The Emotional Impact that Hemingway's Divorce and Separation Had on " Hills like White Elephants"Hills like White Elephants" is not the normal story where you have a beginning, middle and end. Hemingway gave just enough information so that readers could draw their own conclusions. The entire story encompasses a conversation between two lovers and leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Ernest Hemingway was a brilliant writer. People that study Hemingway's works try to gain insight and draw natural conclusions about Hemingway and his life. Hemingway led a difficult life full of martial affairs and misfortune.
Some of these experiences have set the foundation for Hemingway's greatest works. This essay will analyze the influence that Hemingway's separation from Pauline and divorce from Hadley had on "Hills like White Elephants." Before authoring "Hills like White Elephants," Hemingway had been residing in Paris with his wife Hadley and son, Bum by. During their stay in Paris, Hadley and Ernest Hemingway met a woman named Pauline Pfeiffer. Pauline was more of a friend to Hadley than Hemingway was.
Pauline did not think much of Hemingway at first, she thought he was lazy and a no-doer. Later Pauline and Hemingway fell in love and had an affair. Once Hadley knew of their affair, Hemingway requested a divorce. Hadley agreed under one condition, Hemingway and Pfeiffer had to separate for 100 days. After the 100 days if they were still in love, then Hadley would grant the divorce (Baker 174). This separation period left an indelible effect on Hemingway's life and works.
During this separation, Hemingway began a collection of short stories titled "Men without Women." Hemingway explained, "The title was an indication that all the stories were missing the softening feminine influence" (Baker 182). Out of this collection, he wrote a short story, "Hills like White Elephants." The story opens up with two people engaging in a conversation at a caf'e in a train station. The reader can easily view that the couple is merely just passing time. However, several references could lead the reader to believe that the alcohol consumption is a panacea for the couple. In the opening paragraph, the couple is getting off the train. They wanted to get something to drink.
The couple could have had any beverage to drink but the man suggested they drink beer and then he emphasized "big" ones. This was an indication that the couple was dealing with something serious. In paragraph 87 when the girl did not want to talk anymore, she then asked if they could have another beer (Stanford 841). It is human nature to avoid problems, as this couple is doing. Why do people drink? People develop dependencies, to cope with troubles. In relation to Hemingway, he was among the many literary writers who were alcoholics.
He even said, "That all good writers are drinking writers" (Benedictus). Looking at the circumstances when Hemingway wrote the story, he was very depressed. He became so emotionally depressed he vowed to kill himself by Christmas if his love affair had not settled (Baker 176). He faced guilt for divorcing Hadley.
He also faced criticism and rejection from his parents. They did not grant approval to his literary works. Hemingway's mother had even referred to one of his works as, "One of the filthiest books of the year" (Baker 180). The story suggests that the American and Jig feel that having a baby is causing the problems in their relationship. Even though the couple agrees that the baby is a problem, their reasoning is much different. The imagery and dialect depicted in this story gives the effectiveness of the drastic differences in their reasoning.
Hemingway's scenery changes with the tone in conversation. In one scene, you see one side of the train station that is dry and barren while on another side it has fields of grain and trees. In addition to the scenery, the conversation suggests that if they get the abortion they will be happy again. In paragraph 50 the man says, "That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy." (Stanford 840) When Hemingway fell in love with Pauline he wanted to continue his marriage with Hadley. He loved them both and wanted to keep both of them but knew that it would be impossible to maintain a happy relationship.
Ironically, symbolic to an abortion where you eventually have to make a choice. It was almost like an ultimatum. If the "operation" did not take place then you could easily see that the relationship would also end. In the same note, you also get the feeling that the relationship between Jig and the American would be troubled regardless.
In both the story and Hemingway's life one of them had to go. Hemingway wrote a letter to Pauline during the 100-day separation comparing it to being like an abortion. Hemingway said, "I think that when two people love each other terribly much and need each other in every way and then go away from each other it works almost as bad as an abortion" (Baker 176). Hemingway's views of woman appear to be ambiguous. People can perceive this from the women Hemingway was attracted to and through the submissiveness of his female characters. Hemingway had a tendency to move from one wife to the next.
Some people even thought that Hemingway moved on in his relationships for financial needs. He turned his back on many of the friends that helped him. (Scribner) Hadley who was described by Hemingway as na " ive and inexperienced, must have felt betrayed after all her loyalty and support given to Hemingway. Hadley was not poor but she was not as wealthy as Pauline. Hadley used her trust fund to support Hemingway.
She claimed he would have never made it without her. When you look up the definition of "white elephant" one meaning states that it is something of littler or no value. If you apply the same meaning to describe Hemingway's relationship with Hadley, it follows a similar pattern. That she was no longer of a value to him.
Another meaning of "white elephant" stated that an object is no longer of value to its owner but could be of value to others. In the short story, it is apparent that the issue of keeping the baby is more important to one party than the other. The girl is passive and seems to let the American make the decision for the both of them. In paragraph 58 the girl says, "And if I do it you " ll be happy and things will be like they were and you " ll love me?" She also says in paragraph 68, "Oh yes. But I don't care about me. And I'll do it and then everything will be fine" (Stanford 840).
Jig seemed a little unclear about her decision regarding the abortion. These statements reflected that Jig already knew the outcome of the situation as if it was predetermined for her. Pauline admitted a similar scenario except she acted more on the lines of desperation for fear of losing Hemingway; "she was not cut out to be a mother and was forced often into a choice of either being with Ernest or with her children. She chose Ernest, trying not to lose him, and her children were often left in the care of their nurse, their grandparents in Piggott, or they " re Aunt Virginia" (Webster). Hemingway can come across to many that studied him as being spoiled and noticeably self-centered. The story explores two views, one from the American and one from the girl.
Hemingway and the American share some of the same personality traits. The girl on the other hand revealed an ambiguous personality. It is obvious that Hemingway's lack of female companionship is partly behind the creation of "Hills like White Elephants." It is important to know the history of Hemingway and things he dealt with at the time of writing this story to fully understand it. This story supplies the reader with insight into Hemingway's personality and controversial theme.