L?© Thl MY Class IOCNA04 English – American Literature Email: lethimy91 @gmail. com The Effect of Iceberg Theory in Earnest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” “If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader… will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them” [Earnest Hemingway]. That is the reason why Hemingway applies the “Iceberg Theory’ in most of his works, which results in a strong connection between the writer and his readers.
In “Hills Like White Elephants”, uch theory is well utilized to bring about a meaningful story through the use of detail omissions, symbols in dialogue, and symbolic description of scenes and characters. Believing that subtext is more important in conveying the storys underlying meaning, Hemingway omits every detail that directly expresses the true theme of the story. He does not mention the word “abortion” at any time during the conversation or in any of his narrative sentences; not even once does he use any nouns or verbs relating to babies or giving birth, let alone “abortion”.
Readers may easily notice that the girl in the story has a name Oig) while the man does not have one; he is simply called “the American man”. Besides, the ending is eliminated. What is the reason for all of these omissions? Because readers find it difficult at first to understand, they have to make an effort in guessing the writer’s intention by “feeling” the atmosphere, making assumptions, and imagining the situation. Contented” is the word that could be used to describe readers’ feeling when they can understand that he characters are discussing the unwanted operation, when they can get Hemingway’s motives in omitting the above details: describing a typical American man, letting the readers freely imagine the ending, etc. , Although he surface of the iceberg is the dialogue, what is important in the whole story lies in the submerged part of the iceberg – the characters’ feeling and mood behind their words, which can be sensed through the symbols in the conversation.
The most important symbol in the story is the hills. They look like white elephants”, the shape of the hills resembles the shape of a fetus and they remind Jig of the baby inside her womb. Hemingway is subtle in talking about baby via the symbol of the elephant-like hills. In addition to symbolizing the baby, the hills also represent the obstacles that the two characters have to overcome. They have been together but they cannot keep on moving with a baby – their obstacle. As their viewpoints differ, Jig has to “climb the hills” of making decision whether to take abortion or keep the baby.
Another small symbol we can notice in the story is drinks. These drinks symbolize richness, luxury, and pleasure which are representative of the man’s life. Nevertheless, they seem to be an irony to Jig when she has to confront a tough time in her life. Last but not least, the symbolic description of scenes and characters also contributes to make Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory effective. Jig talks about the hills three times in each of which with a different wny Is tne tnlra appearance 0T tne nllls accompanlea Dy tne scenery description while the first two are not?
Because the girl’s mood has changed; to Jig, the outside vista – the river, the mountains, the grain, etc. , – is a symbol of family happiness, of loving home. With these details, Hemingway does not simply paint the picture; he intends to let the readers visualize the fertilization of life. Besides, the exclusion of colours, smells, sounds, and movements helps strengthen the intense atmosphere of the conversation, the coldness of the “iceberg” surface. Consequently, the readers’ attention is focused on the arguments to find out what lies under that surface.
Regarding the two main characters, their appearance is not described. What readers are informed is their dialogue which shows that Jig is a young dependent girl and the man is experienced, wealthy, adventurous, and irresponsible. Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory technique, through the use of detail omissions, symbols in dialogue, and symbolic description, gives the readers a particular impression and carries them to the world of thoughts and special feelings. The open- ending of the story even makes it more vague, but simultaneously, more meaningful. (700 words)