The story opens with a description of the setting, which is hills and barren valleys and finally, the train station, where the story takes place. The American, or the male character in this story, sits with his girlfriend at a table right outside the station. They are waiting for a train to get to Madrid. The man orders two beers. His girlfriend makes an observation about how the nearby hills look like white elephants. Her boyfriend says that he has never seen one, and orders more drinks as they begin to argue about alcohol. The girl says that the hills no longer look like white elephants. As they order more drinks, the man talks to his girlfriend, who he now calls “Jig”, to have an operation. The specific operation is not mentioned. He says that the operation would be simple and quick. The girl doesn’t respond right away, but then asks about what will happen after she’s done with the operation. The man talks about how he knows plenty of people who have had the operation and are still happy. His girlfriend disagrees. She then agrees to do the operation as long as her boyfriend will still love her. The American says that she doesn’t have to have the operation in an attempt to be somewhat sympathetic, but he doesn’t sound sincere. They argue until the girl gets tired and pleads her boyfriend to stop. The train arrives and the couple walks to the train station. The American asks his girlfriend if she’s okay, she says she’s fine and that nothing is wrong with her.
I highlighted drinking because the couple drinking serves as a reason for the couple to not talk about their problems, and their specific problem at this time. When they talk about the hills looking like white elephants, the girl starts to order more drinks in order to not discuss the operation. When the girlfriend asks about how they do nothing but try new drinks means that they keep looking for ways to not talk about their relationship. At the end of their discussion, the girl drinks alone and the man leaves, signifying the possible end of their relationship. You also cannot escape the fact that drinking kills or deforms children, and so the drinking symbolizes that there is not a lot of care for the child.
The common phrase “the elephant in the room” is the main idea of this story, and making the comparison to elephants is the most clever reference to what this couple has to discuss. The elephants symbolize the unborn child that is in jeopardy of losing its life.The comment at the beginning about the hills resembling white elephants is a sign about discussing the child and operation with her boyfriend. She later retracts her comment, saying that the hills do not look like white elephants, hinting that she doesn’t want to have the operation. Her first comment about the elephants serves as a starting point in their discussion, and the second time it serves as a contradiction to what she said before.
Images go hand in hand with the elephants, but the description of the train station and the area around them is so detailed and symbolic (I’ll ask a question about what it represents later). Some area around them is green, or fertile, and some areas are barren, signifying life and death, the possible outcomes for the child.
The American in this story represents the author’s perception of masculinity. He’s a man who travels, knows well, and controls himself and others in his current situation. He wants to not discuss the issue with his girlfriend, but once she makes it known that it is in fact a problem, he faces the situation and attacks it. He pushes for what he wants, and he doesn’t provide comfort for his girlfriend.
On the other hand, the girl acts persuasively, but also undecisive. The girl relies on her boyfriend, which is evident in the part where she can’t order drinks because she doesn’t know Spanish. The part of this character that makes her personally and situation incredibly unfortunate, is her constant want to make her boyfriend happy, but her knowledge that their relationship is over. She understands that even if she does get the operation, her boyfriend and her will not have the old relationship they used to have.
What would I like to mimic in my writing?
I would like to mimic Hemingway’s dialogue format in my writing. My writing tends to be long and and get a little wordy, and in contrast, Hemingway gets the point across quickly and vividly, while still having imagery and meaning in the story. I find this concept quite difficult but enjoyable, because adding all the details that I want into dialogue without making it sounds corny or obvious is a challenge, but one that I have started to immerse myself in.
-Is it difficult to find out that the operation is an abortion because of the dialogue?
-Does the train station represent anything in the story?
-”But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?” what does this quote mean?
-what is the future of this couple’s relationship?
-What did you make of the last lines of the story?