Respond, Analyze, and Evaluate
“The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.
I can see the silent couple staring into the hills, pondering their uncertain future. Hemingway uses the words “white” and “sun” for the hills, while using “brown” and “dry” the country. Displaying the contrast may be showing a symbolism to what the girl is feeling herself.
Theme: Talking vs. Communicating
“Would you please, please, please, please, please, please stop talking?”
They seem to only have short serious conversations then go back to talking about beer or the scenery. Realizing the futility of their conversation. In fact, the girl’s nickname, “Jig,” subtly indicates that the two characters merely dance around each other and the issue at hand without ever saying anything meaningful. The girl’s inability to speak Spanish with the bartender not only illustrates her dependence on the American but also the difficulty she has expressing herself to others. Motif: Drinking
“Let’s drink beer.”
Both the American man and the girl drink alcohol throughout their conversation to avoid each other and the problems with their relationship. They start drinking large beers the moment they arrive at the station as if hoping to fill their free time with anything but discussion. As soon as they begin talking about the hills that look like white elephants, the girl asks to order more drinks to put off the inevitable conversation about the operation. Although they drink primarily to avoid thinking about it, readers sense that deeper problems exist in their relationship, of which the operation is merely one. The girl herself implies this when she remarks that she and the American man never do anything together except try new drinks, as if constantly looking for new ways to avoid each other. By the end of their conversation, both drink alone—the girl at the table and the man at the bar—suggesting that the two will end their relationship and go their separate ways. Symbol: White Elephants
“They look like white elephants,”
The girl’s comment in the beginning of the story that the surrounding hills look like white elephants initially seems to be a casual, offhand remark. The white elephant actually serves as a window for her and the American to discuss the operation and the possibility of not having it. The girl later retracts this comment with the observation that the hills “don’t really look like white elephants,” a subtle hint that perhaps she wants to have the operation after all. Also may call to the “elephant in the room”
“It was very hot express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at the junction for two minutes and on to Madrid.”
Planted in the middle of a desolate valley, the station isn’t a final destination but merely a stopping point between Barcelona and Madrid. Travelers, including the main characters, must therefore decide where to go. Whether to go with each other and continue their relationship. The contrast between the white hills and barren valley possibly highlights the difference between life and death, fertility and sterility, and mirrors the choice the girl faces between having the operation and not. The girl seems torn between the two landscapes, not only commenting on the beauty of the hills but also physically walking to the end of the platform and gazing out at the brown emptiness around the station. Conflict
“But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?”
By this point, midway through the story, the girl has already retracted her previous comment that the surrounding hills look like white elephants. The girl asks this in a very pleading way. Demonstrating the dependence on him and yet the inner conflict within herself. The fact that she asks the...
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