Hills Like White Elephants

by: Ernest Hemingway

Identity

Quotes Identity
We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before.

When the girl asks the man what will happen to their relationship after she has the operation, he says that they will return to the status quo before the girl got pregnant. He sees each of their identities, and the status of the relationship, as fixed and unchangeable as long as the circumstances remain right. However, he does not see that the decision they must make will ultimately change their identities and relationship, whether they become parents or whether the girl feels forced into having an abortion.

“But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?” “I’ll love it. I love it now but I just can’t think about it. You know how I get when I worry.”

When the girl made her clever observation that the hills looked like white elephants, the man dismissed her in his preoccupation with their current situation. Here, she wants to confirm that if she has the operation, he will see her as a person again rather than a problem to deal with. She worries that the pregnancy and eventual baby would take away her identity in his eyes, even though being a mother may be something she longs for.

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

As the girl looks out at the field, river, and mountains, she expresses that they can travel to beautiful places if she goes through with the operation, but not if they have a baby to take care of. As Americans in Spain and shortly going elsewhere, the couple seems to enjoy traveling and adventure. Having a baby would certainly change that lifestyle, and as each day passes and the situation becomes less safe to have the abortion, the girl feels part of their identities slipping away.

He looked up the tracks but could not see the train.

The man looks at the tracks to check for the approach of the train due to arrive any moment. He notes that while he cannot see the train, he sees many people standing there, waiting for its arrival. Similarly, he does not know yet what his future holds and whether he may soon become a father. Knowing that the girl’s decision holds the power to change his identity makes the man feel impatient to get an answer from her.