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Unhappy Relationships in Hemingway’s Life and Fiction

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Just like only the top 1/8th of an iceberg can be seen above the water with the rest remaining below the surface providing it with its momentum and dignity, Hemingway believed his stories should follow the same structure. Although some critics loved him, others said his stories were shallow. He had no sympathy for women, they said, portraying them either as manhood-destroying bitches or as mere objects of sexual domination (Lynn, 1987, p. 10). A close reading of his stories reveals not only the messages the author intended to send but also some insights as to the way he felt about things. Throughout his life, Hemingway struggled in his relationships with others, particularly women, and these struggles can be traced through many of his works including Hills Like White Elephants, The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber and Snows of Kilimanjaro. There are numerous similarities between the short story Hills Like White Elephants and Hemingway’s life at the time he wrote it. According to Baker (1969), Hemingway wrote this story during the 100 day separation period between himself and his mistress Pauline that his wife Hadley insisted upon before granting a divorce. The story is essentially the conversation that takes place between a man and a woman at a small train station café as they wait for their next train. One of the first indications that perhaps things are not right with the couple is the fact that they are drinking beers in the middle of the day. While this is not necessarily an indication of trouble, the emphasis on ‘big ones’ and the observation of the girl looking off at the line of hills observing that they look like white elephants (Hemingway, 1986: 273) begins to suggest the general direction of the story about to unfold. As the man and woman talk, it becomes clear that she is pregnant and that he wants her to have an abortion.