Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ernest Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
White Elephants: Context
White Elephants: Plot Summary
White Elephants: Detailed Summary & Analysis
White Elephants: Themes
White Elephants: Quotes
White Elephants: Characters
White Elephants: Symbols
White Elephants: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Ernest Hemingway
Historical Context of Hills Like White Elephants
Other Books Related to Hills Like White Elephants
- Full Title: Hills Like White Elephants
- When Written: Approximately 1926
- Where Written: August 1927
- When Published: The literary magazine Transition
- Literary Period: Early modernism
- Genre: In the larger sense, this story belongs to the 20th century short story modernist fiction genre. Hemingway was famous for his “Iceberg Theory” of fiction writing, which holds that powerful writing relies most on what it omits, what is concealed out of the reader’s sight. The theory’s name stems from its analogy with icebergs; just as one can only see the small sliver of an iceberg exposed above the water, so should the minimalist style of fiction allude to but not reveal its implied and “deeper” meaning. Beginning his writing career as a journalist, Hemingway favored clipped, impersonal statements over subtle, emotional, or poetic styles of writing. His fiction style followed this model of objective reporting, hinting obliquely at characters’ feelings and motives.
- Setting: Train station near the river Ebro in Spain.
- Climax: In such a compressed scene with such stripped down prose, it is difficult to determine an exact climax. However, tensions between the man and girl boil to the point where she threatens to scream if he keeps talking about getting an abortion. In a moment of desperation, faced with the impossibility of their talking, the man moves the luggage to the other side of the station. This moment signifies the first physical separation between the man and the girl in the story.
- Point of View: This story engages in delicate shifts of free indirect discourse, in which the reader slips into both the man and the girl’s points of view. However, in line with Hemingway’s distinctive style, the story avoids explicit expressions of perspective in favor of journalistic precision and impersonal objectivity.
Extra Credit for Hills Like White Elephants
American Expatriates in Paris. Hemingway was a frequent visitor to Gertrude Stein’s salon in Paris where he socialized with artistic legends such as Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, and Joan Miro.
Hemingway the Hunter Hemingway was an avid hunter throughout his life, even going on safari in Africa in 1933, the inspiration behind his 1936 story “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”