1. What are the two main characters actually talking about, and how do you know this?
The plot of Hemingway's 'Hills Like White Elephants' centres on a conversation held between a man 'The American' and a woman 'The Girl', whilst at a train station between two major cities in Spain. They are discussing an unplanned pregnancy. Although the words 'baby' and 'abortion' are purposely omitted from the discussion (to emphasise miscommunication) the author effectively conveys the subject through the use of symbolism and articulate dialogue. The dialogue suggests the man is pressuring the woman to have some sort of operation: 'It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig', he goes on to say: 'It's just to let the air in'. Powerful imagery, in particular the title, alludes to the nature of the operation. Hills are symbolic of a woman's body when pregnant, 'white elephants' personify the child. The American means for Jig, as he calls her, to have an abortion as he does not want to give up his freedom: 'I only want you [Jig]'. In his opinion, 'it's the one thing that's made us [them] unhappy.' The woman however remains ambivalent.
2. Comment on the significance of the title.
The title 'Hills Like White Elephants' is effectively a simile within a Symbol. In the story, Jig comments on the hills in the background: 'they look like white elephants'. On a literal level the hills probably do look like white elephants, contrasted against the barren land. Symbolically she is associating 'white elephants', a term used to describe a precious burden, with the hills, symbolic of a pregnant woman's stomach and swollen breasts.