In the story Hills Like White Elephants, the male character displays the features of Code Hero. Firstly, he likes travel and adventure, which is evidenced from numerous hotel labels stuck to his bags. His worry of losing his cherished freedom is one of the motivations for persuading his companion to undergo abortion. Although the word abortion is not explicitly used in the story, there is no doubt that the couple are discussing only that. The reference to the distant hills as White Elephants is a literary allusion to the unborn fetus the girl is carrying. In the story, the man comes across as stubborn about his views, although he pays lip service to convey the opposite view. He is also not very empathetic toward his girl’s feelings. He gives the impression that the decision to have or not have a child is simply a matter of convenience. That there could be sanctity attached to the life of the unborn baby, that his girl desires to have a child and experience motherhood, etc, are thoughts that he does not harbour.
Furthermore, the man’s concern is chiefly the degree of pain (or its absence) during the course of the abortion; and doesn’t seem to realize that it is his own potential child that is being terminated. This kind of attitude, which is believed to be a manifestation of masculinity, is also associated with the Code Hero. The insensitivity of the man in understanding the feelings of his girlfriend Jig is evident in the following heated dialogue that takes place in the bar attached to the railway station:
“‘You’ve got to realize,’ he said, ‘ that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.’ / ‘Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along.’ / ‘Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else. And I know it’s perfectly simple.’…/ ‘Would you do something for me now?’ / ‘I’d do anything for you.’ / ‘Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?’ / He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights. / ‘But I don’t want you to,’ he said, ‘I don’t care anything about it.’ / ‘I’ll scream,’ the girl said.” (Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants)
In conclusion, both characters discussed above show clear signs of the Hero Code that Hemingway inevitably crafts into all his stories. But it appears that the old man in A Clean Well Lighted Place is the more exemplary of the two, because he harms no one else and also maintains his dignity. By virtue of being unsympathetic (if not actually misogynistic) toward his girl Jig, the main character in Hills Like White Elephants is a watered down version of how Hemingway usually portrays his Code heroes.
Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants, retrieved from <http://www.gummyprint.com/blog/archives/hills-like-white-elephants-complete-story/>, retrieved on 8th December, 2010
Ernest Hemingway, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, retrieved from <http://www.mrbauld.com/hemclean.html> on 8th December, 2010
The Hemingway Code Hero, retrieved from <http://www.owatonna.k12.mn.us/Classroom/OHS/Language%20Arts/eeitrheim/Pre%20AP%209%20hemingway_code_hero.htm> on 8th December, 2010