DIRECTIONS: In a well-developed, well-organized, and well-supported essay, discuss your response to one of the following prompts. Be specific and use textual and researched supporting evidence in your discussion. You should have a minimum of one (1) scholarly sources. BE SURE TO USE PROPER MLA FORMATTING!
1. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” how does the physical setting help to clue the readers in on the nature of the couple’s conversation. The physical setting can be the landscape, the physical location they are in, the time period, etc.
2. Why is it important to understand historical context in relation to William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily?”
3. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Kate Chopin’s “A Story of an Hour,” the theme of freedom is presented through the text. In your essay, explain how that theme is presented in both short stories.
4. Choose a short story from the textbook; it DOES NOT need to be one assigned for class. Choose a critical lens through which you will analyze the story. In your essay, explain the text to your readers clearly, logically, and coherently.
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ALSO Respond to the following story of your classmate with constructive feedback on his/her essay. Remember that you are responding from the reader’s perspective and giving feedback that could guide your classmate to a stronger revision.
The Hills are like White Elephants
Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” was a revolutionary work for its time. Written in August of 1927, the short story focuses on a couple waiting for a train to Madrid, where they have a painful conversation about whether the woman should get an operation, with as little detail as possible given to the reader. Stripping his stories down to their most basic language and form became a trademark of Hemingway’s writing style. In Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants,” the physical setting surrounding the train station helps the reader to better understand the actual theme of Hemingway’s story and the topic of the couple’s conversation.
The physical setting of the train station is in a valley in northern Spain, surrounded by hills, fields, and trees. The woman starts the dialogue by suggesting drinks, and then comments that the “[hills] looks like white elephants,” thus connecting the story to its title (Mays 635). At first glance, the comment just appears to be in passing and can be attributed to the woman’s attempt to begin small talk. However, upon further analysis, her comment means much more to both her and her partner, who is simply referred to as the American. A white elephant has become the symbol of something that is troublesome and expensive to maintain, since white elephants require special food and care. Hemingway’s story uses the symbolism of the white elephant to painfully capture the difficulty of talking about getting an abortion, which is believed to be the operation that the American is referring to (Holmes, “Hills like White Elephants”). At the beginning of the story, the conversation between the American and the woman, Jig, makes it seem that the American wants the abortion, as he is the one who brings it up. Jig, however, seems more hesitant. She is afraid of what will happen to their relationship after they no longer have a child in common. Jig also hints that, perhaps, she would like to keep the baby after she retracts her comment about the hills, later stating that “they don’t really look like white elephants,” but that they are still beautiful (Mays 636). The American appears to be supportive of her somewhat unspoken decision, however Jig has already concluded that no matter what decision she makes, her relationship with the American will not last. The story ends with Jig pretending she is fine and has moved on, just as the train is coming to move them on from the hills that look like white elephants.
Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” was a revolutionary story that addressed the stresses and conflict that comes with abortions. The topic of abortions was not publicly discussed in 1927, therefore Hemingway’s dry dialogue and use of symbolism in the setting allowed for the reader to determine on their own what the message of the story was. In “Hills like White Elephants,” Ernest Hemingway employed symbolism to express the difficulty of communicating about abortions, both in the 1920s and, perhaps, today.
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