Communication In Hills Like White Elephants

Communication is vital in all relationships, but especially romantic intimate ones. It’s essential for the relationship to grow and develop. Ernest Hemmingway tells the story of a couple who are struggling to communicate effectively, which is threatening their relationship and preventing them from resolving pressing issues. Although not directly stated, one of the issues is abortion. The American wants it, but the girlfriend appears to oppose it. Jig struggles to reach a communication breakthrough with the American in an attempt to reconcile their conflicting views. This story depicts a couple in a crisis point of their relationship. They fight in the open to communicate their opposing viewpoints on how their relationship should proceed. The story begins with two characters trying to resolve their relationship issues and conflicts while waiting for a bus. From the first moment, it is clear that neither character listens to each other. This leads to poor communication and listening, which only worsens their current crisis. Jig remarks that the hills in front of the train station “… look like white elephants. When her boyfriend says he’s never seen one, she reacts angrily (Hemingway 40).

She may have been rude because she feels pressure from her American boyfriend who wants to get an abortion for his child. She is frustrated and scared about the topic of abortion, even though she pretends that it doesn’t bother her. She is unconsciously expressing her frustrations through rudeness and lack of commitment in the conversation. Fear of the future, uncertainty about plans and the state of affairs after an abortion are factors that cause strain between lovers. The strain between them is shown in their unproductive, rude and strained conversation. Jig’s primary concern is whether or not she would be okay following the procedure. “Then What Will We Do Afterward?” she asks. The American responds vaguely, “We will still be fine afterward just like before.” She likes him a lot and is worried that abortion will affect their relationship after they lose the baby. After asking him, “How sure are we?” he replied that everything would be the same. She still has some doubts.

This shows that she’s still upset and hasn’t been fully comforted. The characters are both trying to express their different opinions and perspectives on the direction of their relationship. They do this while respecting each other’s viewpoints. It is obvious that the American cares deeply about his girl when he freely tells what he thinks of her. She tells her that she is not going to force the girl to do anything “…if it is something she does NOT want. He says that to reassure that he would not force her into anything or violate her wishes. He assures her that she can refuse to have an abortion if it is not what she wants. This shows that the American man is concerned enough about her to not force his opinions on her. The couple uses equal and shared decision-making to try and solve their issues. Jig’s lover and Jig have divergent opinions about how to share parenthood. Jig loves her American partner, but is also disappointed that he does not share his parenthood with Jig. She walks off the station at the end frustrated with her lover’s sentiments about being able to go anywhere they want after the procedure. The man’s refusal to idealize shared parentalhood with Jig destroys Jig’s vision of a magic world after the abortion.

When you take a closer glance, you will see that the two couples have not been paying attention to each other and are not actively communicating. Jig repeats to her lover her original comment that the hills look like white elephans. Wasn’t it bright?” Her last question shows how she still doubts herself and her relationship with the American. She says later that they are just looking at things, trying new drinks and she’s frustrated. He doesn’t seem to get it and says “I think so.” She then goes on to explain that they don’t really “look like white elephants,” but that she was referring to the colors of their skin seen through the leaves. He responds in an entirely different way and subject, saying “shouldn’t we have another beverage?” They are not able to communicate effectively and their communication is different. Both are poor listeners, who don’t listen carefully enough to be able to respond appropriately.

The two characters of Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants struggle to communicate in order to resolve their conflict. The main issue was their differing views on abortion and parenthood. Their communication is further strained by a lack in communication that manifests in a lack in listening skills as well as a desire to develop verbal and interpersonal communication skills. Both men and women care about one another deeply, but they disagree on whether or not having children will help cement their parenthood. Over time, both Jig and the man learn to compromise and develop a relationship that is more accepting and open.


  • ewanpatel

    I'm a 29-year-old educational bloger and teacher. I have been writing about education for about six years, and I have a B.A. in English from UC Santa Cruz. I also have a M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. I teach high school English in the Bay Area.