Some relationships evolve only because of a physically intimate phase. After this passionate and adventurous phase, reality jumps in and the couple is faced with the decision as to whether they are to have a baby, or abortion. In this way, many morals kick in and these people are faced with a choice that could not only change their life, but a life that is beginning to form. In Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, imagery and dialogue are utilized to portray the relationship between adulthood and the value of life through Jig.
Jig presents motherhood by the end of the story showing that she has come to a point of maturation through her dialogue. To start off, Jig is presented as a “girl” in the first paragraph and throughout the story. This reflects that Jig is, per the American or the author, still a child at in mind. Her childlike behavior is even portrayed in her description of the alcoholic drink she has chosen. Throughout the story it appears a parent is attempting to convince a child not to do something. For example, the American says, “it’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig, it’s not really an operation at all”. Through this it seems like he is putting this “operation” in terms that she would not fear, as if she is a child. Although Jig is presented as an adult with the mindset of a child, her dialogue changes her character as this conversation continues. She states, “I don’t care about me” which implies that her mind has been morphing into a more mature state. We commonly hear parents saying that they care about their children more than they do themselves, and it is shown in their actions. This statement is the first position in which we realize that Jig is moving in to her life of adulthood, and parenthood.
In addition to this new era of parenthood, imagery is used to portray Jig’s opinion of the baby and the value of its life. In the beginning of the story, Jig looks out at white hills where the “country was brown and dry”. Jig describes these hills as “white elephants”. White elephants are commonly used to describe something that is desired but is very difficult to keep up with. This image is a description of how the American sees the pregnancy. He sees the baby as something that will dry out their current happiness and all of their effort will go into this “white elephant”. Then later on, Jig walks over to the other end of the station where there is a river and mountains. There is a “shadow of a cloud (moving) across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees”. This visual describes the life of this child, the life that will come to be if she is to have her baby. Where there is fertility, such as the grain, there is a new life which is represented by water. The cloud represents the American and this is where it becomes apparent that she will not continue with him. The American says that he is “perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to [her]”.
Jig replies with the question, “Does it mean anything to you?”. This is not just a question of whether or not that he cares that she is pregnant, but if he cares that there is another human, another life involved with them now. He has now become that cloud over the baby’s life. At the end Jig states, “I feel fine, there’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine”. She has grown up and realized she must be strong if she is going to have a child. This also portrays the value of life because she has finally removed the American’s view that the baby is something wrong with her and that it is a part of unhappiness; now she knows that there is nothing wrong with her at all and that the baby is a part of her life now.
Jig learns many things in this conversation with the American, and has finally turned herself in to a woman. Hemingway presents that life is precious and even though there are downfalls to having children, life is beautiful in its many ways and it takes a person with great morals and maturity to be ready for a baby. The dialogue is how we are capable of viewing Jig’s mental conversion from girlhood, to womanhood. Imagery is how we see Jig’s own opinion form and emerge away from the American’s opinion about the baby. Hills Like White Elephants is a story of life, and a story of choices, and a story of challenge to society and women.
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