Hills Like White Elephants

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In Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, we read of two people, an American man and a girl named Jig, in Spain, whose about to embark on a mysterious operation. Hemingway doesn't give much insight as to what this "operation" entails, but he does imply that tension exists between them. In Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates we take a journey with Connie, a boy crazed 15 year old girl, who is trying to deal with an unbearably controlling mother. Oates shows a power struggle that Connie is having within herself to cope with the expectations placed on her. Jig and Connie have unmistakable similarities to each other. One of the similarities is that the people closet to them put them in awkward positions. Another is how they look for ways to cope with or escape from these pressures. They also share a sense of secrecy toward the situations they're in.

In Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, the tension between the man and Jig become clear while they are sitting in the bar and out of nowhere the man says, "It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig, it's not really an operation at all." Jig just looks at the ground and doesn't say a word. The man goes on to say how this sort of thing is perfectly natural and after the operation that everything would be fine. Jig is still pretty hesitant about the whole conversation so she starts to question him about the operation, and he tells her that he's known lots of people who have done it and there's nothing to be afraid of. Jig gets so fed up that she begins looking for ways to end the whole conversation. Initially, she starts to mock him by saying, "So have I, and afterwards they were all right and happy." The man feeds into this and continues trying to pursuade her, telling her he thinks it's the best thing to do. In another attempt to change the subject the girl tries to distract him by offering him another drink and telling him how the hills look like white elephants. She even starts to become very sarcastic toward him and says, "Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me. Oh, yes. But I don't care about me. And I'll do it and then everything will be fine." Once she notices that this maneuver isn't working either she begs him to please, please, please stop talking. The man finally gives the conversation a rest, but as a final plea he asks, "Do you feel better?" And she simply responds by saying, "I feel fine, there's nothing wrong with me. I feel fine." Insinuating that there is no need to continue the conversation.

In Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oats, the main character, Connie shares a disturbing picture of her dysfunctional life with us. Like Jig, Connie too was pressured to pursue certain decisions in life. Connie's mother pushes her to not be herself, but more like her older, do-good sister, June. Her mother would say, " Why don't you keep your room clean like you're sister? How've you got your hair fixed-what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don't see your sister using that junk." Connie constantly looks for ways to escape, she sometimes wished she and her mother were dead and it would all be over. Occasionally, Connie and her mother would somehow get along long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee, but something would always come up, a fly buzzing around or her mother getting on the phone with her sisters showing disapproval toward Connie and approval toward June. Like Jig, who figured the only way to close her conversation with the man was to tell him that she felt fine, Connie was looking for a way out. Paying close attention to the music that filled her room and being engulfed in a glow of slow-pulsed joy that seemed to rise mysteriously Connie finally realized that her escape was as simple as opening her eyes to all the things around her and realizing the only way to escape was to step right out into the land she had never seen before.

The other thing that makes these two ladies very much alike is how secretive they are about their true feelings. In Hills Like White Elephants, Jig seems to be revealing her true thoughts about the operation, but actually she's just trying to get the man to stop talking. She tries several different tactics, like, saying what she thinks he wants to hear, offering him more drinks, and describing how the hills look. We see this same display of secrecy in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, when Connie would often complain, "She makes me want to throw up sometimes," to her friends about her mother. Her mother even tried to pick whom her friends were, asking, "What's this about the Pettinger girl?" making sure Connie drew thick lines between herself and girls like that. Still, no one knew just how much pressure Connie was under.

In conclusion, I think it is important to understand that weather or not Jig went through with the operation or if Connie's suicide was a solution, is irrelevant. I think that it is valuable to see that regardless who or where we are, we all must cope with life's issues and that most of the time these issues are forced upon us by those people closest to us. Connie and Jig are going through different situations, yet come to the same conclusion that escape is their most desired outcome. In the meantime they both settle for ways to just simply ease the pain.

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