Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

Gender Roles and Symbolism In “Hills like White Elephants” College

In the short story “Hills like White Elephants,” there is a constant power struggle between the two characters. At first glance, the woman comes off as timid and resigned to the fact that she is going to do whatever it takes to make the man happy. The man is seen as domineering and almost indifferent to the woman’s feelings as he makes his argument to have the child aborted. It may seem as if the man, or the American, is controlling the decision of whether or not Jig gets the abortion, but through dialogue regarding the abortion, the symbolism of the hills versus the mountains and the railroad tracks and luggage, Jig gives subtle hints that she has already made up her mind to keep the child.

Hemingway’s use of dialogue between the two characters regarding the abortion procedure gives an insight into the relationship dynamic and the position of the characters. The American man starts the conversation by telling Jig how “awfully simple” an abortion is. This shows that he thinks she should get it done and also how little thought he has put into the operation and the impact it will have on her. Jig does not respond, which can be interpreted by the audience as silent defiance to his comment. He continues to slyly try and persuade...

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