Hills Like White Elephants

by: Ernest Hemingway

The American Quotes

Quotes The American Quotes
“I might have,” the man said. “Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything.”

After the girl says that the nearby hills look like white elephants, the man says he has never seen white elephants. Her rejoinder about the impossibility of him seeing white elephants holds an emotional subtext, but he takes her meaning literally. He argues her point by stating that just because the girl thinks something doesn’t make her idea true, contradicting what he said earlier. With this attitude, the man immediately asserts the stereotypically masculine impulse to control a situation.

I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.

As the man tries to persuade the girl to have the abortion, he purports to know she wouldn’t mind the operation. Even though he clearly does not understand what the procedure entails, he tries to use his status as a man to assert that he knows more than her. He focuses on the procedure itself and doesn’t consider the larger picture of the consequences. He avoids considering whether the girl wants to have a child or not.

That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.

As the man continues trying to persuade the girl to terminate her pregnancy, he points out that the only issue in their relationship concerns the possibility of a child. He tries to convince her that if the pregnancy hadn’t happened, they would be perfectly happy. However, readers may note that their relationship suffers from other unspoken and unaddressed issues as well. He likely knows they will not remain together after the abortion, but uses this promise of happiness to manipulate her.

“You’ve got to realize,” he said, “that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.”

Here, the man tells the girl that he will help raise the child “if it means anything” to her. In this statement, he implies that though the thought of a baby and a family may mean something to her, the same possibilities do not mean anything to him. Although he may think such a statement will make her feel better, he doesn’t realize that the idea of a reluctant father may not appeal to the girl.

But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else. And I know it’s perfectly simple.

After the girl asks the man if the baby would mean anything to him, he answers her by saying he only wants the girl in his life. These lines represent the first time he almost explicitly says that he does not want a child in his life. Still, considering the tension in their relationship, readers may infer he doesn’t even truly want her.