Hills Like White Elephants

by: Ernest Hemingway

Foreignness

Quotes Foreignness
The girl looked at the bead curtain. “They’ve painted something on it,” she said. “What does it say?”

While the couple sits at the table, the girl asks the man what the curtain says, indicating that she cannot speak or read Spanish while he can. The two Americans speak English throughout the story set in a Spanish-speaking country, a fact that highlights the communication issues between the couple. Just as the woman finds herself in a foreign country incapable of communicating with others without an interpreter, the couple finds themselves in a situation that seems foreign to them, with the man driving the conversation about their decision.

The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.

After the bartender apprises the couple of the train’s imminent arrival in Spanish, the girl smiles at the bartender to thank her, as she doesn’t know how to say “thank you” in Spanish. The girl then asks the man to translate what the woman told them. This exchange shows how people passing through a foreign country change the way they communicate such as using facial expressions or hand gestures with others whose language they do not speak. Similarly, the man and his girlfriend communicate differently in the uncharted waters of their relationship they find themselves in.