Irony in “Hills Like White Elephants” and “a&P”
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Denzel Morales Dr. Tomko WRT-201-035 February 6, 2009 Irony in “Hills Like White Elephants” and “A&P” Several authors use irony to strengthen their story or to make a point out to its reader like in the short stories “A&P” which was written by John Updike and “Hills Like White Elephants” written by Ernest Hemingway. In these two short stories the author use ironic situations which made the reader have a better understanding of the story. The irony in these stories can be found in many parts of the story like the setting, the use of words, and even in the title itself. The ironic twists in these stories are indeed believable. In the short story “A&P”, Updike uses lots of irony throughout his story. Sammy decided to step up to the plate and quit right in front of his boss in his attempt to impress the three girls that walked in the supermarket.
He thought that he would do something really crazy just to make himself look like a hero in front of the three girls as he stated, “The girls, and who’d blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say “I quit” to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they’ll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero” (35-36). The ironic part of this situation is that the girls don’t even hear him. They are out of the store before Sammy could finish up his heroic scene. This irony is important because it made Sammy understand that he thinks differently. He thinks that, that moment should be a moment of celebration but ironically it wasn’t. He is forced into a moment of maturity and realizes that things won’t be as easy as he expected. When this happened to Sammy it completely changed his outlook about the world in which he declared, “my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (36).
Updike also uses irony in the setting of his story and his description of his characters. The story took place in a supermarket that was located in the middle of the town right by a church. I think that Updike chose a supermarket instead of, for example a fancy shoe store because everyone has to go to a supermarket for their nutritional needs. The supermarket is a place of choice, freedom, and prosperity. The description of his characters in this story is also ironic. He describes the three girls that entered the supermarket as being bees, the one who lead as being the queen. The other people where described as being sheep because they just went with the flow. Hemingway also uses irony in his short story “Hills Like White Elephants”. Like Updike’s story, irony is used in the setting.
This story took place at a train station where “this side” was described as barren with no trees and no shade in which the American could be depicted as. The “other side” is described as having fields of grain, rivers, trees, and clouds. This side could be compared to Jig’s idea of their life together with the kid. The title “Hills Like White Elephants” has irony in itself. In the story they both view a hillside that reminded Jig of white elephants. This is ironic because white elephants are very rare and important. This is how Jig views her unborn child and that she doesn’t want to come through with the abortion. The American is trying to persuade Jig of having an abortion but all Jig wants the American to do is to just shut up.