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Hills like White Elephants - Symbolism

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Essay title: Hills like White Elephants - Symbolism

Ernest Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants" relies on symbolism to carry the theme of either choosing to live selfishly and dealing with the results, or choosing a more difficult and selfless path and reveling in the rewards. The symbolic materials and the symbolic characters aid the reader's understanding of the subtle theme of this story. The hills symbolize two different decisions that the pregnant girl in our story is faced with. Both hills are completely opposite of each other, and each "hill" or decision has a consequence that is just as different as the appearance of the hills.

Hemingway uses drinking, the hillsides, and a railroad track between the two hills to help convey his theme. The beer in this story is used to represent the couple's usual recreational activity to that they do together. Their recreational activity bothers the girl because "that's all [they] do … look at things and try new drinks." This gives the reader some suspicion that the girl has grown tired of doing the same things over and over again and would like to do something different, like getting married and starting a family instead of goofing off all the time. She wants to stop behaving like an adolescent girl and become a woman. These desires and feelings show that the girl is ready and desiring a change, however her male partner doesn't seem at all interested in changing his ways.

Hemingway presents the reader with two contrasting hills. One of the hills is dull, desolate, uninviting and barren, it was very much like a desert; "it had no shade and no trees." The other hill, however, is beautiful, plentiful in nature, and abundant. It had "fields of grain and tress along the banks of the Ebro River." A train track runs between these two hills, and this helps give the reader a sense of impending decision.


Symbolically, the girl can choose one "hill" or the other, and she is in the middle of the "track" weighing her options. The girl must choose what path she wants to take with her life. She can choose to abort her child and risk becoming barren and sterile, or, she can choose to keep her baby and her life will be plentiful and beautiful with the delight that children often bring to their parents. If she chooses to abort her baby, she will become like the barren hill, however, if she chooses to keep her child, her life will be like the hill that was rich with fields of grain. These hills convey the theme of decision making that the girl must face. She must choose one "hill" or another, she cannot sit on the tracks forever and mull over the pros and cons of each decision.

The girl, the American and the woman all symbolize the decision that must be made. The girl symbolizes youth, innocence and naivety. She is totally ignorant of the consequences of an abortion because she is young, beautiful and in the prime of her life, and experiencing new things all the time. Hemingway uses her to show a young, pregnant girl trying to decide if she wants to remain carefree like the American or if she wants to be like the woman and be wise and mature. The girl battles back and forth with an inner conflict, two different sides pulling at her final decision; If she has her baby she will ruin her youthfulness and destroy her romantic relationship with the American, but it very well could transform her into a woman who is wise, mature and focused on someone other than herself. The girl is getting tired of the same routine of drinks and a social life and she decides to do something very different. She decides to keep her baby, to become a woman and leave her carefree and childish ways behind. However, the only

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