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zman
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Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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"Hills Like White Elephants"

Here's an enigmatic little piece of business. I've noticed that Hemingway frequently sets up a tension between his characters based on an event that is outside of the story - either something that has already happened, or something that is about to occur. In this case, that event is an operation that the woman is about to have, although I'm stumped as to what it might be.

Hemingway gives us a clue when the male character says, "they just let some air in, and everything's perfectly fine." (That's not an exact quote - I don't have the story in front of me.) I can't think of what that might be. It's clearly some kind of operation which is non-essential, perhaps cosmetic, and creates a certain tension between the two that drives the dialogue. It's a very subtle and enigmatic bit of writing. Perhaps Hemingway meant for the nature of the operation to remain vague.

Also, is he using the term "white elephant" in the same way we would - to mean something whose maintenence is so costly and its rewards so few as to make it a liability? The expression WAS in use by the early 20th century. And if so, who is the white elephant? The man or the woman? Or just the hills with no implied metaphor?

Like I said, a very enigmatic piece of business.
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Overheard in the Student Union at Brandeis University:
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"-spoiler

There is a some kind of consensus 'out there' that it is about an abortion but they can't claim it, prove it because no abortion is done in that way... hmm, duh and ack;
If you ask me it is a nonsensical reasoning.

Thinking of what you said, they didn't do so many nose jobs in that time when Hemingway was around. Follow the girls' lines, think like a girl...can you? What is the story about? Really....

ziki
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zman
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"-spoiler

Ah, an abortion...

That would make a great deal of sense, ziki, and it certainly sheds a completely different light on the dialogue. I will have to read it again.
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Overheard in the Student Union at Brandeis University:
"Man, if I actually had to talk to Socrates, I'd be pissed."
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ELee
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

"Hemingway gives us a clue when the male character says, "they just let some air in, and everything's perfectly fine." (That's not an exact quote - I don't have the story in front of me.) I can't think of what that might be."

I see letting in air as similar to a change of air, which would signify a change that would make something different. Their conversation toward the end...

"You've got to realize," he said, "that I don't want you to do it if you don't want to. I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you."
"Doesn't it mean anything to you? We could get along."
"Of course it does. But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want anyone else."

seems to validate the operation as an abortion because he doesn't want anyone but the girl, "anyone else" to be part of his life in this relationship. Her saying "we could get along" strikes me as a last ditch effort to make this coupling work. But by "letting some air in" the relationship has already changed to the point of extinguishing itself and both participants seem to have already moved forward in their own minds. Her "feeling fine" indicates to me that she has already made her mind up as to what she will do. The man has become a "white elephant" that is now too costly to maintain.
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fanuzzir
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

I love everything you've turned up here, the neutron bomb in the middle of the relationship (the abortion) and the in medias res structure of the story, in which he enter a relationship or a person already shattered by something off camera. That is consistent with Hemingway's response to most trauma, the first case of which was the war--a displacement, a deferral, so that the true pain comes out in retrospect and suffering is felt symptomatically. I also love the brave resolve to falsify themselves and live in complete dishonesty at the end, a conviction that seems made for convenience but which will produce a thoroughly conventional relationship nonetheless. I guess I didn't see an end in the last line so much as the beginning of a terminal relationship.
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

[ Edited ]
I think it is about fear of loosing each other, not being able to find themselves again if the situation changes. They would loose the world as it exists for them.

Again the existence is depicted as transitory (train station). It's a troubled acute situation (the heat). There is palpable presure and there is need to act (let's go and do something). But not really knowing from which base to act. It's threatening both to her and to him.
There is movement, changing locations and there is nervosity (drinks). Although on the surface it can seem perfectly normal to drink when it is hot (smooth surface). It is desolate (no one can act but them) and they try to grasp onto something- fate,hope( the woman that serves them drinks=providing relief).

Her resorting to seeing the white elephants on hills is such a superb move by Hemingway in that moment. I liked this story, it's a tough one.


