As the story makes clear from the beginning, both the man and the girl are accustomed to a free, uncommitted lifestyle. When the man looks at their combined luggage, it is covered with “labels…from all the hotels where they had spent nights.” The two of them have spent a long time traveling together, going wherever they wanted without restriction. The decision to carry through with the girl’s pregnancy and create a family would completely alter the nature of their relationship. They would have to settle down. Rather than spending nights in hotel after hotel, they would have to build a home of their own. The man very definitively doesn’t want to “settle down” in this way, and thinks it will be easy not to. He is firm in his conviction that this pregnancy is “the only thing that’s made us unhappy” and that getting the abortion will be “perfectly simple” and “perfectly natural.” In a sense, he thinks that the pregnancy is something they can just leave behind the way they would leave a hotel they’d already stayed in.
The girl, on the other hand, maintains a wholly different attitude toward her pregnancy. To her, having a child with her partner promises a world where “we could have everything,” an altogether different definition of freedom. Ultimately, however, she tentatively agrees to the procedure, surrendering her own freedom of choice to a different sort of idea of “family,” as she hopes that doing so will restore the man’s love for her. The story implies, though, through the girl’s initial resistance and then her perhaps too-strong statement that nothing is wrong, that the girl will not be able to so “freely” move on from the pregnancy, and that the man’s insistence on maintaining his definition of freedom has impinged on the girl’s own freedom.
Freedom vs Family ThemeTracker
Freedom vs Family Quotes in Hills Like White Elephants
“I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.”
The girl did not say anything.
“Then what will we do afterward?”
“We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before.”
“What makes you think so?”
“That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only that’s made us unhappy.”
“And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.”
“I know we will. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.”
“So have I,” said the girl. “And afterward they were all so happy.”
“…But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?”
“Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me.”
“And we could have all this,” she said “And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.”
“What did you say?”
“I said we could have everything.”
“We can have everything.”
“No, we can’t.”
“We can go everywhere.”
“No, we can’t. It isn’t ours any more.”
“No, it isn’t. And once they take it away, you never get it back.”
“Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along.”
“Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else. And I know it’s perfectly simple.”
He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.