Friday, October 18, 2013

"Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway

Many of you studied "Hills Like White Elephants" in high school, but I only came to know it a few years ago. Having been educated in Canada, I read a fair bit more Canadian and British literature.

Anyway, I'm sort of pleased that I didn't read it until I was a full grown adult with a good bit of messy living, complicated relationships and tense conversation under my belt--which, of course, is the exact portion of the anatomy this story concerns, as well as the womb and the head and the heart, and..., well, every other part of a woman. Including her lover.

I wonder if, as a high school student, I would have understood this story, much less recognized the raw tension in it. Did you?

So here is the text:

 And here is an 11 minute audio version, read by a British woman who goes by Miette and has an absolutely charming accent, even if she doesn't hit the nail quite on the head for me. (Jig speaks shorter and sharper, evidencing more conflict, in my head. Although maybe Miette is being artistic, mimicking the subtlety of the story. Maybe.):

Earnest Hemingway and Jean Patchett by Clifford Coffin, Vogue


  1. This is another story I used in my graduate lecture--and not for it's masterful use of interiority, but for it's masterful dance around it. I didn't read this story until I was an adult well into my writing career and am so glad, because I think the level of sophistication and complexity of this story would've been lost on my youthful, inexperienced brain. I mean, this is a story about a couple grabbling with the decision to have an abortion, yet the word abortion is NEVER once uttered or written throughout the entire text. Impressive.

  2. Made me remember a lecture at Bennington (I think it might have been Rider Strong's): He compared Hemingway's stories to icebergs. What is visible is the story, but there's just as much, even more, very relevant ice mass below the water. I think he had a visual that really brought it home. Anyway, he had a theory about how Hemingway may have stumbled on this form that made his stories so incredible. I guess he was travelling with his wife, all of his stories in a suitcase that she forgot to bring onto the train. He was forced to write them again from memory. The theory being that he forgot, or didn't have the patience, or realized then that much story could be eliminated, creating depth and poignancy. Something like that. Interesting.