ENG 125 week 2 – Hills Like White Elephants


English 125 Introduction to Literature (ACI 1132A)



We all at some point want to get away from our problems that we are faced with. At times we try to disguise them with things of lesser value. In the short story “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway the female character continuously talked of the clouds looked like white elephants. The woman and the American man hid their conflict throughout the entire story so that no one would know they were having problems. The female character of the short story talked about the clouds looking like white elephants because she was to never forget the decision she was to make in the not too distant future and the color white symbolized the purity that she felt was growing inside of her.

She, as in the female character, tried to avoid the discussion many times. I personally feel she just didn’t want to go through it. There was more than one theme going throughout the short story. I saw the theme of imagination, avoidance, alcoholism, dependency, uncertainty, and confusion. And in so naming these themes there are also many literary elements that contribute to the theme or help the theme to better be recognized by the reader.

The theme of imagination runs throughout the short story because the female character continues throughout the entire story to talk about the clouds looking like white elephants. In doing so she was trying to escape to a place of where she didn’t have to make tough decisions or be constantly reminded that she had and must make that decision. For example when the waitress brought out the two beers the female character immediately started thinking that the clouds looked like white elephants and made her comment to notice such.

With the theme of avoidance the female character would constantly tell the American man to stop talking because she did not want to have the discussion any longer. What literary elements contributed to the themes of imagination and avoidance was the tone. When the woman avoided the discussion the tone in the words she used changed. For example she would constantly say to the American man that she loved him and only wanted to make him happy but when the American man would convert the subject to telling her she had to make a decision her tone would shift to annoyance and it wasn’t a sweet loving tone anymore. Another literary element that contributed to the themes was the setting. The setting was a sort of country setting which made it easy for the reader to ell when the theme was about. When ever the male wanted to talk about the decision she was to make the female made a point to enhance on her surroundings and to revere the attention off her to on her surroundings.

In the setting that was set for the short story there were lots of surroundings, this gave the female opportunity to daydream or gave the author the opportunity to throw the theme of imagination and avoidance together. To avoid the conversation the female character used her setting to imagine that the clouds looked like white elephants. The literary elements of setting and tone affected the narrative theme by making it more noticeable. This is incorporated to give the reader a sense of direction and edge. It tells the reader that there is in fact conflict and it is not all smiles.

In trying to disguise the meaning of the work he, as in the author, lets the reader see the female’s true self. By making notice to the clouds and saying what she feels they look like, the female is creating a world in which she can escape to when she feels things are too rough.


Journey into Literature

R. Wayne Clugston

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