I agree with an earlier answer that the place to start is with figuring out what you think the story means, and what the themes are. For me, the thing that is interesting about Hemingway is how, for all the focus on the directness and concreteness of his prose, most of the meaning of it is left unsaid. In the case of this story, it is mostly dialog, but in fact very little real communication...
I agree with an earlier answer that the place to start is with figuring out what you think the story means, and what the themes are. For me, the thing that is interesting about Hemingway is how, for all the focus on the directness and concreteness of his prose, most of the meaning of it is left unsaid. In the case of this story, it is mostly dialog, but in fact very little real communication is happening. There are many reactions one could have to these characters: Jig is being bullied, of course, but she is also fighting back in a passive aggressive way (“I don’t care about me,” she says when she gives in). There is an emptiness in their relationship; they are talking at each other, rather than to each other, and there is a kind of intractable quality to each of them. Someone described them as “decadent,” but to me these are people who realize that they have made a tremendous mistake but don’t want to admit it or face up to each other. I don’t mean the baby, but their lives.
So a thesis statement about symbolism in the story would need to account for this. I guess another way of thinking about a thesis would be to ask some questions: How does the setting of the story, or any of the descriptive details Hemingway provides, relate to this theme? Do these things contrast with this feeling of disconnectedness or reinforce it? Can these details be seen as ironic in any way? I think if you consider these questions, you can come up with a good thesis about how Hemingway uses the landscape as a way to comment on, and distance himself from, these characters.
Each thesis statement contains the author's name and the title of the story. ... Thesis: In Hemingway's “Hills Like White Elephants,” Jig's moment of decision ...
Task 1 Thesis Workshop Hills Like White Elephants Below are a series of examples of thesis statements, including the what and so what that I brainstormed. I want to point out a few overall things that can be helpful: • Each thesis statement contains the author’s name and the title of the story. Because “Hills” is a short story, the title goes in quotation marks rather than being underlined. • The language in the “what” and “so what” is informal—the only purpose is to make sure my thinking is clear. • The language in the thesis is tighter. I actually spend time crafting the thesis statement in a way that I think will work in the context of a paper. And I write it, as I will write my whole paper, in the academic register. We’ll talk more about those guidelines today in class. Example 1 What: Jig is at a moment of choice So what: the setting reflects the choice to her and makes her think about it more clearly Thesis: In Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” Jig’s moment of decision erupts in the precise place that will make her consider that decision most carefully.
Example 2 Notice that the same “what” and “so what” can make multiple different thesis statements, with slight spins in a variety of directions. What: Jig refuses to actually communicate her thoughts and feelings with the American. So what: Her refusal is a kind of power play that makes their conversation almost pointless. Thesis: In “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway uses Jig’s refusal to communicate as a way of highlighting the American’s powerlessness. Thesis: In “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway suggests that Jig’s ambiguous communication with the American is actually an effective power play.
Example 3 This thesis is a good example of one that takes a psychological angle, but avoids requiring me to do massive psychological research to support what I think. Notice how the so what pulls me back into the specific relationship in this specific text, rather than talking about male/female relationships in general. (Note: I’m not saying that the male/female relationships thing isn’t there—it is! Hemingway intended it that way, the cynical old dog. But I am saying that I don’t have the time/inclination to do the research I would have to do to make a larger thesis like that fly)
What: The American is trying really hard to persuade Jig to see things his way. So what: Suggests the power in the relationship between the couple rests firmly with Jig. Thesis: Hemingway uses the wheedling of the American man in “Hills Like White Elephants” to suggest that the power in his relationship with Jig is all Jig’s.
Example 4 Example four is really another way of approaching Example 1, but notice a) I have a different what that will direct the tone of my paper a bit more. b) I created a two-sentence thesis. That’s okay. Sometimes it doesn’t all fit! What: Jig knows that no matter what she decides about the baby, this is the end of her relationship with the American So what: She passively retreats from the conversation to engage with her own thoughts reflected in the setting around her. Thesis: Because she knows that her relationship with the American will not continue regardless of the decision she makes about the baby, Jig retreats from the conversation to engage with her own thoughts. Hemingway reflects these thoughts to readers by setting “Hills Like White Elephants” in a train station nestled between a wide, fertile valley and blank barren hills.