“Hills like White Elephants” and “Good People”
Lane in David Wallace’s “Good People” and the Man fromHemmingway’s short story “Hills like White Elephant” are bothpolar opposites. The man in Hemmingway’s “White Elephants”tries to manipulate the relationship with his girlfriend byincessantly assuring her that everything will fall into place ifcould do an abortion and that she only had all the right to chooseotherwise but only that he would not guarantee their stay together.On the other hand, Lane Dean’s “Good People” is the actualopposite and all this stays in his head since he chooses not toconvince his girlfriend to everything would be fine only if shefollows her heart and does what she wants.
Again, he cares so much about her that he chooses not to comfort hersince it could only make things worse. In Hemmingway’s “WhiteElephants”, the relationship of the two unnamed characters isevidently strained and it is clear that it could be hard for them torevert it back to normal their breakup is inevitable. In Lane Dean’s“Good People”, he comes to realize that he is not aware of whattrue love is. He only believes that solution for her situation is toagree to both take care of the child. From the two short stories,although both the men find themselves in the same situation, Dean hasa better chance of working it out with his girlfriend that of theother man in “White Elephants”.
The time where the American and Jig in “White Elephants” arelikely to be the end of their time being together, Sheri and Lanehave the potential to be on their way into a brighter better future.To begin with, the American is described as hedonistic in nature.Both he and Jig seems to be directed and pushed over by whim untilJig becomes pregnant. It is clear that the love that both have foreach other depends on the quality of their good time rather than witheach other. On the hand, Lane is a staunch Christian who quotesobscure verses frequently. He and Sheri seem to have the samerelationship to that of Jig and the American however, the ending of“Good People” leaves Lane Dean with a revelation which shows thebeginning of a deep relationship (Hemingway 42).
From Nilofer Hashami’s Jilting of the Jig triggers a lot ofdifferent resolutions for Jig and the American that is based on theirdecision to either have an abortion or not. This became a conflictthat often acts as a catalyst for the possibility of a breakup to oneanother. As the stretch between the American and Jig becomesevident, their relationship heads down on a one-sided road to ruins.Their debate over possible abortion triggers the American and Jig tosplit up inevitable while that of Lane and Sheri strengthens morethan before. In “White Elephants,” the American will inevitablylet go of their relationship whether or not his girlfriend will havean abortion or not. Their relationship seems to be working out on thesurface and they seem to be quietly chatting about the possibility ofmaking a decision rather than argue loudly about it. She seems toeven show signs of love and compassion to her boyfriend, “Shesmiled at him” (Hemingway 67). The quietness of their discussionoriginates from the aggressive yet passive nature of their argument.Hashami points out that a woman smile is enough to create holes inthe statement that she does not feel anything for the American. “Asingle smile is not evident enough to give reason to cast doubt onthe interpretation…but again this is Hemmingway” (Hemingway 121).
However, when the smile if noticed in the context of the story, itis evident that it does not originate directly from the American butfrom the waitress and it can only be transferred to the American.“The girl brightly smiled towards the woman to thank her… shereturned the smile” (Hemingway 189). It is evidently that theirrelationship is solely based around alcohol and sex. “That’severything we do, right? Look at all the things and try a few drinks”(Hemingway 299). It tension that is their between the American andhis girlfriend is clear through the way they have a conversation “IfI ever do it, won’t you ever worry?” “I won’t worry about itsince it’s perfectly easy.” (Hemingway 289 This kind of dialoguesuggests that the issue is very sensitive they could not even talkabout loud and that every conversation they have is about argumentsand not resolution of conflict. They covered their conflict with asmall talk that sounded like a reasonable conversation with rounds ofdrinks and smiles.
Towards the end, she climaxes it by begging, “would you pleasestop talking?” (Hemingway 301) Her exasperation with his boyfriendhas reached a point where she just wants to stop talking. On thehand, her boyfriend simply replies “It’s perfectly simple.” Herefers to the abortion has “it” by distancing himself from theemotional aspect. By taking the matter has just simple signifiesgreat about their relationship. It appears to be very simple smalltalk but it actually a tense conflict over her getting an abortion.Otherwise, the American wants to assume that this relationship issimple and that it is easy to solve the issue, when that is not thecase. This relationship might appear like everything is perfectlyfine and that nothing is wrong, but by looking extensively on thedetails of their conversation, it reveals that it would not last forlong.
