Many stories contain symbolism such as the conch in the well known story Lord of the Flies symbolizing order on the island, or the name “Fortunado” in the story The Cask of Amontillado, symbolizing an ironic ending to the character. One story in particular that uses symbolism throughout the whole story to represent many different things is the short story Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemmingway. Hemmingway is an outstanding author and writes magnificent stories. This short story of his is about a couple who is discussing abortion in Spain and how difficult their problems are. Hemingway does a tremendous job using symbolism to show their problems throughout the story.
Ernest Hemingway had a very interesting life and was a man who lived life as it came. His writing touched millions of people. He wrote about fascinating stories that were very strong and unforgettable. Hemmingway wrote about all sorts, pretty much whatever he felt like writing. Hemingway was born in Oak Park Illinois on July 21, 1899. His parents were Dr. Clarence Edmonds and Grace Hall Hemingway. His father was a practicing doctor, and later taught him how to hunt and fish. Hemmingway also liked to box.Unlike the bond with his father, Hemingway did not have a good relationship with his mother. Hemingway’s education consisted Oak Park and River Forest High School. Here is where he realized he had a gift of writing. Hitting the age of 18, Hemmingway decided to move to Kansas City instead of attending college. While in Kansas City, he obtained a job as a cub reporter on the Kansas City Star. During this time, he kept to himself. His writing style was first introduced by the Kansas City Star, it was brief and straight forward. Although his career was doing well, in May of 1918, Hemingway wanted to join the Army but was rejected due to a defective left eye which he inherited from his mother. Instead of joining the Army he joined the Red Cross. When he was overseas, one night he was sneaking smokes and chocolate into the soldiers. While doing so, he was hit in the leg by an Austrian machine gun and got over a hundred pieces of metal stuck in his body from grenades. Through unbearable pain, he managed to save a wounded soldier and carry him to safety. For his courageous acts, he was awarded the Italian Medal of Valor, a very high award. He recovered from injuries at the Ospedale Croce Rossa American, in Milan. This stay in Italy set a tremendous place to write his novel, A Farewell to Arms. After Hemmingway’s recovery, He returned to Oak Hill to live with his mother, until he was forced out for not having a job. After the trouble with his mom, Hemmingway moved to Chicago and got a job writing for the Toronto Star and was a sparring partner for boxers. While in the windy city, he came upon a women by the name of Elizabeth Hadly Richerdson. Hemingway fell madly in love with her and wanted to marry but money was a big problem. The two moved to Canada where their son John Hadly Hemingway was born in 1923. Shortly after, Hemmingway received a Nobel prize for his piece, The Old Man and The Sea. As success was finally with Hemmingway, tragedy struck. On one ofhis flights, his plane crashed leaving him with devastating injuries including a concussion, paralysis of the sphincter, first degree burns in his face, arm and head, a sprained right arm and shoulder, a crushed vertebra, and a ruptured liver, spleen and kidney. He was in much agony and pain for many months. In April 1961, Hemmingway tried to kill himself by putting a gun to his head, but did not succeed in suicide. While cleaning his shotgun in July of 1961, Hemmingway accidently shot himself. The gun which was made just for him took his life, and the life of an Author whose writing touched millions of people (Unknown, “Ernest Hemingway Biography”. The Hemmingway Resource Center. 4-1-10 http://www.lostgeneration.com/childhood.htm).
Hemmingway’s story, Hills like White Elephants, has many symbolizing parts. Practically everything in the story symbolizes a different item. The story is about a girl by the name of Jig, and an American man, whose name is not stated. The story takes place in a railroad station while the two are waiting to board a train to Madrid. As the two await the train’s arrival, they get into an intense, heated argument on whether or not the girl Jig should get an abortion. Jig wants to keep the baby, but the story indicates the man does not at first, but then emphasizes that he wants to do whatever Jig decides on. The story ends by the man carrying the bags to the other side of the tracks as they prepare to board the train and depart. The ending leaves us puzzled and unclear about the decision Jig made. At the end of the story she says “I feel fine” which leaves us questioning if she was going to go through with the abortion. There are many symbols in the story, but the three that are most recognizable are the hills, white elephants, and the rail station.
The hills symbolize one of many things. One could be obstacles that we as people must climb in order to achieve things. Being that they are hills and not giant mountains, we are able to get over them. This represents that the Jig’s baby is a major obstacle in their life that they both can overcome and go on with normal lives. The Hills could very well be viewpoints to see from, but they block the views for people that live in the valley of the hills. This represents that in the story Jig views the Hills and finds opportunity while the man sees nothing because he is worried that the child will cause him to not have a happy and successful future. The Hills also could present a form of imagery being that the hills represent the shape of a pregnant woman. Jig could view the hills as a woman bearing a child is lying on her back with her stomach and breasts swollen from the pregnancy. During a part of the story, Jig mentions while viewing the scenery that they could have all this. Saying this, she was meaning that the hills represented a challenge to face, new life to partake in, and possibility for the both of them.
The white elephants are another sign of symbolism, which could possibly represent the baby. A white elephant is a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth. It is also a gift that is useless to one person, but priceless to another. This being said is that the baby is priceless to her, but her partner could care less about having a child.
The last main symbolizing item in the story is the train station. It can mean one of many things. One side of the station is a dry, dead landscape, which represents dissipation and death of the baby, while the other side is green and beautiful, representing life, and a new beginning. Besides the landscape, the tracks also have a meaning. Railroad tracks run parallel, which means they never touch or run into one another. This could symbolize the relationship of Jig and the American man (Schaefers, Adam. “Analyzing the Symbolism of Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway”. Lifestyle. 4-1-10 <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1340961/analyzing_the_symbolism_of_hills_like_pg2.html?cat=23>).
Hemmingway wrote many great stories and used symbolism in many great ways. In his story Hills like White Elephants; he did an amazing job showing the trouble of a couple on a decision affecting the rest of their lives. Hemmingway has many other great stories and his stories and symbolization has given people different ways to view stories and has touched the hearts of millions.
Schaefers, Adam. “Analyzing the Symbolism of Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway”. Lifestyle. 4-1-10 <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1340961/analyzing_the_symbolism_of_hills_like_pg2.html?cat=23>.
Cummings, Michael J. “Hills Like White Elephants”. Cummings Guides. 4-1-10 <http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides4/Hills.html>.
Unknown, “Ernest Hemingway Biography”. The Hemmingway Resource Center. 4-1-10 <http://www.lostgeneration.com/childhood.htm>.
Machete, “Ernest Hemingway “. Literary Analysis. 4-1-10 <http://www.gummyprint.com/blog/hills-like-white-elephants-literary-analysis/>