The Role Os Setting as Symbolic in the Story "Hills Like White Elephants" Essay

Topic: discuss the role of setting as symbolic of the story in “Hills like White Elephant” The different symbols in “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemmingway are used to convey the different opinions, feelings and emotions of the characters and meaning of the story at hand. The symbolic devices and setting are used to effectively communicate the conflicts and obstacles that the two individuals are having. “Hills Like White Elephants” opens with this unusual couple drinking beer, at a train station located at a junction at which their entire lives are revealed and unfolded.

At this station the train tracks run parallel yet never meeting. The station where the couple is waiting is in a valley bisected by two different landscapes which the woman makes remarks about. One side is brown and dry with no trees while the other side has fields full of grains with the river and trees. The story opens with its first apparent imagery of the couple ordering beer while waiting for the train. As the man and woman begin their dialogue, the woman makes remarks about the distant hills which the train station is situated between.

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As they continue talking it becomes known that the woman is pregnant, and the man wants her to have an abortion. “What should we drink? ” the girl asks. She has taken off her hat and put it on the table. ” It’s pretty hot ,” the man say. “ Let’s drink beer”. ……….. ”I wanted to try this new drink. That’s all we do, isn’t it- look at things and try new drinks. ” the woman comments. The drinking of the beer represents the couple’s unusual recreational routine of hanging out together and not really having a serious relationship.

This clearly shows that the girl is tired of doing the same thing and wants a chance of looking forward to something new, and her dissatisfaction with the relationship as a whole. Her intention at the present time is to raise this baby and have a family with him. The hills are the central viewpoint of the story and through this literal sense the conflict of the story is revealed and somewhat understood. The contrasting landscape symbolizes the opinion of the couple and the directions and choices they should take, their contrasting views on this serious situation at hand and more so their future together being in jeopardy.

As stated by Hemmingway, “On this side there was no shade and no trees ……the girl was looking off the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry”. This reflects the loneliness, devastation and barren effect she would have if she has the abortion which is being discussed as well as the type of relationship they have presently. The story continues with “Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro“, symbolizing fertility, the life that she is carrying within her ,the beauty she admires in her state of pregnancy as well as having a happy life with this man.

She sees opportunity for their relationship. The hills also convey the obstacles this man and woman will face with the baby should they have it. “They look like white elephants,” she says “ I’ve never seen one,” the man replies; She then says, “No, you wouldn’t have”. Although this is a major decision, the woman does not see it as the end of the world nor of their relationship. “Note Hemmingway’s use quote” hills”, not the more difficult to overcome “mountain”. She sees a new life possible while the man looks at the hills and sees nothing.

His vision is only that of an enormous obstacle which is this unborn child and the consequences that comes with it. The fun and adventure which they are currently having will cease as a result of the woman having this baby. As he states “That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that has made us unhappy”. As the title suggest the gentleman is preoccupies with the financial responsibility that would be trusted upon him were they to have this baby hence the title hills like white elephants.

The train station is a symbolic backdrop of the crossroads of life as well as life journeys ahead which they have to make, regarding the abortion. Hemmingway multiple references to the heat signifies to the tense moment, anxiety and time constraints “it was hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes” They don’t have a lot to time to think this crisis over and cannot not waiting forever. “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemmingway is surely a story about a crisis a couple is facing, as illustrated by the symbolism and images presented in the location and the dialogue.

The decision to move forward and the possibility of new life is unknown but clearly the used of setting to covey the conflict at hand is portrayed. The title exemplifies the man’s preoccupation of the financial burdens he would be faced with should the woman decided to have the baby. Like two parallel tracks that never meet, the story ends with no resolution. REFERENCES Kirszner, Laurie G. , and Stephen R. Mandell. Eds. (2009) Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 7th ed. Boston: Wadsworth.


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