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The Choice

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The Choice

A man, referred to as the American, and a girl, Jig, are sitting at a train station in Spain, drinking beer and waiting for their train to Madrid. Jig observes that the hills in the distance look like white elephants. Her statement breaks their silence and allows them to talk about their looming problem. They neven mention what the decision is that they have to make, but the direction of the story suggests that it is a diffult decision with life-changing consequences. The man repeatedly reassures Jig that she needs a simple operation to “let the air in” so that they can move on with their lives. Jig at first goes along with what the man says, but she then has second thoughts and hints that she would only get the operation for his sake, not for her own. Standing up, Jig observes the other side of the train station, the trees, the river, the fields, and the beautiful mountains. After seeing the river, Jig has made up her mind and insists that man stop talking. He keeps trying to tell her that all he wants is the best for her, but then leaves her alone as she asks and takes their luggage to the other side of the station. The man then returns and asks Jig how she feels. She tells him that she feels fine and that nothing is wrong with her. Despite the seemingly innocent storyline, Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” has a much deeper meaning. That deeper meaning is making the difficult choice.

Although it is never outright said, the conversation between the American and Jig is about whether or not Jig should get an abortion. At first, the man and Jig sit peacefully while drinking their alcohol before Jig brings up the “elephant in the room” - the unborn child - by mentioning the hills outside the train station. “‘They look like white elephants,’ she said” (Hemingway 475). The reference to white elephants symbolizes the baby growing inside of Jig. The term white elephants means something that is a great burden (Culture of Life). In Asian countries albino elephants were worshiped, but anyone who owned one had to feed it special food and build a place for others to come pray. It was a great burden on money and time, but anyone who owned one was considered blessed (Culture of Life). Jig sees the baby as a blessing even though she knows it will be hard to take care of. The man starts to pressure Jig into getting an abortion all the while downplaying the seriousness of the operation by reffering to it as natural and simple. “‘I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly normal’” (476). The man claims that if Jig were to make the decision to not have the operation, he would be okay with it, but he still thinks having the operation is the best thing for her to do. Jig knows that if she keeps the child, there is a chance that the man will leave her.

Jig walks to the end of the station and surveys the land beyond the train tracks. The two sides of the tracks symbolizes the decision Jig has to make. On one side of the tracks, the land is dry and barren, and on the other the land is green and beautiful, indicating a decision between “a full vibrant life if she chooses life for her child, and a dry, barren life if she chooses abortion” (White Elephants 5). She tells the man, “‘We could have all this [the mountains, rivers, and fields]



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