Hills Like White Elephants

by: Ernest Hemingway

Communication

Quotes Communication
“Dos cervezas,” the man said into the curtain.

The American sets the scene in one of the first lines of dialogue in the story. The American and his girlfriend sit at a bar at the train station, a curtain separating the outdoor tables from the inside of the bar to keep flies out. Here, the American calls to the bartender to bring two beers. However, the narrator observes that the American speaks to the curtain, implying that while these characters seem to speak to each other, a wall separates them that makes understanding each other impossible.

“Well,” the man said, “if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.”

After the man brings up the mysterious operation that he wants his girlfriend to have, he repeatedly makes passive-aggressive comments similar to this quote. While admitting the decision to have the operation rests with her, he promotes the procedure as safe and simple. Although he never clearly states what he wants, he clearly lobbies for her to have the operation as he will not stop bringing the idea up. But rather than revealing his true intentions, he dances around the topic, leaving her to ultimately make the decision. In this way, he uses communication as a manipulation tactic.

Can’t we maybe stop talking?

After the man repeats his opinion on his girlfriend’s possible operation, the girl cuts him off and asks if they can stop talking. However, he ignores her request and resumes what he had been about to say. She pleads with him to stop talking, and again he does not listen. His refusal to stop talking shows that, although he may think they need to have a conversation, he doesn’t listen and she doesn’t want to hear what he has to say.