The use of symbolism in “Hills like White Elephants”

Topics: Pregnancy, Thought, Train station Pages: 2 (558 words) Published: December 4, 2014
Maggie Bailey
Mrs. Warren
English 201
19 February 2013
The use of symbolism in “Hills like White Elephants”
In the short story “Hills like White Elephants” Hemingway chooses to use symbolism the most out of any other literary element. Hemingway did not make the use of symbolism obvious, without understanding the symbolism one would assume the couple is actually discussing the scenery. In the short story “Hills like White Elephants” the element of symbolism is used to mask the serious discussion that the man and woman are having at the train station.

The hills in the short story are very important. Hemingway used the hills to symbolize struggles that the couple must overcome. The large struggle the couple must overcome is to make the decision to have an abortion or not. According to one author “Jig looks at the hills and sees opportunity, while the man looks and sees nothing” (Rankin). This means that the woman can see a future with having a baby, and the happiness she could have; this is why she also says “They’re lovely hills” (Hemingway 167). The man sees nothing because he has already made up his mind that an abortion is the best option and he does not and cannot see a future with having a baby. The hills also symbolize a pregnant woman’s belly; this is relevant because the couple is discussing Jig having an abortion.

The words “white elephants” symbolize several different things in the story. White elephants are rare and precious animals, like a baby can be. In the story the man says, “I’ve never seen one” (Hemingway 166). After he says this Jig replies with, “No, you wouldn’t.” (Hemingway 166). After Jig says this the man angrily says, “Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything” (Rankin). He says this because he wants jig to know that just because she doesn’t think he has ever thought about having a baby that he really has. White elephants are also thought to be precious gifts that come at a cost, much like a baby would....
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