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A gender-equal society would be one where the word gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves, said Gloria Steinem who is an American feminist, journalist and a social political activist. Gender roles in society have been around for many centuries and creates expectations from both men and women that can lead to many prejudices. Ernest Hemingway explores these prejudices in his short story Hills like White Elephants. The male and female characters of the story have different expected personality traits.
Additionally, there is a presence of compliance of the women to the man. The absence of independence of the women is also revealed. Hemingway ultimately demonstrates the traditional gender roles of the characters in the story.
In Hemingway’s story, the man and the woman each have stereotypical personality traits that are expected. The American man is not emotional whatsoever and is not empathetic towards the girl that is expecting his child and is pressuring her to have an abortion.
In fact, in his point of view he believes it is a simple procedure that has no risks at all as stated in the following passage, It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig, the man said. ‘It’s not really an operation at all (Hemingway, 3). Here, the American man not only wants the girl to have an abortion, but ultimately shows no empathy for her at all. The author demonstrates through indirect characterization of the American man, that he is not a very compassionate person through the choice of words like in the following passage I won’t worry about that because it’s perfectly simple.
(Hemingway,4), so the use of words like won’t and perfectly demonstrates that he does not understand the seriousness of this procedure. In the story, the women also has stereotypical traits, such as that she is constantly insecure, emotional and sensitive.
The girl is very unsure that if she goes through the procedure if the American man will still be with her afterwards which makes her not trust the man as stated in the following passage And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me? (Hemingway,4), so the girl is doubting if the abortion is going to solve the tense situation between her and the American or if things are going to stay the same after the procedure. The writer indicates that there is an behavioral traits between men and women according to the genders in the story. In addition to the different personality traits of the characters in Hemingway’s story, there is also the presence of compliance of the women to the man. The girl is the story kept obeying to the American man when he kept pressuring her into having an abortion and was not expressing her own opinion to him as revealed in the following passage, Oh yes. But I don’t care about me. And I’ll do it and then everything will be fine (Hemingway,4), so she is admitting to the fact that she is sacrificing her own opinion and choice for the sake of trying to make the man happy.
In the beginning of the scene of this story, the girl stated that the hills look like white elephants which translates to the idiom that the author used Elephant in the room, referring to a difficult situation that no ones wants to discuss, which in this case is the unborn child of the girl. It is also in the title of Hemingway’s story because it is the main theme. There is also a presence of inferiority of the girl compared to the man. The American keeps referring the woman as Jig, which ultimately reveals that he considers her as being inferior to him because he doesn’t call her by her name as stated in the following passage It’s an awfully simple operation, Jig (Hemingway,3). The author also indicates the inferiority in the story by the repetition of the word man for the American guy, however, when it comes to the women she is called the girl throughout the story which indirectly diminishes her compared to the man. The writer reveals the conformity of the women to the man as well as the inferiority of the female in the story.
In Hemingway’s story, there is also an absence of independence of the women. The man keeps persuading the girl to have an abortion rather than asking her what she wants to do about the situation, as stated in the following passage That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that made us unhappy (Hemingway,3), so he is trying to convince her to do the operation because he does not want to have a child and completely disregards what she wants. The theme that the author demonstrates throughout the story is tradition, so it is to expected that the girl feels pressured in doing what the man wants because women in a traditionalist society did not have an independent mindset. Also, in the story, having the child on her own was not seen as an option. Since it is a traditionalist society, having a child required to be in a relationship or be married.
Therefore, when the American man made it clear that he did not want to have the child, the girl felt as though if she were to have the child he would not be around as revealed in the following passage Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along (Hemingway,5), so it is clear that she does not want to have the child on her own and wants them to work things out and since the man doesn’t want to, she is considering to get an abortion. As demonstrated by Ernest Hemingway in his short story Hills like White Elephants, there are traditional gender roles from the characters in the story. In the story, the male and female characters have different personality traits. As well, there is a presence of compliance of the woman to the man. There is also an absence of independence from the woman. Enforcing traditional gender roles in society creates unnecessary pressure and conflicts between individuals which can be avoided if people showed more compassion and kindness towards each other.
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