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I need help with a thesis for Hills Like White Elephants?


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Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” is, in many ways, a traditional Hemingway tale.  What we mean by that is that the story could be read in a somewhat misogynistic manner and one of the protagonists is some version of the great white hunter that plays such a recurring role in Hemingway’s stories. 

To determine a thesis for the essay, it is important to understand the short story.  First, the story is short.  In fact, it is only four pages long.  Second, the interactions in the story only cover a very short period of time- somewhere around 40 minutes.  Furthermore, the story is told almost entirely in dialogue.  By keeping the interaction between the people to this dialogue, the reader gets an almost voyeuristic feeling, like we are eavesdropping on a private conversation.

This notion helps lend to the ambiguity in the story.  In the conversation between the two characters, a girl, who is presumably not a child but a very young woman, and an older man, the man is trying to convince the girl to have a surgery.  Most critics and readers conclude that the surgery in question is an abortion.  However, there are some critics and readers who suggest that he is trying to pressure her to have another type of surgery, such as a rhinoplasty. 

You could structure a thesis on the idea of misogyny.  Whether he is pressuring her to have an abortion or to have another type of surgery, the man certainly appears to be threatening the woman’s autonomy.  That would be a safe and expected start for a thesis.  However, if you want to write a more literary essay, you could approach it from the context of Hemingway as a writer.  He believed stories could only present the tip of the iceberg for the characters.  Therefore, a good thesis would be Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” is a great example of his iceberg theory of writing, since the reader must use their imagination to fill in details about the story.

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