Characters in ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ and ‘A Clean Well-lighted Place’

In “Hills like White Elephants” a man and a girl discuss a difficult topic that doesn’t have a conclusion. The short story occurred on a train station near a river in Spain, dividing two cities, indicating the crossroads in the two characters' relationship. Going deeper, the reader can see that the girl is indecisive about something that could possibly be harmful to their relationship, whereas, the man goes on to explain that it's a simple operation. “It’s really an awfully simple operation Jig, they just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural,” the man said.

It is not known to the reader what the simple operation is and why it is even needed. On the other hand, the girl wants to do whatever it takes to bring happiness back into the relationship with the man. Ernest uses scenery to symbolize how the girl is most likely feeling about the topic at hand. As she moves to cross the other side to view the fields of grains she states that they can have everything, but once it is taken it ends up liking the “white elephants”.

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white elephants indicate a possession that is a lot to maintain, somewhat useless, and difficult to dispose of; meaning that the decision they make could be easily confirmed but could possibly be quite difficult to uphold in this situation.

A Clean, Well- Lighted Place invites the readers into a café after dark with a deaf old man and two waiters.

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One is ready to go home while the other is being reasonable with the well-overstayed customer. In this story, Hemingway shows a connection between the two characters; the old man and the older waiter. “You have youth, confidence, and a job,” the older waiter says.. In this statement, the reader learns the difference between the two waiters. The connection that the older waiter has to the old deaf man is said ” I am of those who like to stay late at the café”. This makes the understanding that the older waiter has sympathy for the older man and doesn’t necessarily mind him staying late in fact. The older waiter and the younger waiter discuss the likes and dislikes of cafes/ bars. The older waiter feels that bars are too crowded, loud, and bright. While the younger waiter feels that the café is too slow and quiet, people just want to sit around past closing time and hold him up from getting on his way home.

In both short stories, the author expects the readers to dig into the dialogue and get into the setting of the short story so that they can better understand the reading. This style type used in this short story is less storytelling, which allows Hemingway to use dialogue to reverse the tightness between both of the two characters. In the story “Hill like White Elephants” Ernest makes the readers look deeper into the context of the text in order for them to understand the true argument. As well with “A Clean, Well- Lighted Place” the discussion being had between the two waiters, Hemingway gives part of the scenery. He leaves the reader to focus on the sad similarities dealing with the old man and the even older waiter. Ernest’s style of writing strays away from the usage of excessive dialogue and the description of the settings, leaving it up to the readers to interpret how the characters may possibly feel. In Hills like White Elephants,” the discussion about the hills, the many drinks and the unidentifiable decision is a much deeper analyzed topic. As well as the story “A Clean, Well- Lighted Place” the discussion about the attemptempted suicide of the old man, the connection that the old man and the older waiter shares, and a different outlook on life. These two stories both have a deeper outline than what is given in the stories themselves. Both stories are symbolic in their own way.

However, they both contain the main characters drinking and sharing the problems of being a sad mourning man. One dealing with the decision of being fruitful or risking it all for happiness, as for the other letting it all out into a quiet setting outside of the normal, while not being disturbed by loudness.

In each short story the plot differs but, in its theme, it allows readers to understand each character's life through different perspectives.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Characters in ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ and ‘A Clean Well-lighted Place’. (2020, Sep 28). Retrieved from

Characters in ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ and ‘A Clean Well-lighted Place’ essay
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