PS
Many men experience an intense fear when faced with an arrival of a child, not just ecstasy. They anticipate a competition even if it seems irrational.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 02-09-200710:40 AM

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fanuzzir
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

Wonderful. And then there's the "breather" that erases the previous conversation and gets everything back to "start." Really a tough tough story, stripped down of most romantic illusions except the need to go on.
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zman
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

I find myself reading Hemingway in the mindset of a film or stage director. Many of his stories have the blueprint of a play: raw dialogue and you fill in the rest. I imagine to myself what gesture, what inflection, what facial impression might impart a certain meaning to a certain part of the conversation.
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Overheard in the Student Union at Brandeis University:
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Seattleslew
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

There is a brilliant and subtle line Jig says that shows clearly how much she wants to please this guy but yet still slips and reveals her imaginative nature as opposed to his sort of blank mind set:m "I didn't mean the hills looks like white elephants," she says, "It just their skin through the trees."

"Their skin" -- not the snow or earth through the trees. That's a slip.

This is a story that teaches one how to read Hemingway closely. It isn't easy getting meaning from a self-effacing objective narrator.

SeattleSlew
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

[ Edited ]

fanuzzir wrote:
Wonderful. And then there's the "breather" that erases the previous conversation and gets everything back to "start." Really a tough tough story, stripped down of most romantic illusions except the need to go on.


Yes. Trully. You need that pause because it is fragile and it could break down....or rather I see it as a string on an instrument: it can create some music (at least a rhythm), only noise(discord) or it can just snap.

I sort of can't express in words what the story tells yet I know it with such a precision that it is almost painful. His language has a total integrity.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 02-12-200708:36 AM

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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"



zman wrote:
I find myself reading Hemingway in the mindset of a film or stage director. Many of his stories have the blueprint of a play: raw dialogue and you fill in the rest. I imagine to myself what gesture, what inflection, what facial impression might impart a certain meaning to a certain part of the conversation.




What I experience is how seemingly so little can live in me so long. Like this story...I carry it with me in memory like a wallet in my pocket....it's just there, rests and it makes things possible.

In this case the stories are easier to handle than a whole book just because of that concentration of elements. It's more palatable (sweets you suck on and the taste lingers).

I might read just a couple more during this month not to choke on it.

ziki
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"



Seattleslew wrote:
There is a brilliant and subtle line Jig says that shows clearly how much she wants to please this guy but yet still slips and reveals her imaginative nature as opposed to his sort of blank mind set:m "I didn't mean the hills looks like white elephants," she says, "It just their skin through the trees."

"Their skin" -- not the snow or earth through the trees. That's a slip.

This is a story that teaches one how to read Hemingway closely. It isn't easy getting meaning from a self-effacing objective narrator.

SeattleSlew




yes- sometimes he cuts though a situation like a knife and you catch it right in that moment before it starts bleeding

ziki
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fanuzzir
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Registered: ‎10-22-2006
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

There's definitely a modernist aesthetic here: the concept of "spots of time" that illuminate but are themselves somewhat disengaged from the narrative flow of life, so that they remain abstract. He's doing what modern abstract art is supposed to do to us.
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"



Seattleslew wrote: It isn't easy getting meaning from a self-effacing objective narrator.

SeattleSlew




Suggestion: read also The Good Soldier(just a hot topic on BN) a modernist/impressionist tale (if you ask me I'd say it's cubist tho'). A narrator will never tell you things in an easy way, but he sure will tell you!

ziki
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bryan87613
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Registered: ‎01-30-2007
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"


zman wrote:
I find myself reading Hemingway in the mindset of a film or stage director.


I think the screenwriter for Babel also read Hills Like White Elephants and actually used it as the inspiration for the opening scene of the movie. The dialogue of the scene ends with a shot of white hills in Morocco.
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

Really..I never heard that before. Have not seen Babel but I will look for it.




bryan87613 wrote:

zman wrote:
I find myself reading Hemingway in the mindset of a film or stage director.


I think the screenwriter for Babel also read Hills Like White Elephants and actually used it as the inspiration for the opening scene of the movie. The dialogue of the scene ends with a shot of white hills in Morocco.


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lateefx
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎09-27-2007
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Re: "Hills Like White Elephants"

I think Hemmingway is a genius in using symbolism…it all depends on the reader’s level of insight and imagination. I’ve been scouring the net hoping to find an official statement by Hemmingway that confirms our interpretations of his poem.

This website has an in-depth, line-by-line literary analysis on the short story - as well as a forum to discuss its various elements and interpretations:

Machete Blog | Hills Like White Elephants Literary Analysis
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