Symbolic Imagery in the Works Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Waiting is a critical aspect in this story and there are several images that point to this notion. Walls, doors and clocks are powerful images. Arthur Waldhorn believes that the walls are significant symbols in "The Killers." They represent an "irresistible obstacle" (Waldhorn 37) which "adds to the total image of terror without becoming an effect for its own sake" (37). They are symbols of the prison in which Ole lives. He has no choice in this world and, as a result, nowhere to go. On the other hand, the door proves to be a symbol of hope and the future for Nick. Hal Blythe believes the doors are a "passages through what appear to be barriers" (Blythe). Blythe states that Hemingway "laced his narrative with the door motif to suggest that Nick is free to make choices" (Blythe). The images in this story are powerful because they seem to mirror the very characters to which they are attached. Ole is trapped, or at least he feels trapped, and thus, the walls are the perfect imagery for his circumstance. They keep him trapped and paralyzed. The door best represents Nick's circumstance because he has a choice and feels compelled to use the opportunity the door brings before it is too late. The imagery in this story is perfect because it corresponds with the characters precisely.

In the short story, "Hills Like White Elephants," we see imagery that represents change and chaos. Similar to "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," we have mountains that represent something else. In this case, they cause the girl to think of elephants because of their color but Hemingway had a deeper symbol in mind. While the mountains are generally seen as positive images, the vision that Jig sees when she looks at them is another story. The elephants she sees are symbols of difficulty and hardship, which represent her current circumstance. White elephants were something of a rarity and thus not used or treated as typical elephants. They became burdens because they cost more to maintain than anything else. While lovely and rare, they were useless other than their visual aspect. This image represents Jig's situation. She is facing a situation that is rare but one that would destroy her relationship with the father. If she decides to have the baby, she will undoubtedly lose him. He is not willing to settle down and he has no intention of giving in. He wants the carefree life they have always had and is trying to convince her that an abortion is no big deal. The hills are in the distance just as her unborn baby lies in the unforeseen future and he does not want any part of those hills or that future. Jig, presented with a new perspective of life, begins to resent the old one in which all the couple did was "look at things and try new drinks" (Hemingway Hills Like White Elephants 1391). While the baby is a white elephant to him, their lifestyle has become a white elephant to her. The unborn baby changes everything and the things that once were can never be anymore. Even if she has the abortion, things will never be the same between them. Their more immediate setting symbolizes the chaotic atmosphere that has suddenly become them. In addition, the train symbolizes the need for a decision. Jig cannot ride the fence, so to speak, forever. She must make a choice and the tracks symbolize the two very different worlds on either side.

In the novel, The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway uses imagery to symbolize manhood. Jake is primarily affected by this symbolism since he is the one man in the novel that struggles with issues of manhood. Images of the steer and bull are peppered throughout the novel to constantly remind the reader of this conflict. Jake can relate to the steer because of his injury but the other men in his life are like bulls because they are concerned with manhood and what it means to them and those around them. Cohn claims, "it's no life being a steer" (141) right before he follows Brett around "like a steer" (141). Mike is convinced that it is better to be considered a bull than a steer because steers are not allowed to enjoy the glory that bulls do. In the novel, bulls are the more attractive of the two but Hemingway wants to show the reader others aspects of these animals. The imagery associated with bulls is primarily positive but readers may often see Jake as a steer yet he is clearly the better of these men. He does not act like a steer while Mike and Cohn argue all the time. They are actually arguing to establish their manhood, an area where they perceive Jake as a failure. They fail in being real men while Jake emerges as the better of the three. Jake is not perceived as a threat, so he is the steer of the bunch but it should be noted that the bulls, Mike and Cohn behave like children not men. In this novel, the images associated with manhood are important because it is something that Jake can never escape. He feels like less of a man around these two men but the only thing they can do that he cannot is sexual in nature and has nothing to do with the true character of a man at all.

Ernest Hemingway accomplished much for having a reputation of being of few words. Symbolic imagery is significant in his stories and what makes these images work is Hemingway's ability to not draw attention to them. In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," the imagery of Harry dying in the landscape of his youth is powerful. His physical death is symbolized by the gangrene and his physical death symbolizes the spiritual death that he experienced so many years before. The image of the mountain is also significant because Harry can at least return to his happier days through this visage. Helen is the hyena that has literally consumed him over the years. Images of death are powerful in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" as the older men come to grips with what awaits them. The cafe symbolizes the last and dying few nice places for these men to place themselves where they are not reminded of how lonely they have become. "The Killers" also deals with death but in a very different way. The walls and the door are powerful images in that they symbolize death and life respectively. Life teetering on the edge of change becomes the topic in "Hills Like White Elephants" when Jig is caught between two worlds. The hills are the most powerful image, symbolizing the burden her life not only has in its future but has already become. In The Sun Also Rises, imagery of manhood is symbolized through the bull and steer. These examples represent the Hemingway's diversity as an author as well as his ability to think outside the box when it comes to symbolic imagery. Without drawing attention to his imagery, they still become symbols that reflect the very heart and nature of his characters.

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