Study Guide

Hills Like White Elephants Choices

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The couple in Ernest Hemingway’s "Hills Like White Elephants" faces a difficult situation – how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. To further complicate the issue, it's pretty clear that one partner wants to settle down and have the baby, while the other partner doesn’t.

What we see in the story is a public discussion of the matter. Since we don’t learn what the characters actually decide, the story is mostly about how they discuss the issues, what choices they explore, and even what choices they don’t explore. Written in 1927 when sex education and discussion of birth control were federal crimes in the U.S., the story also comments on what little was known about reproductive issues in those days, and how this lack of information impacts the options the characters consider available to them.

Questions About Choices

  1. What options do Jig and the man think they have? What are some of the choices they don’t talk about? Does this mean they aren’t aware of them, or that they don’t consider them viable options?
  2. What are some of the ways Jig’s ultimate decision (which we don’t learn) might affect the man?
  3. Does the man accept Jig’s choice not to have the abortion, or will he continue to pressure her? What evidence can you use to support your answer?

Chew on This

This story helps us explore the difficult issue of whether fathers should have a say in a woman’s choice to have or not have an abortion.

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