Ernest Hemingway in his short story “Hills Like White Elephants” presents a conversation that takes place with the couples discussing whether abortion is necessary or not? However, Hemingway does not make it clear for the reader, and he writes the story in a way the reader has to analyses the elements and the actions of the characters to know that abortion is the topic discussed in the story. Setting, landscape and the environment were the most significant symbolism in the story of abortion. There are less visible, but essential symbols in the story like the hill, white elephants, landscape of the train station and the curtains all gave hints to the readers that pregnancy and abortion is the central focus of the story. I will mainly focus on the hills, landscape and the train station to show how they symbolize abortion and the complicated discussion of the operation.
Starting with the hills in which Jig notices that they look like white elephants that reflect on her position of the argument that she wants the baby while the man hardly saw them. In an early part of the story where Jig notices the hills; “They look like white elephants” (Hemingway, 539), which foreshadows her being pregnant and the choices or the decisions they will have to take next. The hill shaped like a pregnant women belly gives the reader a hint that Jig is pregnant and as hills are like obstacles that people have to face this can be seen as the obstacle to this story between the couples such that they have to come up with a decision and that is mirrored on the landscape and the train station. Moreover, other elements like the landscape and the train station reflect on the argument that is taking place between the couples. It is clear that they have not decided on the abortion by how Hemingway ended the story and those symbols. The landscape in the story, for instance, shows the divisions of the sides the characters are choosing where one side it is full of trees and fertile, while the other side it is dry and empty. Thus, each side of the landscape reflects the emotions and the position that the characters take and the unresolved dialogue. Furthermore, the train station is a symbol of transformation or transition just like any other transportation.
In this short story, there is a delay, and this can reflect on the final decision of the main argument. Also, the train station being between two cities in Spain and the couples waiting at that station shows how they are stuck with the decision on whether to have the abortion or not. Additionally, the tracks in the train being parallel to each other and never touch show that the argument is not yet resolved as both sides not deciding to work on one solution. In this short story the setting played as an essential form of symbolism to make the reader understand that the story is about abortion and that the conversation discussed between the couples does not have a final decision. Instead there is a division on whether abortion is necessary or not.