Study Guide

Hills Like White Elephants Language and Communication

By Ernest Hemingway

Language and Communication

"Hills Like White Elephants" is a rich study in human communication. Intense, focused, and concentrated, the story depicts a couple at a crisis point in their relationship. They struggle, in public, to communicate their opposing views on the course their relationship should take.

Because the story ends without clear resolution, we'll never know how or if they manage to find common ground. Bonus: it's significant that the story takes place in Spain but is written in English. A close reading of the text reveals all kinds of translation games, which both disorient the reader and comment on communication in the story.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Does the issue of translation enrich this story, or needlessly confuse it?
  2. What are some of the different communication strategies used by the characters? By the narrator?
  3. Is Jig or the man a better communicator? Why do you think so?
  4. What, if anything, does the setting communicate to the characters? To the readers?

Chew on This

Both characters are terrible communicators.

The characters’ conversation takes place in public, commenting on the differences between public and private conversations.