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Dependence to Independence in Hills Like White Elephants

Dependence to Independence in Hills Like White Elephants

In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” the lives of Jig and the American, the main characters, are put on display for a brief period of time. Jig and the man have had a romantic relationship for quite some time, and now their future together is in jeopardy. The impregnation of Jig has caused the American to pressure her into getting an abortion. We find these two individuals in the Valley of the Ebro. Traveling from Barcelona to Madrid, the couple takes these few minutes to discuss the future of their baby. Jig now must make one of the most important decisions of her life – to have the abortion and stay with the American, or to have the baby and end the relationship with the male. The forty minutes of dialogue we observe detail the need both have the control the situation. The dialogue between these two individuals, and the comments by the narrator gives reference to the dry and despair atmosphere that flows throughout the setting of this event.

The introductory narrative provides a prophetic setting for this forty-minute glimpse into the life of Jig and the American. The names of the two characters offer insight into the relationship of the two individuals. A “jig” is a “fast, springy dance.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, p.320) This is reminiscent of the abortion. The decision to have the abortion will have to be made quickly. The lack of a name for the man also provides insight to his character. By leaving the male nameless, Hemingway does not allow the reader to personalize the man. Thus, it is easier for one to dislike him.

“On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the…

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…another path that she may take, a path that leads away from all of the other paths, a path leads away from the barren land, a path that leads toward a brighter future.

During the forty-minute snippet of time in Jig and the American’s conversation, a decisions are rendered that will have a life-long impact. Jig must overcome her dependence of the man in order to truly decide for herself what is more important – to continue the relationship, or to save the life of the baby inside her. The fate of their baby, their “white elephant” will be decided in these few moments of time. Throughout their conversations, numerous references to the setting are stated. The symbolisms in the descriptions of the setting by the narrator allude to the abortion that the American wants Jig to have, and the dialogue between the couple alludes to their superficial relationship.

Death, Gender, and Social Roles in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse

Death, Gender, and Social Roles in To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse is a book preoccupied by death, and gender is formulated by the difference in response to its threat. Women pursue immortality through creation of illusion and men through pursuance of facts. The novel questions the distinction between the sexes that became rigidified into pre-WWI gender roles which are exemplified in the institution of marriage. A younger generation fights against the rigidity of gender boundaries, Lily being the chief representative of this rebellion. She must learn to integrate her masculine and feminine qualities into a balanced whole so that she will be a creator of illusion and a pursuer of facts. Lily’s painting is her creative representation of the underlying truth of gendered life and will achieve her immortality.

The major interpretive difficulty of this novel is Woolf’s use of multiple perspectives. Josephine O’Brien Schaefer writes:

“The window in Part I is, naturally, the literal one at which Mrs. Ramsay sits with her small son James…The title, however, has a much wider application. Each of the characters has his window opening on the world, and much of the first section of the novel differentiates the frames of references [of the different characters]… Virginia Woolf, adding her own voice to the voice of the characters, bit by bit completes a view ‘in’ as well as ‘out,’ in other words, a view of the viewer framed by the window. The moments of vision which occur much later in Part III must be understood as occurring within the frames supplied in Part I” (Latham, 72).

It is easy to accept one character’s version of reality as true and Woolf periodically warns us, through the confusion of her characters…

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… society has tried to discourage such mixing of gender within self by creating distinctive roles for women and men. Woolf feels that women must learn to accept their femininity, cultivate their masculinity and choose the role that they want to play. Only when they do this can immortality through self-fulfilment be achieved.

Works Cited

Gilbert, Sandra M. and Gubar, Susan. No Man’s Land, Volume 3,: Letters From the Front. London: Yale University Press, 1994.

Latham, Jacqueline, ed. Critics on Virginia Woolf. Florida: University of Miami Press, 1970.

O’Brien Schaefer, Josephine. The Three-fold Nature of Reality in the Novels of Virginia Woolf. The Hague: Mouton and Co., 1965, pp. 111-13, 118-25. (Latham, pg. 72-78).

Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. Introduction by D.M. Hoare, Ph.D. London: J.M. Dent and Sons

Ltd., 1960

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