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Thoughts on Ernest Hemingway’s Short Story “Hills Like White Elephants”

Short story review

By Rowan Finley Published 2 months ago 3 min read
Photo taken by Charlotte May on

The short story “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway symbolizes the choice that many young couples must face when they find out that they are pregnant. The first time I read the story, I had no idea what it was about. It wasn’t until I got some outside information on the story that I understood that the operation that they were subtly discussing was in fact abortion. Their conversation is very believable. It seems as if it would be a very common conversation between many couples in this day and age. Their conversation consisted of short, indirect sentences. I found the man in the short story to be the shallow one. I think it is likely more relatable for many couples that the man is typically the more shallow one in most circumstances with surprise pregnancies. Hemingway likely wrote the story this way in order to prove a more believable, or relatable situation. The man in the story was the one who wanted to carry on with his fun life. He didn’t really want to commit, or have any obligations to hold him down.

I like the analogy that Ernest Hemingway uses when he says, unwanted, white elephants, or in a way an unwanted baby. Hemingway has a very informal style writing style. I like that aspect of his writing because it’s relatable. Something that really concerns me is the fact that Ernest Hemingway committed suicide. What finally made him decide that life wasn’t worth the living? It’s very sad to think about. Many incredibly talented people end their lives in this way. Could his suicidal thoughts have been detected by patterns in his reoccurring themes in his writings? Research indicates that he had experienced many traumatic events. He battled depression and psychosis. It seems that he had several traits indicating that he likely had some personality disorders as well. Making matters even worse, he had several family members who had previously committed suicide.

The irony of the story is how the girl in the story is made to seem like the unreasonable one just because she wants to have the baby. No woman should ever be made to feel shamed or out of their minds just because they choose to have a child. It’s an act of courage to have a baby, especially when there is no support from the father. In this short story the woman is the one who is more of an adult than the man, even though she’s referred to in the story as the “girl.” The ending of the story is sad because it implies that the couple goes their separate ways. Again, this is quite relatable for many people in society. The man likely goes off to find another girl to make love to, or one who he doesn’t have to make any commitments to. He just wants to have an enjoyable life. This hedonistic trend is so prevalent in society today. Many people could likely relate to this line of thinking. I envision the girl having the baby and probably having to raise the child as a single mother. I definitely think that it’s time for more young men who impregnate women to take responsibility for their actions.

This short story makes me wonder if Hemingway overheard a conversation between a young couple debating this exact topic. It obviously got him thinking and inspired him to write this story. If you overheard a conversation like this between a young couple, would you speak up and share your thoughts? Or, would you not say anything? Would overhearing a conversation like this make you think or want to write your own short story?


About the Creator

Rowan Finley

Father. Academic Advisor. Musician. Writer. Aspiring licensed mental health counselor. My real name is Jesse Balogh.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Colleen Walters2 months ago

    So many great points raised here. it’s definitely time for love and compassion to make a comeback

  • Kendall Defoe 2 months ago

    Reading Hemingway as a teenager made me want to write like him, and then I soon realized that it was pointless and that I had to find my own way. He is the type of writer who forces the reader to keep digging past what may seem obvious or obscure. This is one of the early stories that obsessed over and I thank you for this!

  • John Cox2 months ago

    Excellent and thought provoking review. It asks the hard questions often dodged in relationships.

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