Critical Analysis of "Hills Like White Elephants"

by Ernest Hemingway

Analysis by Fred Edwards


Semiotics is the study of signs. It involves the study of signs and anything that stands for something else. From this definition it can be seen that semiotics is able to be applied within many disciplines. Signs include images, sounds, objects and words.

Semioticians study how meanings are made and are concerned with the relationship between the sign and it's meaning.

Semiotics is often used in analyzing texts and investigates connotative meanings.

A semiotician emphasizes the importance of the significance which a reader attaches to signs within a text.

For something to qualify as a sign it must have physical form(word and text included) and must refer to something other than itself and others must recognize the fact that the sign represents something else.

Each sign is made up of the signifier(form which the sign takes) and the signified(concept or meaning it represents).

So in a nutshell semiotics looks at this story from a symbolic point of view looking at the signs used and their connotative meanings.

"Hills Like White Elephants" contains many signs.

A casual reading of Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" may leave the reader grasping for the main topic of the story. We see a couple engaged in conversation about going through with an operation and the effects it will have on their relationship. A reader- like myself- may not immediately key in on the fact that they are discussing the girl having an abortion. A look into Hemingway's use of symbols leaves no doubt at all of the topic of their conversation. His symbology compares fertility and barrenness mush like the decision being contemplated by the woman. In fact, many symbols used throughout the story reinforce this idea. Barrenness and fertility directly correspond to the life or death of the baby and the life and death of their relationship. Listed below is some of the symbology Hemingway uses and its connotative meaning. The reader his or herself can see how these meanings apply to and strengthen Hemingway's story.

Here are some signs that Hemingway employs: