Analysis of Dialogue in “Hills Like White Elephants”

Hills Like White Elephants is a by Ernest Hemingway popular for extensive application of dialogue as a writing technique. It talks about an American man and a girl seated, conversing about their unborn child while having drinks as they wait for the to come. Dialogue has been used to help the readers understand the two characters and reveal their actions and emotions. It enhances effective communication to the readers concerning issues raised in their speech. Dialogue provides the original voice in a piece of literary work to make it realistic. For readers to understand an authored work, authors need to have an elaborate thought process and characters’ feelings. This essay will delve into the purpose of dialogue as it unveils carelessness, insensitiveness, and male chauvinism in Hills Like White Elephants.

With his full knowledge that the girl is pregnant, the American man bought alcohol for both of them; this shows how careless he is. The man seems not to be troubled nor remorseful for his actions. The girl’s welfare and the unborn baby are not a serious concern to him, considering the effects of alcohol on pregnancy. She says they need something to drink and suggests beer; the man agrees and makes an order. The waiter asked whether she should get them the big ones, and he said, “Yes, two big ones.” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 229). On the other hand, the girl is insensitive since she knows she is pregnant and proceeds to take alcohol, disregarding its adverse effects on her and her baby. She came up with a suggestion to have a drink, specifically alcohol. She proceeds again to try a new brand of alcohol when she says, “I wanted to try this new drink. That’s all we do, isn’t it – look at it and try new things?” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 230). This indicates that she loves alcohol and tries any new brand that comes her way.

The use of dialogue in this text helps the reader to understand how insensitive the couple is regarding their unborn child. The man and the girl have indifferent attitudes that affect their child’s future. The man continuously suggests that the girl terminate the pregnancy; he says, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 230). The suggestion triggered a lengthy conversation for the better part of the short story. Instead of regulating the amount of alcohol the girl takes since she is pregnant, the man asks her, “Should we have another drink?” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 230). This is an indication that the man was trying to find a way to convince her to accept to abort the baby or develop alcohol-related complications that may make her lose pregnancy. When the lady asks him what they will do afterward, he replies, “We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 230). It seems like the people will affect their relationship from a negative aspect.

Hills Like White Elephants has an aspect of male chauvinism where the man wants to be dominant in decision making. Based on the several occasions the man tries to convince the girl to abort the baby shows how much he wants his decision to be considered. He does not give the lady an opportunity to share her thoughts about the termination of the pregnancy. The man insists they will be happy; he says, “I know we will. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 230). Then tried to convince the girl but in vain; however, the girl later changed her mind. She did not agree to abort the baby because she was convinced enough; the girl had to accept because she did not care for herself anymore. She says, “Then I will do it. Because I don’t care about me.” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 231). Her decision was neither for their relationship nor her boyfriend; she did not care about herself anymore.

Towards the end of Hills Like White Elephants, the couple becomes more unhappy than they were at the start. The heated argument about abortion irritates the girl, and she walks away toward the end of the station. The man follows and convinces her to return to the shade; the girl agrees, but her eyes are fixed across the hills. She demands that the man keeps quiet, and he refuses; she threatens to scream. She says, “I’ll scream” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 232). the man excused himself to carry the bags and lock them in the tracks. When he returned, he asked her girlfriend if she was feeling better. She angrily replies, “I feel fine, ” She says, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 232). The short story ends with the girl angry at the man; they do not reach an amicable solution.

In conclusion, this essay has described the extensive application of dialogue in Hills Like White Elephants as it unveils carelessness in the girl character. She is taking alcohol without considering the effect it might have on the pregnancy. The couple seems to be insensitive to their unborn child. The girl is taking alcohol with no slightest concern as the man suggests they take more instead of controlling her drinking behavior. Moreover, the man proves to be a chauvinist when he maintains his stand on abortion without listening to the girl’s opinion.


Hemingway, E. (1927). Hills like White Elephants. Weber State University.

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