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Hills Like White Elephants

Hills Like White Elephants


by Ernest Hemingway

The American Man

Character Analysis

Often vilified as an insensitive, uncaring man who bullies Jig into an abortion, the American is another unusual character. It's possible that we know even less about him than we do about Jig, and perhaps he's even more mysterious. To keep things consistent, we’ll follow the same strategy we did in Jig's "Character Analysis." This way we can compare lists, and see if this guy is really a villain or not. We’ll look at what the story expresses about the character. He:

  • speaks English and Spanish, at least
  • translates for Jig several times
  • has not seen white elephants, but could have, no matter what Jig says
  • drinks beer
  • gets irritated when Jig brings up absinthe
  • doesn’t want to marry Jig, but claims he is willing to do so
  • is trying to convince Jig to have an abortion
  • communicates this to her directly, but minimizes the reality of an abortion
  • seems oblivious to the natural surroundings
  • is identifiable as an American (by the narrator)
  • is the father of Jig’s child
  • has been traveling with Jig and staying in hotels with her
  • tells Jig he loves her
  • calls her by name (or nickname)
  • claims to be very worried by the situation
  • doesn’t seem to think the abortion is a big deal
  • knows women who have had abortions, and implies that things turned out well for them
  • claims to think that the unborn child is the only obstacle to their happiness
  • persists when Jig asks him to stop talking, but eventually does stop
Like Jig, the man seems to feel that there are only two options available to them, marriage or abortion. He doesn’t appear to want any part of marriage and babies, but he doesn’t seem to take into account how difficult a decision this is for Jig. This might mean that he’s uninformed, or it might just mean that conceiving a child means something very different to him than it does to Jig. Also remember that the man, like Jig, probably hasn’t received much in the way of sex education.

As with Jig, we’ll leave you with a few questions: why does the narrator identify him as American? Does this imply that the narrator has seen the man around, and knows a little about him? Is there something that identifies the man as American? What are some things that could identify him as American? Does anything within the conversation between the man and Jig identify him as American?

The American Man Timeline