David Wallace’s Good People on the other hand has a sweeterending than that of Ernest Hemmingway’s Hill like WhiteElephants. Unlike the case of Jig, Sheri’s pregnancy is much atstake than only the relationship. It is not about whether she’llkeep the child but rather will his boyfriend stay with her. To beginwith, her religion forbids an abortion. Again, carrying the child toterm could also be a mark of her sinful act of premarital sex. Heimagines her depriving him of any responsibility that comes alongwith the child, “that Sheri knows he does not love her… and thatit is okay. She has to carry this… and not make a single claim tohis boyfriend” (David 355). As much it sounds like a self-takenfantasy, Lane realizes that he has sympathy for Sheri if it couldcome to this. By pitying her, he cared about her even more and herealizes he might after all love her. The turning point happens whenout of his thought’s, she puts her hands across his shoulder andthey turn to face each other. All this time, both Sheri and Lane arecompletely silent and still. According to David (362), it isimportant to realize that all this things has been happening insideLane’s head and that it is the only sensible thing that hasgenuinely happened. Until that point, he has not even tried tocomfort her since earlier on he had believed any physical contactwith her would be considered inappropriate for that particularsituation. He goes on to narrate in a design that could be aconsidered more of a statement than asking a question. “what if hewas only afraid… what to pray for is not even love but just asimple courage, to trust his heart and meet both his eyes” (David389). Lane did not have to pray for love since he already possessedit. Instead, he ought to have prayed for courage to realize that heloved Sheri.
Seri and Lane’s relationship will continue since he realizes thathe loves her unlike that Jig and the American will go separate wayseven if Jig aborts or not. How could we say that the American and Jigwill go different ways yet they seem to have meaningful conversationthan that of Lane and Sheri? To begin with, Jig and the Americanconversation are considered a passive aggressive argument (David546), which reveals that there is nothing meaningful in therelationship. On the other hand, Sheri and Lane says nothing betweenthe two of them but Lane is considered as an epiphany that realizeshe is deeply in love with one another. However, since we are told thestory from Lane’s perspective, we are not told how Sheri felt forhim but there is a high chance that she feels the same way to be withhim in the first place. Again, she is obligated to stay with Lanesince that could be the only way she could save face from shame inthe society. The only evidence of her physical attraction to Lane isat the end of the story where she says that, “For it was at thismoment he felt her two strong soft hands on his.” Based on thiskind of action, we can safely yet easily assume that Sheri feels thesame way as Lane. On the other hand, the conflict between theAmerican and Jig reveals how shallow their relationship is, while theconflict in David’s Good People demonstrates just strong thelove between Sheri and Lane is.
In addition, the women in both the short stories possess bothdifferences and similarities. They have been impregnated accidentlyand both want to have an abortion. In “White Elephants,” thefemale character is repeatedly referred to have a girl while manremains a man. This could possibly suggest a difference in age,immaturity or weakness. She says that she could possibly go throughwith it if things could return to normal however, the way sheconverse with her boyfriend shows that it is hard for things torevert back to normal. The woman in the “Good People” saysnothing. Instead, we imagine her through Lane’s thoughts where wenotice that there was no way out other than with lane.
In conclusion, The Hills like White Elephants and the GoodPeople both are characterized with similar theme of childbirthand abortion however, the similarity ceases from there since theydiffer greatly on other themes, for example, the theme of religionand love. It is clear that in Hemmingway’s story, the charactersexperience a strained relationship and that breaking up ininevitable. On the other hand, in the Good People, Lanerealizes that he love Sheri and that by doing so, he offers hope forthe future.
David, Wallace. "Good People." The Story and ItsWriter: An Introduction to Short Fiction. By Ann ChartersBoston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin`s, 2011. 1341-346. Print.
Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills Like White Elephants." TheStory and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. By AnnCharters. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin`s, 2011. 539-42. Print.