Study Guide

Hills Like White Elephants Plot Analysis

By Ernest Hemingway

Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

A man and a woman are outside a bar having some drinks and waiting for a train

The initial situation is really a view of some hills, but we thought we’d just skip right to the bar...which is where we'll stay throughout the story.

Conflict

Simile time

Similes are dangerous business, folks. Use them with caution. Jig’s seemingly innocent statement that the hills are like white elephants quickly turns into a competition with the man over who has traveled more. But that’s just the top layer of the conflict cake.

Complication

A bun in the oven

It turns out that the woman—nicknamed Jig—is pregnant. The man suggests getting an abortion; Jig seems to prefer the option of getting married and having a baby.

Climax

The seven pleases

Jig, sick of hearing her boyfriend talking, asks him to please shut up. Or rather—she asks him to please, please, please, please, please, please, please shut up. Then she threatens to screams.

Luckily, the waitress arrives to let the (un)happy couple know that their train is arriving.

Suspense

Carrying suitcases

When the man walks off with the suitcase, we wonder for a moment if he'll disappear, bags and all. When we see him headed back we wonder if Jig will still be there waiting.

The story doesn’t give us much time for suspense, but it’s definitely there.

Denouement

Another drink

The action is winding down when the man has a drink at the bar, and when he’s walking back to Jig. At the same time, all closure is suspended; we don’t know quite how things will end.

Conclusion

A little more conversation, but not much else

Not a very dramatic finale...unless you pay attention to the undertones of the mini-conversation Jig and the man have at the very end of the story. We suspect that this couple isn't destined to live happily ever after.

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