- Oct 2017
‘And we could have all this,’ she said. ‘And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.’
Looking across to the opposite side of the station, the scenery is in strong contrast to the plain white hills. Rolling fields of grain and trees along the river Ebro. She looks into this vista and sees her quintessence of life and existence. A culmination of all her wants and desires. And a sad recognition that this dream isn't reality, and that as every bit of time passes by, she is further pulled from this idealistic world.
This can be viewed as a reference towards her baby, the birth of a potential unending spring of happiness and possibilities. But as it is, she finds herself in travels towards the destruction of this potential, and in recognition states that:
" every day we make it more impossible."
‘I don’t care about me.’
The girl is expressing a resignation towards herself, responsibility for what may come, and an indifference to her well being. Not for the sake of simply giving up because things are hard, instead, because she realizes that her fight for herself in the face of her over bearing partner is lost.
She does not hold control over her own body. She is not one for an abortion; she does not want it. Yet her male partner persists and judging from their current travels, she is not in power to do anything of it.
If she were to throw off her pressuring companion, run away, and embark on some personal rebellion for the sake of herself and the baby, she might be able to find herself. Yet it is not so. And instead, she doesn't care.
‘Well,’ the man said, ‘if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.’ ‘And you really want to?’ ‘I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to.’
Here exists one of the core conflicts between the characters. The American, wishing for an abortion to happen, does not want to impose a will for aborting on to his female companion. He states over and over that:
"if you don't want to you don't have to."
This compounds the issue at hand and is placing undue force upon the girl; his lack of tacking responsibility in a sense passes of this pressure towards the girl. In essence, he is removing himself from the problem through such, so-called, sympathetic talk. Yet he remains pressuring through an immediate return to pointing out the simplicity of the operation and such.
Hemingway presents to us an environment of pressure, experienced by the girl, and show us the confounding hypocrisy existing in the American.
please please please please please please please
Hemingway's use of repetition highlights Jig's strong reaction towards the American. Emotional, exasperated, the girl explodes in a shower of repetition. From all of this suppression and perhaps forced attendance to an abortion, she in protest climaxes into a crescendo of begging. Though it can be viewed as childish and immature, that is a sliver of her character. In the end, this can be suggesting of a theme of young vs. old. More accurately, a theme of rebellion.
‘I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.’
Through a more historical lens, abortions have almost never been a subject of positive talk. In this story, the American is positioning the girl into accepting the process of abortion; in a sense, to be accepting of the procedure. Although highly invasive and potentially dangerous, the American is attempting at persuading her approval. That it is all in fact a natural undertacking.
For the authors depiction of the American in this light, he is allying himself with the girl and thus making us readers her ally as well. In doing so, Hemingway is alluding to a pro-life centered argument against abortion.
Enter the crisis of our characters, a revelation of the elephant in the room. The American and the girl are traveling in order to receive an abortion.
Absinthe itself was an extremely popular, alcoholic drink. Historically, one of the core ingredients used in the disillation of the beverage was Wormwood. Curiously enough:
"In European folk medicine, wormwood is one of the most important gynecological agents for abortion and to induce menstruation and labor."
This parallel of an alcoholic drink to abortions is a subtle yet abrupt way of introducing the issue of abortion to the story.
‘Everything tastes of liquorice
On the contrary, licorice is a confectionery treat enjoyed by many around the world. In this sense, the girl describing things as similar to licorice communicates her wish for and desire for items. Such as absinthe.
‘It tastes like liquorice
I find licorice, or Liquorice, unpalatable. It is a sweet that i do not enjoy. With this personal anecdote, the authors appeal to licorice flavor suggested the drink to be of bad taste.
In this sense, items tasting of licorice are of disappointing and dissatisfaction. So we can establish now as the reader, that subjects associated with licorice within the text to be bad.
‘No, you wouldn’t have.’
Similar to her previous line, this dialogue from the girl introduces us readers to an underling element of negativity. The line is a charged, declarative statement, suggesting that she may not hold her male companion in high esteem. Or at least, is non-receptive to his response. It's a line containing hostility and perhaps even resentment.
This introduces us to our first experience of conflict between the girl and the American.
‘What should we drink?’ the girl asked.
Keep an eye on the questions that the girl asks of the American and vice a versa. The following banter of the two characters features two main elements of speech: questions and statements. These speech patterns allude to who is leading a conversation and who holds some sort of power over the other. The statements will show us who holds the power between the conversing characters, while the questions show us the opposite: the character lacking in power.
This relationship changes throughout the rest of the story, read on and notice who is asking the questions in the conversation!
valley of the Ebro were long and white.
The Valley of the Ebro refers to the real world location of the Ebro Valley, located in modern day Spain. The valley features long rolling hills of white stone, and although beautiful, hints at a less pleasant theme: infertility.
We would often picture living, lush landscapes as covered in greenery, farmland, or some other semblance of life. Plain, white hills, seemingly devoid of any other features or flora not only establishes the setting of our short story, but instead allows the author to allude to a feeling of emptiness. "Long and white" serve to corroborate this idea of desolation; a place simply colored white and stretching for a great distance feels very empty. With the subject of this short story revolving around a couple's abortion, emptiness is a core aspect to the setting of this story.
‘They look like white elephants,’ she said
A playful line. The girl offers up a side of childlike imagination, describing the rolling white hills in front as if they looked like white elephants.
This show sot us readers new insight into the character of the girl: that she is imaginative, creative, and is actively thinking. Perhaps she is not simply a follower to the American.
The American and the girl with him
In establishing the setting, we are now introduced to the two main characters: The American and the girl.
For the author chooses to deliberately separate the two characters with their respective specificity, referring to the male character as "The American" and the female as "the girl". The male character being bestowed a title of nationality, and the girl existing as a relatively unknown figure, Hemingway shows us that the male figure exists in a more concrete manner. In meaning, he exists with more identity and thus is of more importance. "and the girl with him" establishes that the girl is a companion to The American, suggesting that the leader in this couple is the male character. Perhaps the author may be suggesting to the reader an influence of patriarchy.
- Ebro Valley
- Hills like White Elephants