Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants” appears on the surface as a brief and unremarkable vignette written almost all in dialogue, with minimal action and an unclear final resolution, the story is actually a “watershed” of narrative invention and a radical shift from Hemingway’s usual perspective, as it is most often defined by readers and critics. As Alan Cheuse remarks in his essay “”Reflections on Dialogue: “How D’yuh Get t’Eighteent’ Avenoo and Sixty-Sevent’ Street?
“American writers, “possess an acute ability to create skeins of seemingly natural language that make up a world out of human speech” (Cheuse) and also represent a special gift for create entire worlds through dialogue, as is readily manifest in “Hills Like White Elephants.
” Hemingway’s style of natural language is an elementary base of his technique in “Hills Like White Elephants. ” Another narrative strategy is that he strips away the expository writing or the direct information to the reader which would help the reader to place the action of the story in context.
Rather than weigh down the narrative, Hemingway leaves his story lean and bare, primarily relying on conflict-charged dialogue between the story’s two main characters. By refusing to included background information or even internal monologue on behalf of the two characters, Hemingway “leaves virtually everything, even what is at issue between the girl and the American, for the reader to “figure” out,” and this strategy includes the story’s final resolution: whether or not the girl in story opts to have the couple’s child or whether she chooses as is the man’s desire, to have an abortion.
The lack of final resolution is notable enough that even critics are left to their own devices to decide what happens to finish the story and conclude the conflict between the two characters. As one scholar commented, “the ending has seemed stubbornly indeterminate” (Renner); however, the same critic, Renner, has forwarded a compelling theory as to how the resolution of “Hills Like White Elephants” can be deduced from a careful study of its narrative form, imagery, and symbolism,
The conflict in the title: the burden of something unwanted — a “white elephant” — merged with the symbol of hills suggesting rich fertility extends throughout the story, forms its basic theme, and functions as an axis on which the changing attitudes and evolving conflict between the characters spins.
In order to integrate the various levels of narrative along Renner’s theoretical lines in order to find the story’s true resolution, the piece must be examined from a formal perspective with due note given to its imagery and symbolism a well as the nuances contained in the story’s plentiful dialogue, (Renner) which leaves the reader able to deduce that the man in the story has indeed been sensitive to the woman’s situation. According to Renner, the story takes place in four distinct “movements” and these movements are the key components to understanding the resolution of the story.
Renner’s distinction of the four movements follows an ascending structure of character development and character conflict: “In the first movement we are shown the stereotypical passive female, not even knowing her own mind, accustomed to following a masterful male for her direction in life,” the next movement illustrates the girl’s character development toward “a dramatic realization of her own mind-her own welfare, dreams, and values;” by the third movement, the girl begins to assert herself, and by the fourth and final movement, “we see the result of her development toward self-realization” which Renner insists reveals, also, the actual conclusion of the story, (Renner). To extrapolate a probable resolution for the conflict in “Hills Like White Elephants” it becomes necessary to examine the conflict which lies under the overt abortion-question of the story. If the story is, indeed, about the “capitulation” of the girl, then her refusal to capitulate is evident form the action of the story.
When the girl says “Would you please, please, please, please, please, please, please stop talking,”‘ her victory is indicated. The abortion will not be performed and the realization of her independence form the man has been attained. In this way, Hemingway’s story reveals a feminine point of view and a feminine dominance which is usually not associated with his fiction (Renner).
Cheuse, Alan. “Reflections on Dialogue: “How D’yuh Get t’Eighteent’ Avenoo and Sixty-Sevent’ Street? “. ” The Antioch Review Spring 2005: 222+. Meyers, Jeffrey, ed. Ernest Hemingway: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1997. Renner, Stanley. “Moving to the Girl’s Side of “Hills like White Elephants. “. ” The Hemingway Review 15. 1 (1995): 27+.