What is the use of symbolism in writing? Is it merely to confuse the reader or is its true intent to make the reader think about the meaning of the story? A symbol is a person, object, or event that suggests more than its literal meaning (Meyer 220). In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway uses a plethora of symbols to convey the idea that the young girl, Jig is ambivalent to having an abortion and that her older American boyfriend does not want to have the baby. Although the word abortion is never used in the story, the reader understands the concept through Hemingway’s symbolism.
In the beginning of the story, Jig and her boyfriend are waiting for a train in the valley of Ebro. They did not take a car or any other customary means of transportation. Thus, the train means choice. On a train, the track can only lead one way or go in the opposite direction, which means that Jig has not made a decision about what she is going to do. At the end of the story, we still do not know what Jig is going to do or what train she is going to take. In addition, the valley of Ebro has a river running through it, the river representing life, the life of the baby. Right now, Jig does not know if she is going to keep the unexpected pregnancy and her boyfriend wants their life as it used to be, without the pregnancy. However, the final decision is Jig’s decision.
The use of the words “everything” and “not anything” also have meaning throughout story. The boyfriend is constantly telling Jig, “it’s really not anything” (615). He feels that the child that is growing in Jig’s stomach is nothing; that he does not even think of it as a part of himself. He does not want the baby and has put it out of his mind. However…
…e the power to fix the situation, only Jig can make the decision.
Words, drinks, and many other objects were used as symbols in this story. Jig has the undesirable choice to make, to abort the baby that she is carrying or to let it live, and in the end, we still do not know what she is going to do. The man tries to support Jig, but falls short due to his own feelings. He does not want the baby and will say or do almost anything to make Jig feel the same way. Then Jig will believe that if she will abort the baby ” everything will be fine” (616), however, not “everything” will be fine.
Work Cited# Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills Like White Elephants.” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Ed. R.V. Cassill. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1981. 613-617.# “Symbolism.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2002. 220.