Hills Like White Elephants

Barren/Fertile Land Symbol Analysis

Barren/Fertile Land Symbol Icon

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

The Hills Like White Elephants quotes below all refer to the symbol of Barren/Fertile Land. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Hills Like White Elephants published in 1987.
Hills Like White Elephants Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: The Girl (Jig) (speaker), The Man
Related Symbols: Barren/Fertile Land
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Hills Like White Elephants quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

“And we could have all this,” she said “And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.”

Related Characters: The Girl (Jig) (speaker), The Man
Related Symbols: Barren/Fertile Land
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Get the entire White Elephants LitChart as a printable PDF.
Hills like white elephants.pdf.medium

Barren/Fertile Land Symbol Timeline in Hills Like White Elephants

The timeline below shows where the symbol Barren/Fertile Land appears in Hills Like White Elephants. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Hills Like White Elephants
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Choice Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Relationships Theme Icon
...of a train station located in Spain’s Ebro valley. In these opening details the landscape’s barren, hot, and shadeless nature is emphasized. Into this landscape appear an American man and his... (full context)
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Relationships Theme Icon
...is staring at the distant hills, which are brightly lit in the sunlight, though otherwise barren in appearance. The girl makes a seemingly innocent remark to the man that the hills... (full context)
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Choice Theme Icon
Freedom vs Family Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Relationships Theme Icon
...“the end of the station,” taking in the landscape around her. Through her eyes the barren hills look fertile, full of grain and trees, a river far off, and “the shadow... (full context)