Navigating Choices and Consequences: Themes in ‘Hills Like White Elephants’

Table of Content

The story “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway is a masterwork in the technique of subtext, where much is implied yet deeply felt. The narrative is told via a straightforward exchange of words between a man and a woman at a Spanish railway station, but it really explores deeper issues of decision-making, repercussions, and communication—or lack thereof. These themes speak to more universal issues of the human experience as well as the protagonists’ current situation. This essay provides an analysis of the central themes presented in Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” underscoring the complexities of human relationships and the intricacies of communication.

Choice and Personal Agency

The nameless woman’s forthcoming choice about a “operation,” which may be an abortion, is at the center of the narrative. The story doesn’t necessarily take a position on the procedure’s moral consequences, but it does emphasize how serious a decision such as this is. It emphasizes the notion that certain choices, once taken, are final and may have long-term effects on people’s life:

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Miscommunication and Communication: Despite the fact that the tale is centered on a discussion, it’s amazing how much is left unsaid between the two protagonists. They often misunderstand one other and dodge questions. Hemingway deftly makes use of this lack of direct contact to show how individuals often avoid discussing the most important and urgent matters in their life out of fear, pride, or a simple inability to put their sentiments into words.

Gender Dynamics and Power Imbalance: The woman’s apparent reluctance to discuss the procedure and the man’s subtle pressure to have her have it reveal the power dynamics in their relationship. The issue of male domination and the social constraints women experience, particularly with regard to their bodies and reproductive rights, are brought up in the novel.

Isolation and Disconnection

Despite the fact that the guy and the lady are together, a strong sensation of isolation permeates the whole story. Their divergent perspectives on the direction of their relationship and the impending choice they must make highlight their widening gap. This mental and interpersonal misery is further reflected in the desolate environment that surrounds them, with its white hills against a sterile background.


Despite being a brief story, “Hills Like White Elephants” is significant in its investigation of human connections, the decisions we must make, and the consequences of those decisions. The underlying issues are amplified by Hemingway’s sparse style, which compels readers to look beyond the words to see the complexity of passion and struggle at play. The tale serves as a sad reminder of the difficulties of really and freely speaking with others, particularly when confronted with important life-altering choices. And one other and dodge questions. And urgent matters in their life out.


  1. Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants.” Scribner’s, Men Without Women, 1927.
  2. Lewis E. Weeks. “Hills Like White Elephants: Symbolism in Hemingway Hills” 1980’s Studies in Short Fiction.
  3. Stanley Renner. The phrase “Moving to the Girl’s Side of ‘Hills Like White Elephants’.” 1995’s The Hemingway Review.

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Navigating Choices and Consequences: Themes in ‘Hills Like White Elephants’. (2023, Aug 11). Retrieved from

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