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Exploring the Iceberg: In Hills like White Elephants, Hemingways austere syntax consists mainly of short dialogue and undetailed descriptions

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Quinones Alyxandria Quiñones AP Literature Mrs. Carpenter 10-2-11 1 5 10 15 20 25 30 Exploring the Iceberg: Abortion and Responsibility‘It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,’ the man said. ‘It’s not really an operation at all.’ The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on. ‘I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.’ The girl did not say anything. ‘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 natural.’ ‘Then what will we do afterwards?’ ‘We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.’ ‘What makes you think so?’ ‘That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.’ The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads. ‘And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.’ ‘I know we will. Yon don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.’ ‘So have I,’ said the girl. ‘And afterwards they were all so happy.’ ‘Well,’ the man said, ‘if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. ...read more.


The shortness of the sentences reveals that each character is either choosing their words carefully or is afraid to speak their mind at all, afraid of saying or revealing their true thoughts to which the other might oppose. After all, abortion has been a touchy and taboo subject for decades. Both characters struggle with what the ?right thing? may be and are trying to fulfill what they perceive to be natural responsibilities. As exemplified in line 30, the female (nicknamed Jig) believes it is essential to their happiness that she be selfless when considering the daunting option of abortion. Her statement is short and blunt, ?Then I?ll do it. Because I don?t care about me.?. Jig has forced herself to act without influence of emotion and to not consider alternate possibilities to the operation. Hemingway does not expand her statement to include greater description or substantial explanation because Jig herself is not entirely clear on the exact repercussions and details of the circumstance she has found herself in. She only wants to believe that she is doing the right thing?protecting her relationship and their collective happiness. There is a certain degree of finality in the shortness of what she says that makes further exploration and questioning of options impossible. After struggling so long with her own conscience and the morality of ending another life before it has had a chance to begin, she concedes to the pressure and manipulation of the male. ...read more.


Whether it is for their own benefit, the benefit of their partner, or the benefit of their public image, they subdue themselves into a generally calm state that is independent of emotions. Emotions which would eventually expose a more sensitive aspect of the conversation they?re having, forcing them to directly address the magnitude of the decision they must make. Though the tension is nearly palpable, neither character loses composure. However, after a frustrating lack of communication and misunderstanding, both are subdued into an apathetic and resigned state which provides little closure and leaves the reader with a heavy heart. Hemingway was once quoted saying this of his writing style: ?If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There are seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows.? On the surface, ?Hills Like White Elephants? is an incredibly simple story with confusing dialogue and a frustrating lack of detail. Only upon close examination can the reader uncover the actual subject of their conversation?abortion. Though Hemingway provides little characterization of the couple, their lack of communication and obvious discomfort with the nature of the conversation reveal much about their inability to cope with responsibility and change. However frustrating interpretation may be initially, discovering the ?submerged? aspects of Hemingway?s style provides the reader with a rewarding sense of accomplishment. ...read more.

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