Sympathetic Hemingway

The most striking feature of the short story "Hills Like White Elephants" is the manner in which it is told. It is not typical in the classical sense with an introduction, a development of the story and an end. Instead, we get some time in the life of two people, as if it were just a piece of a film where we have a lot to deduce. This tale does not get everything done for the reader; we only see the surface of what is going on. It leaves an open end because readers can have their own ending and take part in the action when reading. The story told here is that of a woman and a man on their trip to a place where she can have an abortion. Everything in the tale is related to the idea of fertility and barrenness. This main topic can be seen from the title "Hills Like White Elephants," where Hills refer to the shape of the belly of a pregnant woman. White Elephants is an idiom that refers to useless or unwanted things, meaning the fetus they plan on disposing of. Hemingway produces an effect of sympathy for the girl through the setting that symbolizes their decision process. The time passing symbolizes the pressure the two people are under, and through their poor communication indicates that this relationship does not and will not work.

The first impression the reader gets when reading the text is that the story is set in the middle of a dry, barren place under the sun, with no shade or trees. This reinforces the idea of lack of life, but, in contrast, they are in the warm shadow of the building where life is. This emphasizes the contrast between the pregnancy of the woman, as being fertile and everything around them, including him, in this idea of fertility as he is also apart from the barrenness and sharing the shadow. The "brown and dry" setting sets the tone for the conversation between the couple (Hemingway 281). It allows the reader to understand the feelings of entrapment held by the couple and especially the young girl. The couple is also separated from the rest of the people that are inside the bar by a bamboo beaded curtain. This gives the idea of privacy reinforced by the idea of the warm shadow of the building that protects them from the world that exists inside the bar, they are outside, with nature. There is tension in the air at some moments, but they cannot express it openly. Perhaps they don\'t want to be heard in case somebody can understand them, or maybe, it is just a problem of communication and of sharing feelings. It could also be a combination of both. No woman should be subjected to making this type of important decision in such a harsh environment.

Another thing the reader must take into account is the fact that the train is stopping only for two minutes, a very brief time. This couple is being pressured into making a very important decision in only a short amount of time. According to the narrator, "the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes," leaving the couple with no time to really go into discussing the important details of their relationship and the decision they are making (Hemingway 282). As the story comes to an end, the woman server informed the couple, "The train comes in five minutes," and a sense of urgency is brought to the conversation (Hemingway 284). This becomes evident by the manner in which the couple is concluding their conversation. The girl does not want to speak about the subject anymore, but the couple has not finished talking things all the way through. In the end she just wants to get this operation over and done with.

Ernest Hemingway chose to use the couple’s dialogue as the best way to express sympathy for the young girl to the reader. This dialogue is presented as being very natural, but was carefully written, because through it, the reader can deduce the kind of relationship they have. The language here is a very simple one, even informal; this easy language usually expresses feelings. The real theme