Hills like White Elephants and Cabourg

Posted: November 27th, 2013





Hills like White Elephants and Cabourg

People are sometimes faced with situations whereby they find it hard to make decisions. One can only be undecided for a short time and in the end; the person has to decide what to do about the situation that he or she is facing. The situation might concern a serious issue and the decisions made means that one has to sacrifice the other option. People are faced with such situations frequently. Sometimes they make decisions that make them regret afterwards. It is therefore imperative that people take time to consider the consequences of their decisions. In the short story, “Hills like White Elephants”, time is not an option and the couple has to make their decision soon. The end of the story is inconclusive as the reader is left wondering the decision the couple will make. The couple in the story, “Hills like White Elephants”, is in between decisions, and the author has used symbolism to show the issue the couple is facing, and to show their indecision.

“Hills like White Elephants” is a short story that was written by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway tells of a traveling couple, who seem to be faced with a difficult situation. Hemingway uses symbolism extensively and at first, it is not easy to know what is going on in the story. The story is set in Spain and it features an American man, who obviously understands Spanish, and his girlfriend, who does not seem to understand Spanish. There is a lot of symbolism used in the story. The fact that the station is set between two rail lines is symbolic of the probable options that the couple has. The language used in the story tells the reader that the couple is probably contemplating abortion. The man says, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig…it’s not really an operation at all.” He also says that he knows of many people who have done it. He also says that the simple operation is just to “let the air in”, and then the rest of the process will occur naturally.

One side of the area is hot and dry and there is not shade, while on the other side, there are fields of grain on the bank of the river. This is symbolic of the type of decision the couple has to make. The man is pushing the girl to have the abortion although he does not want to seem pushy about it. On the other hand, although the girl does not seem to mind having an abortion, she does not seem final about it. She sees the positive side of having the baby. The fields of grain and the flowing river represent life. Only the girl notices the fields although they had both noticed the hotness and dryness of the area. The couple is in between decisions regarding the issue. Sometimes people make the wrong decision because they are not sure of what they want to do. Although the girl sees the possibility of having her baby, she continues drinking.

The man wants to continue with the kind of lifestyle that he has been living. He urges the girl to continue doing the same and he buys for her many drinks, probably hoping that she will be compelled to desire their lifestyle. They are an adventurous couple, who traveled widely, as the labels in their suitcases suggest. After tasting the new drink, the girl comments that it tastes like liquorices and adds that everything tastes like liquorices to her. This is symbolic of the fact that she does not enjoy her adventures anymore. Despite trying new things, she does not seem to find any excitement in anything that they do. She suggests to the man that she wants to settle down. After surveying the trees, the river and the fields of grain, she says to her boyfriend that they could have it all. She sees the benefits of settling down and starting a family but the man does not understand her. This brings to light the fact that this couple has communication problems.

The problem of miscommunication contributes to the fact that the couple has not made a decision. The two rail lines that pass through the station are symbolic of the parallel lives that the couple faces. The rail lines are similar but they are parallel. This is symbolic of the fact that although the couple may like similar things, they do not agree with each other. This is evidenced in the story, as the couple does not seem to agree on anything. The girl tells the man that she will go through with the operation because she does not care about herself and it is what the man wants. While the man thinks that they can have everything that they want, the girl believes that that is not possible. The couple does not know what the pregnancy means to them. The girl realizes that it probably means nothing to the man. She also notices that although they love each other, they do not get along well and she even suggests to the man that the pregnancy can help them get along well.

The girl seems to be unsure of herself and she does not know what she wants. This is evidenced by the questions she asks the man. Although she is in a relationship with the man, and they have obviously spent considerable time together, she does not know him well enough to know what he wants. She could have realized that the pregnancy did not mean anything to him since he wanted to continue with his kind of lifestyle. She is dependent on him as she even asks him what drink she should take. The only thing that she seems to be sure of is that the coming of a baby means a new life for both of them, one that is probably better than the one they are living. Her uncertainty about life contributes to her indecisiveness, for if she were sure of what she wanted, she would have decided what she wants to do.

Hemingway has used symbolism to bring out the issue the couple is facing. The story shows the couple ‘in between decisions’. As the story concludes, the reader is left to imagine the decision the couple will make. People are often faced with similar situations as they go on with their lives. Although times have changed and abortion has become commonplace, it is nevertheless an important and serious issue and some people often find it hard to make that decision. Although it is important to take time before making a decision, this is not always possible, as time is usually limited. Being sure of what one wants helps the person to make a decision quickly.



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