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”Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1065
  • Category: Hemingway

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Love is very hard to define since everyone has different concepts in what love is. However, in order to achieve a good relationship, people must have a well balance power structure in their relationships, a good understanding and communication between them. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemmingway reflect the traditional gender roles of the late 1800’s, through the perspective of male dominance. In these stories the males predominates the females, and the characters seems to lack understanding, and communication towards another, which becomes the main cause of the females’ oppression.

The domination of the men in the lives of both women causes them to go through certain mental stages, from naïve views of their situations, to more complex realizations of their anxieties. In the story The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator begins her story naively listening to everything her husband tells her. She doesn’t realize that her illness is starting to worsen nor does she realize she is being oppressed. She says “congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.” However, John, insists the complete opposite, saying she needs nothing but rest, but the narrator states that “personally, I disagree with their ideas” this did not stop her from doing exactly what the man told her to do. This shows that even though the narrator is aware of the problem, and if she goes against her own thoughts on the matter to listen to her husband, her condition will somehow improve. In the beginning of Hills Like White Elephants, Jig is as naïve as the woman from The Yellow Wallpaper. Jig also tries to believe everything the man says.

She held onto a bit of hoping when she asked, “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” This shows that Jig is willing to do almost anything and go against what she believes to make things normal with the American again, but in this case the only option is giving into the American’s wish on getting an abortion. As Jig says that she doesn’t care about herself, this displays male dominance and that jig is willing to consider the operation for a chance at fixing things, as well as please him. The communication going on between the male and female in the stories, Hills Like White Elephants and The Yellow Wallpaper are not honest. The men seem to lead the conversation and decisions where as the women are following the decisions. In the story Hills Like White Elephants, the American does not come straight forward in telling Jig that he does not want the child, but instead manipulates her into getting an abortion. He tries to convince Jig to get the operation, knowing that the subject upset her. However, if he cared and respected jig enough, he would have had a more serious conversation with her, as well as listen to her inner thoughts. Jig should have not compromise if it bothered her, and she should have clearly said what she thinks and feels.

There is also a miscommunication in the story The Yellow Wallpaper. John, being a doctor tells his wife what to do and what not to do, treating her as a patient. John forces only his ideas thinking that he is the only one that knows what is best “I am a doctor, dear, I know.” The wife being ill begins to know more about her condition than her husband, even if he is a doctor. Realizing that she is under his control, and does not have much of a say in her own state of existence, she becomes more and more anxious, worsening her condition. She tries to write about her condition, but john does not allow it. At the end the wife finally stands up to her husband by going insane, insanity was the only way of getting her freedom because it was the only way she could be herself. The value that is held is essential to these women’s existence is their control over their own existence. In both relationships, the women are being pushed in the opposite direction from what they want, and this is the main cause for their oppression. The wife wants to be more active, but john tells her it will make her worse; Jig does not want to have the abortion, but the American is pressuring her to do so.

Without being in complete control as an individual, these women start to lose their values and meanings. As the story The Yellow Wallpaper progresses, the wife realizes her oppression. She goes from the thoughts like “I am glad my case is not serious” to becoming more away that her case is very serious. “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” She starts to draw more into herself and her fascination with the wallpaper, and creates false image. She completely convinces herself that there is a woman living in the wallpaper, trying to desperately get out from behind the bars in the pattern, and she let her oppression take her away from reality.

As for Hills Like White Elephants, Jig becomes frustrated to the point where she can no longer deal with her situation. She becomes so irritated at the discussion over the abortion that she threatens to scream if the American does not stop talking. Jig wants to continue her life the way it was, but she does not want to have an abortion, despite the American’s demands. When the American asks if Jig felt better in the end, she replies, “I feel fine, there’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.” This shows that jig is falling into oppression, and giving up her desires of controlling her life. In these stories one could see the relationships where men were in control, and women were the followers. All of the relationships had problems and the cause was the lack of love, communication, and equality. They could all have had better relationships if they solved problems by having honest conversations, and try to understand each other’s thoughts. There are always problems in a relationship, but if one puts effort in listening to another, the relationship could be strong and could conquer most struggles.

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