Literary Essay Sample: Responses to Prompts on Hills Like White Elephants

Published: 2022-06-07
Literary Essay Sample: Responses to Prompts on Hills Like White Elephants
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Ernest Hemingway Modernist literature
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 714 words
6 min read

Response to Prompt on Hills Like White Elephants

The story suggests the use of the "iceberg" approach in the manner in which it hides information in the details. The conversation between the man and the woman provides details that one has to uproot from their dialogue to discover that they are talking about an abortion and the shame attached to it. The author uses symbolism to provide the reader with suggestions of the women being pregnant and an impending abortion. For instance, absinthe is a symbol for alcohol that reflects what the woman had to abstain from because of her pregnancy. The woman says, "Especially all the things I have waited so long for, like absinthe (Hemingway 2)." The statement showcases that she has not been drinking alcohol and is now anticipating doing that. Prior to this statement, she mentions that she everything had a strange taste and provides the idea of being pregnant. Hence, these details lead one to conclude that she had not been drinking alcohol and anticipates drinking it because she does not think she is keeping the pregnancy. The reference to the alcohol is also a way to escape the momentous decision about abortion. Additionally, reading into the details and surrounding secrecy indicates that the act is something about which the man and woman feel ashamed. They call it an "operation" and purposely refrain from using the word abortion (Hemingway 3). The same indicates that the couple feels ashamed of this act and is conflicted about it. They even argue about it since it appears that the dominant man does not want to keep the pregnancy. Because of all these shame, conflict and secrecy, one easily draws the conclusion that the operation symbolizes an abortion that the different opinions it brings. There is also the symbolism attached to "white elephants" that to which the girl keeps referring. She talks about white elephants to release the tension in the room by failing to address the elephant of her being pregnant. It is apparent that she is hiding her dislike for the act of abortion by choosing to address the figurative white elephants as opposed to the one between them. Lastly, the couple keeps referring to the situation as "it" and asks whether the man will still love her after she does it. The same reflects how relationships change after an abortion that can weigh heavily on a couple. The worry of the girl about "it" illustrates the presence of a life-altering decision that can only be equated to abortion as per the situation between the two.

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Responses to Classmates


One of the aspects I noted about your post is the reference to the relationship between the man and woman that is equally important. I could also note the tension between them. The man seems very eager to have the abortion while the woman seems adamant because she is convinced that something will change between them. I am glad you mentioned this relationship because it represents the gender conflicts that relate to abortion. I can connect the relationship you talked about with the aspect of shame and guilt that the two avoid talking about and find ways to avoid the topic. I wish you would have expounded on the same as I found it fascination. All in all, I learnt a lot from your post and saw a different perspective of the details in the story.


I agree with the fact that men and women are represented differently in this story. I like your taking note of how the man manipulates the woman into accepting to undergo the abortion. It goes a long way to illustrate the dominating nature of men and inferiority of their female counterparts. However, I disagree with you assumption of his trying to convince her to have an abortion because, as you mention, "he wants her all to himself." In my opinion, he is trying to escape responsibility and his actions are in no way a reflection of his wanting the woman to himself. I liked the part about using alcohol to mask feelings because I also took note of this as one of the most apparent details showcasing an abortion.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills like white elephants." The complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway (1927).

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Literary Essay Sample: Responses to Prompts on Hills Like White Elephants. (2022, Jun 07). Retrieved from

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