Jig is one of the most unusual characters in literature. The lack of physical and biographical details about her makes her seem like a blank slate onto which we can project whatever we want.
She’s often seen as a victim of the man – a woman forced into having an abortion against her will. Since the ending is wide open, and we don’t know what either of the characters does in the long run, such interpretations miss the point of the story. This is very much a story about the way people and stories communicate. To get at Jig’s character, we can ask this question: what is being communicated to us about Jig? We’ve made you a list of things we think are being communicated about Jig. She:
With Hemingway, what isn’t said is often as important as what is said. This comes into play with our theme "Choices." Jig and the man only talk about two choices – in their conversation it’s either abortion or marriage, the two most drastic options.
Obviously, unless one of these two has a change of heart, neither of these two options is going to serve Jig well. She’s made it clear that abortion is not for her. At the same time, marriage and children with a man who doesn’t want marriage and children is a recipe for disaster. But, they don’t talk about the possibility of Jig having the baby on her own, adoption, or some other solution. It’s possible, though, that they could come up with something. The story is open enough to allow for both optimistic and pessimistic predictions of their future.
Also left unsaid are the words "birth control." If Jig has an abortion and continues having unprotected sex with the man, she’ll more than likely get pregnant again, and then we’ll have "Hills Like White Elephants, Part Deux." This silence about birth control reflects the legal silence about birth control in the United States. While abortion was legal with a doctor’s referral, birth control was not, and to make matters worse, discussion of birth control (and anything we would now think of as sex education), was considered pornography and was a federal crime.
We’ll leave you with some questions: why is Jig’s nationality not given, while the man’s is given? Does she sound American to you? Why or why not? Where might she be from? Where might she have seen white elephants?