Sample Essay

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Ernest Hemingway’s Hills like White Elephants, talks about abortion. The word abortion is not present anywhere in the story but the message is delivered through the setting, the comparison to nature and dialogue. The story is set in a railway station in Spain that is placed strategically between greenery, ‘hills like white elephants’ and barren ground. The symbolism of the environment provides the imagery of being fertile and pregnant and the idea of abortion through the brown and barren land. A couple is having drinks in this railway station while waiting for their train.

It is specified in the story that the husband is an American. Throughout the story it is apparent that the husband likes a responsibility free lifestyle and is trying to convince his wife to abort the child they have conceived. “He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.” (Hemingway) The labels on the luggage from different hotels signify the couple’s current lifestyle. Although this lifestyle is dear to the man’s heart in the story the woman has grown weary of it. “That’s all we do, isn’t it – look at things and try new drinks?”(Hemingway) This is rhetorical question is a response by the wife to her husband when he suggests they try a new drink. She has grown tired of her life as it is now and has started to dream of the idea of a complete family. The entire dialogue present in the story focus’s on the husbands efforts to convince his wife that abortion is a simple procedure and that it does not hurt at all. Hemingway criticizes American culture, especially American men because he highlights his male character as American in the beginning of the story. The American man is presented in a negative role throughout the entire story because he overlooks his wife’s feelings on the matter although he states that he would ‘go through with it’ if it seemed important to his wife but it is apparent by his tone that he does not mean what he says. Through this character Hemingway criticizes American culture and the values of American men.

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