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Hills Like White Elephants Essay (man and girl frustration)

hazelc 2 / 3  
Sep 21, 2009   #1
Write a mini-essay supporting the following questions: Whom does the author appear to sympathize with more? Whom do you consider to be more manipulative? Identify the tone at the beginning, the middle and the end of the story.

Any feedback is appreciated, I particularly am uncertain with grammar. Thanks.

Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" depicts the story of a young woman faced with the decision of abortion. As the story progresses in intensity, Hemingway seems to sympathize with the girl who is being manipulated by the man she is with. The stressed dialog in the beginning suggests that they are avoiding the deeper issue at hand.

It is quite obvious that the author sympathizes with the girl simply through making her. Being the only character with a name, Jig, seems more real to the reader and personable. The dialog also reveals the author's attitude towards the girl by showcasing her as a submissive meek figured controlled by the man. She says, "Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me," showing that she is in love with this man and seeks his approval and happiness. Her submissive nature to the man's wishes over her own shows the author's pity towards the girl who is unable to express her emotions. It is apparent that she wants to keep her child even if it is a white elephant and will only cause her to give everything up . This inability to communicate is made apparent early on in the story as the tension builds to their first argument.

Hemingway leaves no doubt that the man is the manipulative antagonist of this story. He is only referred to as 'the man' or 'the American' not giving him an identity. The man is the one who starts both arguments by dismissing Jig's white elephant comment and bringing up the abortion. The author makes the man to be very selfish in wanting the girl to have the abortion so that he can keep his status quo. When he says, "I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you," he is telling her that he will to put up with the hassle of the baby ,but cares nothing about the baby. He is manipulative as he tries to convince her that the abortion is no big deal and that many people have had them. He clearly has no interest in the baby when he says, "I don't want anyone else. And I know it's perfectly simple." The middle of the story is very evasive and caustic with the man playing with the girl's head by saying this he does not mean while she doubts him but eventually concedes.

By the end of the story the tone has moved to frustration between the man and girl. Both feel exhausted by the other's reasoning. The author does not reveal what the girl chooses to do but instead has her state, "I'm fine." With Jig's personality already observed it is reasonable to say that she is indeed no right at all. Whether she had decided to keep the white elephant and give up her life as it use to be, or have an abortion and return to the life she no longer wants is never clear. This leaves the reader able to make their own decision on what choice she made.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 21, 2009   #2
You are on the right track. One concern I have, though, is that the prompt asks you who you think is "more" manipulative, implying that both of the characters are in fact trying to manipulate each other. You don't argue that. You argue that the man is manipulative and that the woman is not. This is difficult to sustain, even with the quotations you have picked. For instance:

"Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me,

This is a classic form of manipulation via the guilt trip, with the comment meant to provoke the man into providing emotional reassurance and support.

Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of the conversation is that the characters each want the other one to take ultimate responsibility for the decision. Jig can convince the man to "go through with it," but wants him to say they should keep the baby. The man can convince Jig to terminate her pregnancy, but wants her to say she's okay with the decision to do so. This is psychologically realistic, as this is obviously a couple whose entire lifestyle is dedicated to having fun and avoiding responsibility as much as possible. It is perfectly fine to say that the man is the more manipulative of the two, but to argue that he alone is manipulative is a much more difficult task.

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