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 Ernest Hemingway Message Boards : Men Without Women
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Posted: 02 September 2005 at 4:03pm | IP Logged Quote HemingwayCenter

In 1927 Ernest Hemingway was struggling to complete a short story collection which would later be published under the title "Men Without Women".  Two stories short, he decided to rework a sketch he had begun two years earlier which revolved around a man and woman discussing her getting an abortion. 

With a fresh perspective and a deadline looming, Hemingway completed the story and called it "Hills Like White Elephants."  It would eventually become one of his most famous and subtle stories, and would help solidify him as a master of the genre.  When it was first published though, it went relatively unnoticed, much to the chagrin of Hemingway who always felt it was one of his best stories.

In a 1933 letter to his famed editor Maxwell Perkins, Hemingway responded to a lackluster marketing effort for his books by his publisher Scribners, and took a shot at literary critics in the process.  He writes in his quick, non-punctuated letter writing style:  "The one they pick out as 'classic' Hills Like White Elephants not one damn critic thought anything of when it came out.  I always knew how good it was but I'll be goddamned if I like to have to say how good my stuff is in order to give the business office confidence enough to advertize it after they have read an unfavorable review and think I'm through.  So I won't.  Ever again."

Hemingway claimed "Hills Like White Elephants" was complete invention, countering the accusation from many of his contemporary critics that he was merely a great reporter, documenting the events of his life with an artistic flair.  This charge rankled Hemingway and followed him throughout his career.  He always tried to create a level of truth and reality in his writing that would give it lasting power.  To be certain, there were stories he said were straight reporting, but there were also stories that were complete fiction, and the fact that no one could tell the difference was, to Hemingway, a validation of his craftsmanship and talent.

Michael Reynolds, in his biography Hemingway:  The American Homecoming, compares "Hills Like White Elephants" with a passage from T.S. Eliot's Waste Land:

It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she
(She's had five already, and nearly died of
Young George.)
The chemist said it would be all right, but
I've never been the same.

Hemingway liked the idea of writing a story about abortion without actually mentioning it, and with "Hills Like White Elephants" he broached the controversial subject with unmatched subtlety.

Mark Wilson
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Posted: 02 September 2005 at 5:43pm | IP Logged Quote Pablo

       Ironically I read through "Men without Women" last week. The subject matter in "Hills Like White Elephants" is subtle yet very moving.  Decisions as such are very difficult to make regardless of the level of maturity or life experience one has. 

Pablo Ganador
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