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Hills Like White Elephant sample essay

Ernest Hemingway makes use of the image of a white elephant in “Hills Like White Elephant.” Legend has it that the emperor of Thailand used to give white elephants as gifts for those people he was displeased with and wanted to punish. The white elephant is useless for normal uses and is extremely expensive to feed and care for. However, once someone has been given a white elephant he or she cannot get rid of it because it was a gift from the emperor. Therefore the emperor punishes the person with his gift.

In this story, there is virtually no narrative; there are a few descriptions, but for the most part these descriptions are neutral, almost to the point of being bland or lifeless. The story is advanced by the dialogue between the unnamed American man and the young woman Jig who are discussing whether or not she should have an abortion of the child she is expecting.

Jig notices the hills in the distance and says they look like white elephants. Clearly the man views the unborn child as a white elephant that if allowed to be born will become expensive and unmanageable. He feels threatened by the possibility of having a child to rest. He tries to convince Jig, that all the abortion entails is letting “in the air and then its all perfectly natural.” It is clear that the man is feeling crowded by the possibility of having to raise a child. He need fresh air.

At first blush, one might thing the white elephant in the story is the unwanted child as the man does. However, on further reflection however, it appears that the white elephant is the unnamed man. He has become too expensive for Jig to maintain the relationship. The relationship is not worth the price of aborting the unborn child. Although Hemingway doesn’t explicitly say so, it appears that Jig will refuse to have the abortion and if the unnamed man cannot deal with raising a child he is welcome to seek his own life away from her and the baby.

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