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Posted on March 31st, 2013, by

Hemingway’s literary career began in the 20-ies of the twentieth century. It was a time of disappointment that followed the World War, the collapse of many hopes, time of the lost generation, which became the subject of novels by many writers. Hills Like White Elephants is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. It was first published in the 1927 collection Men Without Women.
The action of the story takes place in Spain, on the railway station, where the American and Jig are drinking beer, waiting for train to Madrid. While reading the story it becomes clear that Jig is pregnant and American convinces her to make an abortion. Jig doesn’t agree, but the American insists. Ultimately Jig agrees to make an operation with the following remark: I do not care what will happen to me (Hemingway 1998). At the end of the story they go to the platform, waiting for the train to arrive.

Touching the theme of abortion, the Hemingway shows that abortion for the heroine is the collapse of last resort, leading only to continuation of a meaningless life. For the heroine, colors of the world and hopes for happiness die along with the dream of a child: they fade together. Decision to kill her unborn child turns into a profound psychological stress, she instinctively knows that she loses the highest value. There appears the perception of futility, absurdity, emptiness of life, the sense of terrible spiritual poverty. She feels that life will become unstable, will lose stability, love will become heartless and she will become lonely. The place of genuine values will be occupied by fiction. How to exist in this world, how to find the real values of life, something you can not lose, what may become the main principle of life?

The writer asked himself many of these questions. He had a difficult life full of experiences and reflections. Catastrophic time of the World War I, revolutions and upheavals left the signs of fatality on life of Hemingway. Stay on the side of the Italian army, being war correspondent, boxer, bullfighter – does not it look like the banal experimentation? Of course, not. The desire to be kept at the limit, beyond which there is death, can be explained by the desire to create a real world in his works.

Many of his works, including Hills like White Elephants are imbued with the motive of pessimism, extremely unfavorable; the hero is in an atmosphere of suffering, inner emptiness, which is hidden under the external cynicism and indifference (Becnel 2008). Blood and suffering of World War I gave rise to people without feelings, people who saw their relatives and friends being killed, people who were looked after by the girls, sisters of mercy who perceived them not as men, but as a set of wounds, dirt and disappointment. The theme of lost generation has acquired the leading role in the works of Hemingway.

Making the connections between the author’s biography and the story Hills Like White Elephants, it is worth recalling that it was written sometimes in the 1920s (before 1927). At that time there were a lot of changes in the author’s personal life. In 1924, Ernest, with his wife Hash and child again returned to France in the hope of success. Once, in 1925 (approximately when the story was written), the author met in a cafe an American woman Duff Tvisden. Duff was one of the most controversial figures in Paris. She was the daughter of an aristocrat and the shopkeeper, she managed to work as a British spy, to marry an English aristocrat and escape from him to Paris with her bisexual cousin. She liked Ernest for being modest and handsome – a rare combination for Paris. In the summer of 1925 they took a famous trip to Pamplona. Duff was accompanied by her cousin and her new lover Harold Lab while Hemingway was with his wife. Immediately after their arrival in Spain, there was formed a love pentagon. The rivalry of the three men electrified their company. Jealous cousin gave Duff a black eye, while Ernest, who aspired to be a winner everywhere, called Leb for a duel. Hash was silently watching all that. Her relationship with Ernest gave a crack when she became pregnant again, and Hemingway made her have an abortion. Most likely exactly that case influenced the writing of the story in which he tells about his views on abortion. Hemingway himself made his wife to make abortion.

Many of Hemingway’s works (including Hills like White Elephants) are full of tragedy, which has filled the world of the writer. Atmosphere of despair and helplessness affects the mind. But I think Hemingway is not a conductor of pessimism, but a man who perfectly reflects reality, very successfully passing the atmosphere, mood and emotions. In real life you should never lose hope and faith. Probably we should see in his works behind the tragic figures and events, a hint for the future, for eternity, for happiness

Works Cited:

Hemingway, Ernest. The complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway. 1998. p. 211. Print.
Becnel, Kim E., Bloom, Harold. Bloom’s How to Write about Ernest Hemingway. 2008. p. 159. Print.

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