Supplementary Discussion of Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants"

 You are not assigned a specific question to answer in supplementary discussion, but feel free to use any of the question below or create your own. 

You are required to post to 5 supplementary discussions over the course of the semester. You can do more for extra credit, so long as you do it in the scheduled timeframe.

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 


2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?


3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?


4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?


5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?


6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?


7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?


8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?


9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?


10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?


11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?


12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?

13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?


  1. 7. Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

    My first time reading Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" I was taken aback by how dialogue heavy the short story was. Yet, it did not feel awkward or boring because the characters were already in the middle of a conversation by the time we as readers became a part of it. The woman and man's conversation about whether she should get an abortion was the main catalyst for moving the action along. Although, nothing came of the conversation in the end other than a decision the reader can infer about, the characters still moved what little action there was. Their discussions came in short fragments at times, which showed the relationship between the two as well. The woman's movement throughout the station as she focused on the hills and then walked away from the table were driven by the man continuing to talk about the abortion after she didn't want to anymore.

    The man was persistent about it being her decision and the woman wanted to know how the man felt, which led them to going around in circles until the two stopped talking and by the time he came back she felt "fine." I know there is probably other symbolic things they do to drive the actions forward, but I am not the best at analyzing figurative language, so I am open to any other suggestions about the characters.


    1. Yes, Hemingway is known for being dialogue-heavy, for making the reader feel like we are a fly on the wall, hearing the conversation, without giving us much interior from the characters to know how to interpret what they're saying. It's very spare. I confess, the first time I read this story I didn't understand what they were talking about. Certainly that's really all the story is: character interaction. There's no tangible plot here, just characters. Although I will say that the climax of the story feels to me like the moment when she asks him to please please please please be quiet.

  2. 6. Character: In what ways does the writer show character?
    The writer shows character by having most of it being dialogue. In my opinion, dialogue is one of the strongest ways to show character (second only to their actions). While it's not clear at first what they are talking about ( at least it wasn't for me), when the man talks about it being "a simple operation." and the girl looks down at the ground, we as the reader can likely deduce that they are referring to an abortion or something like that.
    During this exchange, the man says that while he thinks it's the best decision, it's ultimately her choice and he will stick with her decision because he loves and cares about her. However, the girl says, "Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me." This could mean a lot of things. But I personally view it as her saying that she thinks it doesn't matter what she wants as long as her man is happy with the decision. If anyone as a different interpretation of this line ( or the story as a whole), I would love to hear it.

    1. I agree that dialogue may be the very best way to show character, and the characters come through so clearly in this story--they are both a bit passive-aggressive, aren't they? While the man says it's her choice, his insistence on talking about it is clearly putting a lot of pressure on her to make a specific decision. She responds with a kind of martyr reply, but one that implies that doing what he wants will ultimately hurt her. It's a fascinating look at how a couple can pass the power back and forth between them.


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