Draw a picture of the setting of “Hills Like White Elephants” and be sure to include the following:
two sets of train tracks
the station (in between the two sets of tracks) with a long platform
the landscape on each side of the station (dry, barren, and brown; fields of wheat: trees; the Ebro River in the background)
the two characters sitting at a table next to the bead curtain opening to the bar
the sun and the shade (provided by the station)
With the station set between two sets of rails, it is placed so that a choice is emphasized, which reflects the conversation between the man and the girl.
Although readers come into a discussion that has been going on for a while, they have no clue what is being discussed. “It’s really an awfully simple operation,” one that is “just to let the air in,” and is “perfectly natural,” the man says, and points out he’s “known lots of people who have done it” (667).
Notice what the girl says, where she walks to (shade or sun), and what she says. Pick two other people and read the story out loud with them. Can you hear the girl’s voice? Is it gentle? sarcastic?
Think about why the girl would say “Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?”