Hills Like White Elephants
by Ernest Hemingway
Tools of Characterization
Speech and Dialogue
We listen carefully to the things people say, and use our analysis of speech to decide how we feel about them. Both characters use figurative language in their speech, like metaphor, simile, and imagery. Both seem to indulge in what we might call "manipulative speech." Jig’s speech shows us that she’s quick tongued and not afraid to make her feelings known. The man is also not afraid to say what he really wants. The speech of both characters reveals that they have unrealistic expectations for each other, and even for themselves.
Habits are another big character clue, even though we are only given subtle indications of the characters’ habits. The following snippet of conversation is a good example:
"That's all we do, isn't it – look at things and try new drinks?"
"I guess so." (33)
There seems to be some consensus here between Jig and the man. This also gives us a clue as to their financial statutes. To be able to "look at things and try new drinks" suggests that they are somewhat privileged. The stickers on their suitcases also suggests a life of travel.
It seems that they are unused to a traditional, settled lifestyle. Yet, both the man and Jig take traditional approaches to the situation. Neither of them approaches the situation creatively, with an eye toward a mutually acceptable compromise.