Hills Like White Elephants


Ernest Hemingway

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Hills Like White Elephants Summary

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The story opens with the American man and the girl sitting outside a bar at a train station near the Ebro river in Spain. The two sit drinking beer and liquor in the sweltering heat and sun light as they wait for their train to Madrid. A Spanish woman, a waitress, comes in and out of the bar through a beaded curtain bringing the two beer and anise.

The man and girl have been traveling together as a romantic couple, but at the moment the two are bickering. As the two sit drinking alcohol, it becomes clear that the girl is pregnant and the man is encouraging her to get an abortion, though neither directly names the issue they are discussing. The man argues that getting an abortion will restore their relationship to what it was before. As the two dance around the issue at hand, the girl comments on the barren but beautiful hills around them and the liquor they’re drinking. As the man continues to pursue the issue of the abortion however, the girl begs him to stop talking.

The man excuses himself to move his bags to the other side of the station. In this moment of separation, he looks with relief at the other travelers “waiting reasonably for the train,” suggesting that he is frustrated and angry with the girl for not acceding to his request. When he returns to their table at the bar and asks if she feels better, she responds that she feels fine and that there’s nothing wrong.