as in Hills Like White Elephants. Published by Gale Cengage

Hemingway's ‘‘Hills Like White Elephants’’ first appeared in the magazine transition in August, 1927, and within a few months appeared again in the collection Men Without Women. The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s 1926 novel of life in Paris and Pamplona, had already secured the author’s reputation as the spokesperson for his generation. Men Without Women further solidified critical approval of his early work. ‘‘Hills Like White Elephants’’ was singled out for special attention from reviewers. For example Dorothy Parker enamored with Hemingway and his prose, called the story in an early review ‘‘delicate and tragic.’’ She further added, ‘‘I do not know where a greater collection of stories can be found.’’

Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, did not seem to appreciate Hemingway or his prose. Her review, contemporary with the publication of the story, was filled with what could be termed ‘‘left-handed compliments.’’ For example, she wrote, ‘‘There are . . . many stories which, if life were longer, one would wish to read again. Most of them indeed are so competent, so efficient, and so bare of superfluity that one wonders why they do not make a deeper dent in the mind than they do.’’ She criticized Hemingway for ‘‘excessive’’ dialogue and ‘‘lack of proportion.’’

A final contemporary reviewer, Cyril Connolly, offered a more balanced critique of Men Without Women. He wrote that the volume ‘‘is a collection of grim little stories told in admirable colloquial dialogue with no point, no moral and no ornamentation.’’ Although he called Hemingway’s work ‘‘irritating,’’ he also found the stories ‘‘readable and...

(The entire section is 728 words.)