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Hills Like White Elephants

Hills Like White Elephants


by Ernest Hemingway

Hills Like White Elephants Theme of Identity

All of the sudden, the two characters featured in "Hills Like White Elephants" are faced with a whole new identity: that of being parent. This very short story explores what can happen when one parent wants to reject the new identity, while the other wants to accept it. Much more so than today, in the late 1920s, when this story was written, there was a stigma attached to having children outside of wedlock. As such, the possibility of yet another new identity, that of husband or wife, is also raised, though very subtly. Again, one character wants to embrace the new identity, the other wants to reject it. The way the two characters deal with all this in a public conversation also raises the question of public versus private identity.

Questions About Identity

  1. Does Jig’s identity change over the course of the story? Does the man’s? If so, in what ways do they change?
  2. How do marriage and parenthood factor into identity? Why does the man want to reject the identities of father and husband?
  3. How might going through with the abortion affect Jig’s identity?
  4. The man is identified as American. Is this significant to the story? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Being able to speak and understand Spanish is a big part of the man’s identity.

Jig feels that having an abortion will destroy her sense of identity.

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