Hill like Elephant by Ernest Hemingway

How do you respond to literature?

The reading I relate the most is Hill like Elephant by Ernest Hemingway. The author leads readers into their own emotional responses and opinions by creating themes which everyone can relate to.  The short story talks about abortion in an indirect manner and the dramatic dialogue and mood enhance the conflict and help readers comprehend the story thoroughly. The dialogue is a real-life conversation in which the male appears superior to the female counterpart. Use of literary devices like tone and imagery add to the perception of the reader of the underlying g conflict.

Hills like white elephant is a simile that works as a cue for the reader to comprehend the central conflict of the dialogue. Hills can symbolize pregnancy and a dream of a family. A white elephant epitomizes unwanted possession. The American manipulates and persuades Jig to undergo operation because he does not want to take responsibilities.  “I know you would not mind it, Jig. You don’t have to be afraid. I know a lot of people that have done it.” (Hemingway 297). The unborn baby is compared metaphorically to the white elephant. In American culture, a white elephant is a second-hand gift. The American character considers the unborn baby a white elephant gift that will interfere with his lifestyle. He does not want this gift and thus persuades Jig to accept an operation. The baby represents something priceless to Jog but worthless and a burden to the American. This creates tension and miscommunication between the two.

Jig’s tone is lighthearted and imaginative. She lightheartedly tells the American that the hills afar look like white elephants. Despite the American’s cold response, she does not argue with him. The American’s tone is argumentative and slightly persuasive. He denies seeing hills looking like white elephants and becomes defensive when Jig says he has not seen one. He has no empathy with Jig.  The American seems not to care Jig’s opinion. It is Jig who has to sacrifice (abort) to make the American happy, which leaves her bitter in the long run (Stein).


Hemingway, E. (1927). Hills like white elephants. Gvsd.org

Stein, W.B. (1961). Love and Lust in Hemingway’s Short Stories. Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 3(2), 234-242

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