As the story opens, we are introduced first and foremost to the setting’s barren landscape, which is described as “brown and dry,” with “no shade” and “no trees.” Yet while the story feels as though it were taking place in a desert—both because of the literal dryness of the landscape and in the sense of loneliness and alienation between the man and the woman—we are told at the beginning that the story is in fact unfolding beside the Ebro River. And, as the girl notes, this is not a place totally devoid of beauty. She describes the hills along the river, in fact, as “lovely hills,” particularly “the coloring of their skin through the trees.” The girl, who is pregnant and on the precipice of deciding whether or not to end the pregnancy, is sensitive to the latent beauty and fertility of this environment, though both of these things are invisible to her male companion. In this way the land itself represents both the girl with her possibility of motherhood and the conflicting barrenness of her relationship with a man who urges an abortion she doesn’t want.
Barren/Fertile Land Quotes in Hills Like White Elephants
“They’re lovely hills,” she said. “They don’t really look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees.”