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People’s opinions get stronger and more known throughout the centuries. There are many topics that cause huge controversy with friends, family and relationships. Many people can relate to the views in Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, for example, how people love to voice their opinions on personal matters and try to manipulate others to do what they think is right or to do what they want.
In this story, it starts off by describing the scenery at a train station in Spain where there is a couple patiently waiting by a bar.
The woman, Jig, tires to start a conversion several times, but the man, the American, ends up just arguing with her. They both eventually have some drinks that the bar is advertising. Once they get the drinks the man says, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig” (Hemingway 269). Out of nowhere he mentions an operation and does not specify what he is talking about. Throughout the story the reader can use context clues and imply that the operation is about having an abortion.
Many literary works can be seen in different ways and maybe even criticize, for example, Hills Like White Elephants can be seen in a psychoanalysis lens, and even in a feminist lens. Psychoanalysis is a type of criticism base on Sigmund Freud’s theory, which is where the reader can question or state the authors or characters unconscious desires and anxieties. There are subcategories in this lens which are desires, ambivalence, and repression also known as id, ego, and superego.
The desires, also known as id, is the unconscious part where it describes the sexual and aggressive part of the mind and gives without any regard for needs or wants for others. The id forms once people are born, which are known as impulses of what people want to do and not focus on what kind of effects it has on them or other people around their environment. In the story, the American would be considered the id, where he pushes Jigs feelings about the abortion aside and tries to manipulate her into having the operation. The American says “I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to” (Hemingway 269). This shows that he is also trying to be the “good guy” in the situation where he makes it seem like he does care for her feelings.
The repression, also known as ego, focuses more on the person’s “self” with reasoning and reality. It often compromises the satisfaction to avoid any negative consequences in society. In the story Jig represses her imagination of having the baby, emotions that she is feeling throughout the story, and her personality just to stay with the American. The negative consequence would be that the American would leave her for not having the abortion which is what Jig does not want. She keeps questioning him throughout the story if he would still stay with her and if he would still love her.
The ambivalence, also known as superego, is the conscience part where it punishes the ego through feelings of guilt. It is also what gives people the moral realistic part of their conscience by incorporating the values of what makes people feel guilty due to their wrong actions. The superego in the story is Jig, where she feels that having the abortion is not the right decision to do. Throughout the story, Jig keeps questioning the American man “if I do it, you’ll be happy, and things will be like they were, and you’ll love me?” (Hemingway 270). This shows that she is not sure if doing the operation is right or wrong. This would also question people psychology wise because they would probably be thinking “Why would she feel like that? OR Why would she even care for that?” The superego would be the part that encourages her to focus on what she wants to do with her own body and not focus on the relationship.
Hemingway applies many elements in this story like symbolism. Early in the story she mentions the hills in the scenery look like white elephants whereas it symbolizes something no one wants, the baby in this case. At first Jig mentions it as a casual conversion starter, but later throughout the story she comments on the hills again saying that they do not look like white elephants. This can mean that she takes all the aspects into consideration and wants to keep the baby after all. There are many characteristics that the author tries to implement in the story like the theme of the story is human communication. Throughout the story it seems that Jig only agrees to get the operation just to make the American shut up because when he keeps persist on convincing her to get the abortion she says “please please please…stop talking” (Hemingway 272). Another thing that the author implements in the story is the tone where the couple seems to be emotionally distant with one another not able to be on the same level.
Another way to criticize this story is through a feminist lens which perfectly shows how a woman is in a controlling society by men and their masculinity. Feminism is a social movement that focuses on equal rights for women. The author creates a controlling man who uses his authority on his girlfriend to make a decision that she does not want to do. Throughout the story the American is the only one that expresses his feelings and opinion. The girl is just suppressing her feelings, frustrations, and thoughts until in the end where the American finally asks how she feels “I feel fine…there’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine” (Hemingway 272). In the early 1900’s women are view as inferior to men in society, and feminist are willing to step out and remove the intolerable view of women during this time.
As a result, literacy works can be use as entertainment for people that like reading, but to some, it has deeper meaning. Stories like this one can be view as a couple arguing about an operation, but if analyzing the text into a more conscious meaning it can open the minds of readers. Giving them a different sight of how authors think while writing their stories.
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