CAS 101
In the short story “ Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, the author justifies
that the dominance of a man in a relationship and the inferiority of a woman leads to a cruel and
toxic relationship. He subtlety unravels the importance of respect to relationships and love
between people and how this factor affects our decisions in life. The story also emphasizes the
significance of communication between people especially those wherein a relationship, because
neither of the couples in the story truly communicates to one another as they both do not understand
and listen to other’s point of view resulting in arguments and worst ending their relationship. The
story “Hills Like White Elephants” is mainly between an American man and his girlfriend arguing
on whether the girl should have an operation. Sitting at a table outside the station in a valley in
Spain surrounded by trees and hills waiting for a train to Madrid. The Man orders two beers when
a nearby hill caught the attention of the girl and asserts that the hills look like white elephants but
the American man responds that he never saw one. Then the man scolds the girl and says that they
should try to enjoy themselves. However, the girl revokes that the hills no longer look like while
elephants to her. As the order and drink more beers, the American man mentions that he wants the
girl that he calls “jig” to have the operation, although it was never mentioned in the story what
kind of operation it is, it’s understood to be an abortion. He tries to convince the girl and talk about
the operation seriously that he even argues that the operation would be simple as he says that the
procedure isn’t even an operation at all. But then the girl asks the man what will happen after
taking the operation, would they still be the same, would the man still love him? It will be fine
afterward, things will be fine, just like how it was before, and then it will fix our problems says
the man. He says that he knows a lot of people who found happiness after they took the operation.
The girl was not convinced of what the man said, but he claims that he won’t have to take the
operation if that is what she really wants but he thinks that it is best for her to take the operation.
However, the girl set a condition that she will only have the operation as long as he’ll still love her
and they will be happy afterward. The man then shows how much he cares for her and said that
she shouldn’t take the operation if that’s what she really wants. The girl then goes outside and
walks over to the end of the station, looking at trees and hills, and wonders if they could really be
happy after she has the operation. They continue to argue for a while until the girl gets frustrated
and lets the man promise to shut up. Afterward, the bartender delivers two more beers and informs
them that the train is arriving in five minutes. The girl asked the American man what the bartender
said because she doesn’t speak Spanish. After finishing their beers, the man then heads out carrying
their bags to the platform then went back to the bar and he noticed the other people who are also
waiting for the train. Then He asks the girls if she feels better and the girls respond that she is fine
and there’s nothing wrong with her.
The dominance of a man and the inferiority of a woman in a relationship is unhealthy and
will only lead to a cruel relationship. Analyzing the depictions of the characters in the story, the
American man is depicted as someone who is straightforward, condescending, and not yet ready
to be committed- just like most men. He is always in control of himself and the situation at hand.
He controls and dominates the actions and decisions of the girl by influencing her to have the
operation by simplifying it and as if it was an easy thing to do. He fails to sympathize and
understand what the girl really wants but notice the other passengers waiting for the train than
recognizing what the girl really feels. On the other hand, the girl was called “jig”, which means
she’s still young and possibly psychologically and mentally incapable of handling herself and their
relationship as she is too reliant on her boyfriend. She is less persuasive and less assertive because
he hasn’t convinced the man to agree with him. Throughout the story, the girl seems to be helpless,
indecisive, and confused. She can’t even decide whether she will have the operation and rely on
the decision of the man though the man gives her the choice to do what she wants. The reason that
she’s confuses because she’s afraid that if she has the operation, the relationship may not return to
how it used to be even though she realizes that they can no longer have “ the whole world” like
once they did. The girl depicts most of the women in society in the sense that she tries to put herself
in a position lower than the man and that her actions will primarily depend on the decision of the
man. The other main problem of the couple is their lack of proper communication as they don’t
want to listen and understand the other’s point of view thus causing conflicts and
misunderstanding. Their relationship portrays the common problem in most couples: lack of
respect and lack of proper communication. As they argue whether the girl should have the abortion
because the girl is unsettled about whether she will have the operation for the reason that the
relationship might end and they can no longer be happy.
This explains why the girl asserts that
the hills look like white elephants because white elephants is a possession that is useless and
troublesome but it is expensive and requires a lot of attention just like babies, as it grows older it
requires a lot of things and attention that’s why the man wants the girl to have the abortion to get
rid of the unborn child. The couple lacks proper communication even though the story mainly
about two people who are having a conversation but neither of them genuinely communicates with
one another as the man fails to sympathize with the girl and listen to her thoughts. Instead, the
American man and the girl drink more beers throughout the conversation to avoid each other and
their problems. The alcohol in the story also tells the nature of their relationship, the drinking and
traveling depicts that the couple wants to escape from something because maybe in those time
when the story was written, the society is against their relationship because it is apparent that the
man looks older than the girl. It can be also possible that the girl named “jig” short for “jigaboo”
refers to black people where in those times racism is so rampant in the society that maybe explains
why they need to move between places. It is also apparent in the story that the American man and
the girl already have a problem and the unborn child is just one of them. It can be noticed in their
way of communication, the travels and drinking, and the pregnancy. The setting could also depict
that the relationship of the man and girl is on the crossroads planted in the middle of a desolate
valley. Given that their relationship is on the brink of breaking up, the stopping point between
Barcelona and Madrid represents that the couple could go in separate ways. The story characterizes
the main cause of a separation between couples. It actually reflects what kind of society that story
has, as racism is rampant in the 1920s ( the time this story was written ) explains why Men
superiority is such a problem in the past decades and even in the present society. Considering the
cultural aspect of the story, it actually tells us not just the conflicts and dilemmas between the
couple but also the issue in our society. Women, who are seen as inferior and weak are easily
persuaded by men who dominates their life as a result of unhappy and unhealthy living. It has been
observed that relationship, where man dominates, is abusive and toxic as it results in violence over
women. The inferiority of a woman in a relationship affects her decisions and actions in life just
like want happen in the story. When men dominate the relationship, he will think that his actions
and decisions are right disregarding what the girl thinks. If the girl has been more independent, she
could raise the baby alone if she really wants to have the child even if it means that she would be
a single parent, and if the man has been more sympathetic to the girl, it could be possible that they
could still talk it out in a manner where both of them understand and listen to one another.
The story “Hills Like White Elephants” justifies that men's domination over women
results in an unhealthy relationship. The American man depicts as someone who wants to be in
control of other people and the situation. He uses his dominance to persuade and influence the
actions and decisions of the girl in the story. Though he shows that he cares for the girl, but his
actions seem to be careless of what the girl should do. On the other hand, the girl is much reliant
on her boyfriend which is why she’s unsettled and can’t decide for herself. She puts herself in a
position lower than the man that’s why the man feels the need to take responsibility for the girl.
As men will think they are always right, they often disregard what their partner would think that
results in conflicts and misunderstandings. As the girl is confused about whether she would have
the abortion or not because she’s afraid that their relationship wouldn’t be the same as how it used
to be after she has the operation. The man gives her the choice to have the operation base on what
she wants but still thinks that the girl should have the abortion to get rid of the unborn child because
he’s not yet ready to commit. The couple has already problems and the unborn child is just one of
them. They lack respect towards each another: respect for others perspective and respect for what
others feel. Their way of communication that supposed to connect them but rather them to drifts
apart and they lack understanding and compassion for one another. As the story highlights the
issues on the aspect of intimate relationship up into the societal context, it allows the reader to
contemplate and apply this realization into their lives. We often disregard the importance of proper
communication not only in the context of relationships between people but in society as a whole.
The moral lesson of the story is not only relevant to couples but also to every individual as well:
is that relationship requires respect, understanding, and communication.