In this character analysis, we will explore the complex personalities of both the man and the girl, examining their hopes, fears, and motivations as they navigate the challenges of their relationship and the uncertain terrain of their future.
Major characters: the man, the girl
The man in Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" is a complex and multifaceted character, despite his relatively brief appearance in the story. Although he is not given a name or much physical description, the reader can infer much about his personality, beliefs, and motivations through his words and actions.
At the outset of the story, the man is presented as being confident and self-assured, possessing a certain charm that he uses to influence the girl. He is described as having "two bags full of leather" and "a big felt hat," suggesting that he is well-traveled and possibly affluent. Additionally, his smooth talking and persuasive demeanor indicate that he is accustomed to getting his way and may be accustomed to manipulating those around him.
One of the most prominent aspects of the man's character is his insistence that the girl have an abortion. He seems to view the procedure as a simple and straightforward solution to their problem, and he tries to convince the girl that it is the best course of action. He repeatedly emphasizes the fact that the procedure is "just to let the air in" and that it is "not really an operation," downplaying the potential risks and complications involved. He also dismisses the girl's concerns about the procedure, telling her that she has "got to realize" that it is "perfectly simple."
This focus on the abortion highlights the man's lack of empathy and concern for the girl's feelings and well-being. He seems to view her primarily as a means to an end, using her to fulfill his own desires and goals without regard for her emotional or physical health. He even goes so far as to suggest that the baby is "our problem," suggesting that he sees the girl's pregnancy as an inconvenience that must be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Furthermore, the man's language and behavior suggest a certain amount of toxic masculinity. He repeatedly refers to the girl as "baby" and "honey," infantilizing her and reinforcing his own sense of superiority. He also tries to control her behavior and emotions, telling her not to get "nervous" and insisting that everything will be fine if she just goes along with his plan. He even suggests that the two of them will "be fine afterward," implying that he expects her to return to her previous state of submission and dependence once the abortion is over.
Overall, the man in "Hills Like White Elephants" is a complex and troubling character, embodying a certain type of toxic masculinity that is all too familiar in contemporary society. His insistence on the abortion, his lack of empathy and concern for the girl's well-being, and his attempts to control and manipulate her all serve to undermine his charm and reveal him as a deeply flawed and problematic individual.
The girl in Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" is a young woman who is grappling with a difficult decision about her pregnancy. Although she is not given a name or much physical description, the reader can infer much about her personality, beliefs, and motivations through her words and actions.
One of the most striking aspects of the girl's character is her emotional vulnerability. She is clearly struggling with the decision of whether or not to have an abortion, and she seems to be searching for reassurance and support from the man. She expresses concern about the procedure, asking questions about the potential risks and complications and expressing anxiety about what will happen afterward. At the same time, she is hesitant to challenge the man's authority or to express her own desires and concerns openly, suggesting that she is afraid of his reaction.
This emotional vulnerability is compounded by the girl's uncertainty about her own identity and future. She is traveling with the man in Spain, suggesting that she is perhaps a tourist or expatriate. However, she is also pregnant, indicating that she may be at a turning point in her life. She expresses frustration with the man's dismissiveness and lack of support, telling him that "that's all we do, isn't it--look at things and try new drinks?" This suggests that she is searching for something more meaningful and fulfilling, but is unsure of how to achieve it.
At the same time, the girl's character is marked by a certain resilience and strength. Despite her emotional vulnerability, she is able to articulate her concerns and desires in a subtle and nuanced way. She challenges the man's assumptions about the simplicity of the procedure, telling him that she "know[s] you wouldn't mind it, but it's perfectly simple." This indicates that she is aware of the complexities and risks involved in the procedure, but is struggling to reconcile them with the man's insistent logic.
Furthermore, the girl's refusal to openly challenge the man's authority suggests a certain amount of self-awareness and self-preservation. She seems to recognize that he is not interested in hearing her point of view, and she is unwilling to jeopardize their relationship by openly defying him. However, she also shows a willingness to stand up for herself in subtle ways, such as by insisting on ordering beer instead of wine, or by indicating that she may choose to "do it" (i.e. have the baby) rather than follow the man's plan.
Overall, the girl in "Hills Like White Elephants" is a complex and multifaceted character, grappling with difficult decisions and uncertainty about her future. Her emotional vulnerability and uncertainty are offset by her resilience and strength, and her subtle challenges to the man's authority reveal a depth of character that belies her surface-level compliance.