Study Guide

Hills Like White Elephants Choices

By Ernest Hemingway

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"What should we drink?" (2)

This casual question is the first sentence of the conversation between the man and Jig. They are able to make the choice easily, with a minimum of drama. Yet, as we soon learn, they have much bigger choices to make.

"Then what will we do afterwards?"

"We'll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before." (47-48)

Jig isn’t necessarily asking the man what they "will" do, like she says, but what he thinks they will do. She seems to be testing him with every breath, and growing more distraught each time he fails.

"I think it's the best thing to do. But I don't want you to do it if you don't really want to." (57)

This sounds like a very reasonable set of statements. He’s telling her how he feels (though not why) while (reluctantly?) acknowledging her right to choose.

"We can go everywhere."

"No, we can't. It isn't ours any more." (78-79)

Regardless of what happens, the shared magic, the shared beauty of the world no longer belongs to them, as a couple. Jig might never be able to get over the fact that the man doesn’t want to share parenthood with her.

"I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you."

"Doesn't it mean anything to you? We could get along." (91-92)

"Go through with it" is code for "get married," and is definitely low on our list of most romantic proposals. It doesn’t sound like he sees it as much of a choice. Could they, in fact, get along now that Jig knows that he doesn’t really want to marry her or be a father?

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