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  1. Literature through a critical lens  


    Discuss Literature through a critical lens  



Subject Literature Pages 4 Style APA


Examination of the Story Hills Like White Elephants through a Critical Lens

The subtlety with which Hills Like White Elephants is told makes this story by Ernest Hemingway a powerful narrative. This story focuses on a woman and a man drinking anise liqueur and beer as they wait at a train post within Spain. The man attempts to persuade the woman to secure an abortion, but the woman remains ambivalent about this idea (256). The narrative’s tension comes from the man and woman’s terse, barbed conversation. This paper examines Earnest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants through the gender critical lens. The paper advances the argument that, when examined via the gender critical perspective, Earnest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants employs dialog in portraying a controlling and powerful man who uses his authority in pressuring his indecisive and weak girlfriend into embracing a decision to which she is opposed.

Hemingway excels in using dialogue to portray a controlling and powerful man, who employs his clout in compelling his irresolute girlfriend into taking a choice that she does not want. This narrative revolves around a couple dialoguing at a train station. The two continue to engage in a dialogue as they take bottles of beers that they have ordered (255). In the beginning, their conversation appears casual, but then changes when the American unveils the unuttered trouble between them. The two begin to converse about whether or not the woman, Jig, should undergo an “operation”. While this dialogue does not come clear on what constitutes the alluded “operation”, the reader can deduce from various cues that the operation the couple is talking about entails performing an abortion. The American starts by attempting to persuade Jig to perform an abortion. He sneakily attempts to comfort Jig by informing her that the decision is completely up to her. However, the man proceeds to tell Jig that the abortion idea would be the most appropriate decision for the two of them. The American proceeds to state that Jig’s pregnancy is the only thing that made them unhappy (256). Jig is aware of his true feelings while blaming her situation for any challenges between them. According to him, life would resume to normalcy once the operation is performed. As they proceed with their talk, the man persistently imposes his will on the woman to a point that makes her troubled.

Listening to the man defend himself repeatedly pushes the woman to her limits until she pledges with him to stop (257). At this moment, she has lost all hope of embracing a different decision. She has strived to seem indifferent to herself, stating that she would consider taking the operation, as she desires him to lover her again. When the woman’s selflessness fails to sway the man she asks whether her decision to undertake the operation means anything to the man (257). This scenario shows Hemingway’s support of gender norms, particularly the gender norm relating to female weakness. Even though Jig desires to talk about her pregnancy more than the American and could be perceived as braver and more courageous owing to that, her constant questioning and dependence on the American reveals a sense of female subservience and reliance. This dependence ultimately supports the conventional gender roles within the narrative, as opposed to challenging them. Jig’s persistent questioning of her partner demonstrates an absence of confidence.

Even though Jig is indecisive concerning the idea of having an abortion, she appears hesitant to undergo this procedure. In the early years of the 20th century, women were perceived as inferior relative to men within society, and feminists were focused on stepping out and eliminating the undesirable women’s portrayal (Spielvogel 488). Nonetheless, in this narrative, the woman chooses to face her obligations as a future wife or mother. The story’s end completes Jig’s development owing to her decision not to have an abortion. Her choice is evident when her boyfriend states “I’d better take the bags over to the other side of the station” (257).

She eventually gives up and chooses to undergo the procedure. However, Jig’s refuses to proceed with the discussion regarding the abortion (257). This gesture signifies to the American that she is not inclined to making a choice that will lead them to the other side, which is the side with grain, life, and trees connotative of the resolution to keep child. It is vital to note that the woman only manages to smile at the man at the end of the narrative. This event comes at the moment when Jig is sitting at the table. The smile denotes a positive result, and gratification that comes with the hope of acceptance by a man with whom a woman is in love. Jig is hopeful that her decision to abide by the American’s desires will restore their affair to normalcy (263).

In conclusion, when examined via the gender critical lens, it can be noted that Earnest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants employs characterization and dialog in depicting a powerful and domineering man who uses his position to pressure his irresolute girlfriend into embracing a resolution that she opposes. Hemingway manages to reveal the dominance of men over women through her narrative that exposes females’ reliance on males on decision-making, and the inability of women to have a say in matters that directly impact their lives. 




Hemingway, Ernest. The short stories of Ernest Hemingway. Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization: Volume I: To 1715. Cengage Learning, 2014.

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