An Analysis Of 'Hills Like White Elephants' By Ernest Hemingway

An Analysis Of 'Hills Like White Elephants' By Ernest Hemingway

Key analysis on one of Hemingway's most notable short stories.

One of Hemingway's most notable and analyzed short stories, "Hills Like White Elephants," depicts an American couple going over a serious debate over some drinks in Spain. The man and woman do not bear names, an element very common in many of Hemingway's literature. They are essentially vagabonds, packing their lives up in a suitcase and traveling the world trying new things. During my freshman year of college, I had to analyze this piece for my professor in a very short essay. Here is what I believed occurred behind the scenes.

Emotionally speaking, “Hills Like White Elephants” at first seems calm, relaxed. A man and a woman, who seem to be together, were buying two drinks called Anis.

The first thing the girl notices is that the coloration of the hills made them appear to be “white elephants." The man obviously has not seen one before, since the coloration of that animal has never been recorded in history. As we get later in the story, we realize that the conversation and trip are more serious than previously thought.

The man talks about an “Awfully simple operation”. Upon hearing this, the girl becomes stressed, as if this was already mentioned before the story. They then go back and forth and the man doesn’t seem to appreciate that the girl is afraid to make the choice.

He believes the girl doesn’t have to oblige to the operation “if she doesn’t really want to” when really, the man wants the operation done. He wants to explore more, and he sees that not doing the operation would only hinder that. The man thinks they both can "have everything." Near the end of the story, suitcases with multiple hotel tags are noticed. The “White Elephant” now comes to play. The “White Elephant” term refers to an object that seems troublesome, however, very expensive and difficult to maintain or even get rid of.

All of a sudden, the operation makes sense. The operation is most likely that of an abortion.

Many interpretations of this short story can be made, but I hope mine can shed a little bit of light as to the overall concept of this sort story.

Feel free to read the full short story here.

Cover Image Credit: Pain the Wild

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13 Quotes For All Of Us Empowered Female-Identifying People Out There

For the days when you need to be reminded that you are really doing the dang thing and doing it well.


For the days when you need to be reminded that you are really doing the dang thing and doing it well.

1. Do you really need someone else's permission, acceptance, wink, or nod, or are you ready to give these to yourself? -The Universe

I get notes from the Universe everyday and all of them are so amazing and inspiring. There might be a few of them on this list. You can sign up for your own notes from the universe here.

2. The princess saves herself in this one. -Amanda Lovelace

The quote is based off a book called The Princess Saves Herself In This One, which is a collection of poetry about resilience, you can get the book here.

3. I'm made of more than you think. -Snow White, Mirror, Mirror

4. Other people's perception of you ain't none of your business. -Lisa Nichols


5. Do you realize how many events and choices that had to occur since the birth of the universe leading to the making of just exactly the way you are? -Mrs. Which, A Wrinkle In Time

I love this because it really hits home how so many right and wrong decisions led to the creation of you and how you should appreciate the good and the bad because without either of them you wouldn't be exactly who you were supposed to be.

6. You can't stop what's done to you. You can only survive it. -Rachel, Georgia Rule 

This brings up an important theme of my life that I'm still trying to figure out. The only thing you can control in your life is how you react to what happens to you.

7. Don't let anyone ever make you feel like you don't deserve what you want. -Patrick Verona, 10 Things I Hate About You

8. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. -Queen Clarisse, The Princess Diaries

9. No trifling of the past, no matter how great, can tarnish the brilliance of eternity. -The Universe

10. People who are insignificant to your future shouldn't have an impact on your present.

Someone once told me this, and although I can't remember the person, this quote has always stuck with me.

11. Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before. -Lady Gaga

You know what... I think she was talking about you.

12. Tell yourself it's easy. Tell yourself often. Make it an affirmation. Eat, sleep, breathe it, and you life shall be transformed. -The Universe

13. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. -Mark Twain 

Go on then, be empowered and trust your instincts, you've got big things coming... I can tell.

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