“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway provides a perfect example of the significance of a story’s title. Before even reading the story, the reader can make a prediction about its theme from the phrase “white elephants” in the title. A white elephant is defined by something that is unwanted, useless, or hard to dispose of. Now, just from reading the title, the reader knows to be on the lookout for the white elephant in the story. In this short story, the American and the girl have an intense conversation about “it,” but never explicitly mention what “it” is. However, certain parts of their conversation give hints that allow the reader to draw conclusions about what it is. For example, the American refers to it as an “awfully simple operation” that many people he knows have gone through with before and been happy with. He also tells the girl, “I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else.” This, combined with the girl’s indecisiveness may lead the reader to believe that the “it” is abortion. The reader’s suspicions about abortion can be confirmed by returning to the title. Clearly, the white elephant is the baby – something that is unwanted and hard to get rid of. Furthermore, the “hills” in the title represent the girl’s pregnancy because of their resemblance to her pregnant stomach. In “Hills Like White Elephants,” not only does the title help the reader predict the story’s theme, but it also helps confirm the reader’s theories about what “it” is.
Question/prompt for the next person: How do authors use contrasts to enhance the meaning of their stories? What are some examples of contrasts and why are they effective?