Talking versus Communicating

Although “Hills Like White Elephants” is primarily a conversation between the American man and his girlfriend, neither of the speakers truly communicates with the other, highlighting the rift between the two. Both talk, but neither listens or understands the other’s point of view. Frustrated and placating, the American man will say almost anything to convince his girlfriend to have the operation, which, although never mentioned by name, is understood to be an abortion. He tells her he loves her, for example, and that everything between them will go back to the way it used to be. The girl, meanwhile, waffles indecisively, at one point conceding that she’ll have the abortion just to shut him up. When the man still persists, she finally begs him to “please, please, please, please, please, please” stop talking, realizing the futility of their conversation. In fact, the girl’s nickname, “Jig,” subtly indicates that the two characters merely dance around each other and the issue at hand without ever saying anything meaningful. The girl’s inability to speak Spanish with the bartender, moreover, not only illustrates her dependence on the American but also the difficulty she has expressing herself to others.