What Is the Conflict in Hills Like White Elephants?

Subject: Literature
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 852
Topics: Abortion, Book, Hills like White Elephants

Hills Like White Elephants,” a short tale by Ernest Hemingway, focuses on a couple’s difficulty in communicating with one another and finding common ground, which causes a crisis in their relationship. The truth is because it can improve a connection, communication is crucial. But on the other hand, ineffective or nonexistent communication can have considerable detrimental repercussions on a dynamic, which is also true. The plot shows the characters, American and the girl, and their ineffective communication, which has created a conflict. Looking at two subheadings, choices and consequences, and men and women, “Hills Like White Elephants” represents a dialogue between the characters’ divergent opinions on whether to keep the baby or abort it.

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Choices and Consequences

The characters, the American and the girl, have to make a choice that will significantly impact their relationship and the rest of their lives. Despite not being married, the girl is pregnant, and the man who made her pregnant wants her to get an abortion. American holds the opinion that if they decide to have an abortion, they will be free to resume their pre-pregnancy lifestyles, and their relationship will have a chance of succeeding. However, he thinks that having the child will negatively affect the relationship and cause it to end. On the other hand, the girl believes that regardless of keeping the child or doing the abortion, their relationship may not work; she is even concerned that the man would not love her even if she agrees to do the abortion.

Additionally, the woman saw tall white mountains resembling white elephants on one side of the valley, lined with forests (Hemingway, 1927). The white elephant could be considered a representation of the child she is carrying, and this represents life and happiness. The girl wants to start a family with the American and become a mother. The valley’s other side, deserted and devoid of vegetation, was the total reverse of life (Avitzour, 2018). That side symbolizes sterility after the abortion. This site may also be seen to reflect the emptiness of this couple’s dynamic as well as the relationship’s outcome should they choose to go through with the abortion and the risk to the girl’s life.

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American, however, believes that the best choice would be to abort the child. He tried to influence the lady’s decision-making even though he did not outrightly urge her to have the procedure if she did not want to. He expresses his opinion that many people have had the operation and live happily (Meraj & Khan,2022). However, the girl knows that she has to make the ultimate decision despite seeking assurance from the American. The choice to keep the baby or abort leaves her with the same consequence of living without the American. Despite the American promising that he would love her after the operation, she is skeptical that they would be really happy.

Men and Women

There is an ever-increasing conflict between American and girl due to their stand on the issue of abortion. Conflict is created through the dialogue between the characters to deal with the issue of an unexpected pregnancy. The man is single and seems to be enjoying his youth by traveling and having a lifestyle that does not support nurturing a family. He knows that starting a family would limit his ability to enjoy his life and engage in such activities. These are the primary reasons for his argument to terminate the pregnancy. He only exists to satisfy his own needs. He pressures the girl to get an abortion to carry out his plans so that he can enjoy his independence. Only the girl should give up her life and societal norms; the man is perfectly entitled to enjoy his life (Malik, Ali &Batool,2022). She is required to carry out the man’s wishes despite the man claiming that she should make the decision.

On the other hand, the girl wants to keep the child but does not state her conviction. Instead, she tries to convince the man to consider having the baby since she knows that she will suffer the consequences in the long term. Women may consider abortion in many ways depending on their values, political and religious perspectives, and personal situations. However, unsafe abortion may result in long-term injuries, severe disabilities, extensive bleeding, damage to internal organs, or the inability to conceive again for the rest of the woman’s life. The girl is aware of what the abortion would mean for her, but there is a communication barrier between them. In an attempt to avoid the conversation, she tells the man to change the topic since he is not changing his mind.

In conclusion, the conflict in the story is displayed in the form of a communication breakdown between the man and the woman. It revolves around the choices and consequences of abortion and how the man and the woman have different perspectives on the issue. The conflict would have been resolved if the man had stated that he did not want the child since it would interfere with his lifestyle, and the woman would have been assertive that she was keeping the baby.

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  1. Avitzour, D. (2018). Why does Jig Smile? Readings of “Hills like White Elephants.” Connotations: A Journal for Critical Debate27, 48-77.
  2. Hemingway, E. (1927). Hills like White Elephants. HarperPerennial Classics.
  3. Malik, H. F. A., Ali, S., & Batool, A. (2022). A Barthesian analysis of Hills like White Elephants by Earnest Hemingway. Pakistan Journal of Social Research4(2), 1232-1238.
  4. Meraj, B., & Khan, A. H. (2022). Language & gender: A sociolinguistic study of Hills like White Elephants. PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology19(3), 348-359.
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