"Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway

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American history of literature is rich in writers whose works contain ageless and fadeless problems which society is still facing today. One of such writers is Ernest Hemingway with his fabulous short story “Hills Like White Elephants” published in 1927. This novel represents both an inner conflict and an external conflict between a male and a female, their development and resolution.

Each literary work comprises five basic elements: a setting, a character, a plot, a conflict, and a theme (Flaherty, 2010, p.76). A conflict carries the connotations of agony, discord and opposition that occur within a character or between characters. In the literature, the conflicts are divided into internal and external. The internal conflict occurs when “the protagonist confronts own fears, shortcomings or battles within his mind” (Tucker, n.d., n.p.). The external conflict occurs when the main character struggles with other characters, society or nature. The aim of both is to detail the struggle, create the central action, sustain the plot and lead to the resolution (Tucker, n.d.). In order to create the conflict, characters have to encounter reality that imposes certain ideals and morals, obscuring what might be established as right and wrong.

The Hemingway’s story draws the reader’s attention to a conflict that drives the action. It occurs on the base of the bitter truth of the life in Europe and America of the 1920’s, when people eagerly battled against some implemented principles of society. The main characters are a couple, an American man and a girl, called Jig, who stand on the edge of their relationship. The development of the conflict between the partners can be traced from the beginning of the conversation when the subject of contemplated abortion is raised. The tension exacerbated when the girl compared the distant hills with white elephants. The man responded that he had never seen one. In reply to what he said the girl furiously stated: “No, you wouldn't have” (Hemingway, 1927, n.p.). The different tempers and points of view cause misunderstanding, because the girl is vital and imaginative, dreaming about baby, but the man is self-involved and phlegmatic, following morals and ideals (Yanling, 2013, p.107). Above all, the main characters are involved in the external conflict caused by disagreement and hesitation about an illegal abortion whereas the internal conflict of Jig makes her to keep the child.

The sense of the internal and external combat in the “Hills Like White Elephants” is to choose one way, either to remain in the field with no shadow and no trees or to stay on the opposite side of the hills with grain and shadow that undeniable guarantees pure and natural life. Consequently, the girl’s inner contradiction is promptly conquered by the male’s language that overpowers hers. Sorely frustrated Jig having no choice agrees with her romantic partner that the operation is necessary and asks him to stop talking.

At the end of the story Ernest Hemingway illustrates the opportunity of a male to manage the feelings and the rights of a female. For readers, the resolution of the conflict remains obscure and intriguing, as the thoughts of Jig were not revealed. The readers have no idea how the story could end as the girl’s mysterious smile and reply: “I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine” (Hemingway, 1927, n.p.), could mean anything.

The short story called “Hills Like White Elephants” describes the period of an illegal abortion. Hemingway includes internal and external conflict traced through the whole story. “Hills Like White Elephants” depicts superiority of a man over the desire and thoughts of a woman. The resolution remains concealed, probably giving readers a chance to guess what side of the hills Jig truly requires.