Hills Like White Elephants

hills like white elephantsThis story by Ernest Hemingway is about a man and woman who have reached a point in their relationship where they find it hard to open up and talk about their true feelings. Typical of Hemingway, the couple don’t come out and say what the problem is; he leaves it to readers to work it out for themselves.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Intermediate level 1800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. As they are waiting for the train the man says to Jig: “It’s really an awfully simple operation.” The word normally means very bad or unpleasant. Although “awfully” can have a similar meaning (in a very bad or unpleasant way), it can also be used as an to mean very. In other words, the man is saying that it is a very simple operation.

General Comments on the Story

As usual, Hemingway leaves an important aspect of the story (the nature of the “simple operation” that Jig is thinking about having) to the reader’s imagination. Most analysts agree that the couple are talking about an abortion. However, I have seen some suggestions that they may be alluding to her undergoing as treatment for some kind of medical or mental condition. Those who support this position argue that the words in the story “it’s just to let the air in” are not consistent with an abortion.

Hemingway could well have witnessed emergency trepanations during his time as an ambulance officer during World War One. Moreover, he was certainly aware to the term. When talking about Nick Adams’s head injury in the Hemingway short story A Way You’ll Never Be, Captain Paravicine says: “…it should have been trepanned. I’m no doctor but I know that.” Some websites also suggest that trepanation was a popular in Hemingway’s time, but I can find no evidence to support this.

What do you think?

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absinthe(n: absinthe, noncount) A green drink that has a high alcoholic content and very strong and bitter flavor. Its alcoholic content is so great (45–74%) that it is often mixed with water.

amuse(v: amuse, amuses, amused, amusing) 1. To make someone laugh or smile. 2. To entertain or give fun or pleasure to someone.
(adj: amusing) Funny; providing enjoyment; pleasantly entertaining. An amusing story. 3000

bamboo(n: bamboo pl bamboos) A tall plant with hard hollow stems that are used for building and to make furniture, tools, etc. 8000

bead(n: bead pl beads) A small, usually round piece of glass, wood, stone, etc., that has a hole through its center and that is put on a string with other similar pieces and worn as jewelry, etc. 5000

beyond(prep: beyond) 1. On the other side of. My house is just beyond those trees. 2. Farther on than something in time or place. I cannot plan beyond tomorrow. 3. To a degree or amount greater than; out of the range, power etc of. He is beyond help. 4. Other than; in addition to. What is there to say beyond what's already been said? 2000

damp(adj) Slightly wet. 3000

doorway(n: doorway pl doorways) The way go into or out of a room which is closed off by a door; entrance. 3000

felt(n: felt, noncount) A soft, heavy cloth made by pressing together fibers of wool, cotton, or other materials. A felt hat.

grain(n: grain, noncount) The seeds of food plants such as wheat, corn, oats, rice, etc.
(n: grain pl grains) A small, hard piece of something. A grain of sand/salt. 3000

(n: junction pl junctions) A place at which two things (especially roads or railway lines) join or meet. 2000

licorice(n: licorice, noncount) A type of candy made from the dried root of a European plant.

mat(n: mat pl mats) A flat piece of material for wiping shoes on, covering a floor, sleeping on, protecting the surface of furniture, etc. 4000

animal tracksbush track(n: track pl tracks) 1. A mark left on the ground by a moving animal, person, or vehicle. (ร่องรอย) 2. A path or narrow, rough road that is made by animals, people or vehicles traveling through a field, forest, etc. (ถนน) 3. A pair of metal bars that a train, tram, or subway car rides along. (รางรถไฟ) 4. An often circular path or road that is used for racing. A race/running track. (ลู่)
(v: track, tracks, tracked, tracking) 1. To follow and try to find (someone or something) by looking for its tracks and other signs that show where it has gone. He tracked the deer for a mile. 2. To follow or watch the path of (something). The ship can track incoming missiles with radar. (ตามรอย) 2000

awful(adj: awful) 1. Very bad or unpleasant; terrible. The music was awful. 2. A large amount. It costs an awful lot of money.
(adv: awfully) 1. In a bad or unpleasant way. 2. Very; to a high degree. 1000

(n: adverb pl adverbs) A word or phrase that gives more information about an adjective, verb, or other adverb. Adverbs can used to describe:
1. how something happens or is done The children were playing happily.
2. where something happens We met in London.
3. when or how often something happens They start work at six thirty. They usually go to work by bus.
4. how certain we are about something He is probably going to be late.

(n: intensifier pl intensifiers) An adverb [such as really, very, extremely, etc.] that makes an adjective stronger or gives force or emphasis to a statement. It is a very good movie. It was a really hot day.

(n: trepanation or trephination) An operation that removes a small section of bone from the skull in order to treat health problems. It is said to be oldest known surgical procedure, with evidence found dating back to the Stone Age. In ancient times, holes were drilled into a person who was behaving in what was considered an abnormal way to let out what they believed were evil spirits.

(n: fad pl fads) Something [such as an interest, fashion or game] that is very popular for a short time. She's always interested in the latest fads. A fad diet. 10000

(n: real pl reales) The story takes place in Spain. In the story the woman serving drinks says ‘That will be four reales.’ The ‘real’ was the main currency of Spain up until 1864.

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