Hills Like White Elephants

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"Hills Like White Elephants"
Author Ernest Hemingway
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) short story
Published in Men Without Women
Publication type short story collection
Publication date 1927
Preceded by "In Another Country"
Followed by "The Killers"

"Hills Like White Elephants" is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. It was first published in August 1927, in the literary magazine transition, then later in the 1927 short story collection Men Without Women.[1]


The story focuses on a conversation between an American man and a woman at a Spanish train station while waiting for a train to Madrid. The woman compares the nearby hills to white elephants. The pair indirectly discuss an "operation" that the man apparently wants the woman to have, which is implied to be an abortion.[2]


"They look like white elephants," she said.
"I've never seen one," the man drank his beer.
"No, you wouldn't have."
"I might have," the man said. "Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything."
The girl looked at the bead curtain. "They've painted something on it," she said. "What does it say?"
"Anis del Toro. It's a drink."
"Could we try it?"

The reader must interpret their dialogue and body language to infer their backgrounds and their attitudes with respect to the situation at hand, and their attitudes toward one another. From the outset of the story, the contentious nature of the couple's conversation indicates resentment and unease. Some critics have written that the dialogue is a distillation of the contrasts between stereotypical male and female relationship roles: in the excerpt above, for instance, the woman draws the comparison with white elephants, but the hyper-rational male immediately denies it, dissolving the bit of poetry into objective realism with "I've never seen one." By saying, "No, you wouldn't have" she implies he hadn't had a child before, or hadn't allowed birth in the past. She also asks his permission to order a drink. Throughout the story, the woman is distant; the American is rational.[3] There may be more serious problems with the relationship than the purely circumstantial. While most critics have espoused relatively straightforward interpretations of the dialogue, a few have argued for alternate scenarios.[4]


  1. ^ http://foxhonorsenglish10.wikispaces.com/file/view/Hills+Like+White+Elephants+criticism2.pdf
  2. ^ "Hills Like White Elephants: Plot Overview". SparkNotes. Retrieved 29 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Smiley, P. "Gender-linked Miscommunication in 'Hills Like White Elephants.'" Hemingway Review, Fall 1988. Vol. 8 No. 1. p. 2
  4. ^ Renner, S. "Moving to the Girl's (sic) Side of 'Hills Like White Elephants.'" Hemingway Review, Fall 1995. Vol. 15 No. 1. p. 27


  • Berryman, John Dream Song 14 "The tranquil hills & gin"
  • Mellow, James R. (1992). Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-37777-3. 
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