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Hemingway | Hills Like White Elephants

The main aim of this paper is to do a critical reading of Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants”.

In the story “Hills Like White Elephants” a man and a woman are waiting for their train at a railway station. There is a tension in their relationships. It is hard to understand what about the speech is going, but it is possible to suppose that they are talking about abortion. The major conflict is lying in the sphere of relationships and decisions, because the story shows us a clash of two different worlds: she wants a family, and he wants to continue the old way of his life. It is interesting to observe how romantic relationships that have had their place in the past should have to go to the next stage; she needs a family, while he does not want to admit this.

Thinking about the position of the main character at the beginning and at the end of the story, we can say that it is different only in the words, because, according to Hemingway (1927), the phrase “if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to” seems senseless; each of them had already decided everything. It is possible to say that two people are close to each other in material world, but they are separately in spiritual world. As a result, two people are killing their future and their relationships, because such kind of ‘operations’ is rarely experienced without pain. In the best case it will be a bad feeling, at the worst, as happens in the story, the relationships will come to naught. Moreover, it can be seen as she doubts and feels that she has a time to leave the child. If she would be more firm the end of the story will be happy, but the woman has no enough arguments and efforts to persuade her partner and her destiny is decided.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that the story has a complicated character and a railway station by itself, in its allegoric sense, is a kind of decision, an intermediate position. In such a way hills on the one side and wasteland on the other side of the station are possible variations of choice of two people.


Broer, L. & Holland, G. (2002). Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice. University of Alabama Press.
Hemingway, E. (1927). Hills Like White Elephants.
Meyers, J. (1997). Ernest Hemingway: The Critical Heritage. Routledge.