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Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” Essay Sample

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Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” Essay Sample

The short story “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway seems absurd reading it for the first time. It is a story of an American man and a woman who are discussing about some things while waiting for a train bound to Madrid at a train station in the Ebro Valley. Their discussion included the hills across the valley looking like white elephants and a certain operation that the woman is going to undertake. But while what kind of operation they are talking about, the woman seems uneasy about taking it. It does not say explicitly in the story what the operation is all about but it does imply it has something to do with the man and the woman’s relationship. Reading it carefully the second time, what the operation is all about becomes apparent. It is about getting rid of something that has bothered, at the very least, the man and is affecting their relationship in a negative way. “That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy,” the man said. The fact that the man operation is something that the woman, not the man, has to undergo. The operation is about getting rid of something at an attempt to save and that was at the same time the result of their relationship—the result of irresponsible sex—an unwanted child. The operation the man and the woman are discussing is abortion.

Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endings”

Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endings” relates different set possibilities from an original plot that all ends in a similar fashion—that is, the characters eventually die. At the end of the selection, Atwood wrote that all stories have one particular and authentic ending—that the characters eventually die. Atwood wrote: “So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun.” This statement says a lot. In most situations, endings are sad or cuts some source of happiness short—the end of celebrations, the end of a relationship, saying goodbyes, death—while beginnings, most of the time, provides a possibility for happiness. However, Atwood is quick to add that the most important parts of any story are what occur in between the beginning and the ending. It is also important to note the how and the why the events occur. True to Atwood’s point, everyone that was born will eventually die, and it is most probable that our parents were excited when we were born. But what matters most is when we were born or when will we die. What matters most is how we live our lives, what we do during our lifetime, and how we achieve the end.

Gildner’s “Sleepy Time Gal”

Gary Gildner’s short story “Sleepy Time Gal” tells the story of a man named Phil who fell in love with a woman who was the daughter of a rich man. Phil was just a poor fellow living at the time of depression. He has not even graduated in high school because of poverty. The woman’s father would not want Phil for his daughter, but the woman fell in love with Phil anyways. As a result of his love, Phil was able to compose a song for her which people convince him to take to Bay City, which was to say that the song could make a fortune for Phil. It turned out that the song became famous, but the credits did not go to Phil.

He had sold the song for $25 only, but when a famous singer sang it, it sold millions of copy. Phil was reluctant to bring that song to bay city because he wrote it for his girlfriend, but sold it eventually when he learned that his girlfriend had married another man—a man that was like her father who is rich, not like Phil who was a victim of poverty. While the ending is sad, the message of the story was not how the story ends. The ending is just a small portion of the story. Much of the story told is about what happened to the characters to reach that ending and the question that was left to the readers was not about the ending, but what would they have done if they were in the place of the characters. With this, it is important to note that the ending depends entirely in what happens in between the beginning and the ending. It was the effect of a cause and that it is always important in story-telling the cause why the story ended as such.

Kincaid’s “Girl”

I am not really sure whether Jamaica Kincaid’s work entitled “Girl” is a short story at all. It is just composed of lines that mostly begin by the phrase “this is how to.” In short, the work is composed of the beginning of a series of instructions. I say beginning because the instructions were not included at all. Apparently, two figures were speaking in this literary piece, but most of the talking was made by a dominant person—perhaps a mother to her daughter. The daughter only said two lines, one of which goes unnoticed. The other line spoken by the daughter, which was stated as a “what if” question, surprised her mother.

The question surprised the mother because the situation specified by the girl would become possible only if and when the girl goes to be “the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread,” which was the kind of girl the mother warned her daughter not to be like. This was the end of the work. It was as if to leave to the readers what happens next. Would the girl grow up to be the slut her mother warned her about? Would it be because of her mother always bragging that she is bent on becoming a slut? There was nothing at all to tell a story. Only a short dialogue between mother and daughter that does not say a story at all.

Frustration in Mirikitani’s “Suicide Note”

Janice Mirirkitani’s poem entitled “Suicide Note” relates the frustration experienced by a woman due to her failures in life. It was written such that it was a note for her parents about committing suicide , as is obvious in the title. Throughout the poem, the speaker said phrases such as “not good enough,” “not pretty enough,” “not strong enough,” and “not good enough” which all express frustrations. While the speaker apologized for being a disappointment to her family, she said that she has not committed any shortcomings by neglect of duties. She expressed that she “worked very hard” but that all her efforts were “not good enough.”

The speaker wished she were a boy instead, who could give pride for making her father’s dreams for her come true. She expressed that males have strong hands “worthy of work and comfort” that would enable her to “swagger through life / muscled and bold and assured, / drawing praises to me / like currents in the bed of wind, virile / with confidence.” That she was born a woman not strong enough to carry the work that would give honor to her family is a frustration for her. She reasoned that “Tasks do not come easily. / Each failure a glacier. / Each disapproval, a bootprint. / Each disappointment, / ice above my river.” I on my part does not approve of suicide. No matter how difficult the road may be, it does matter whether we triumph or not. What matter is that we fought hard and well, without surrender. That is a success in life altogether. To be able to get through the storm until we took the very last of our breaths.

Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”

Adam Zagajewski convinces his readers to remember the good times in times of peril in his poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World.” Throughtout the poem, Zagajewski worte about beautiful pictures, ones that “contrast a mutilated world.” He said to remember the long days of June. June is summertime, a time where children play outside or go on vacation, a time where trees and flowers thrive. Zagajewski wrote about the stylish yachts and ships. But while he specified that some of them will will be forgotten in time, one will have a long trip ahead of it, implying a feat that will be remembered through time.

Zagajewski wrote: “Remember the moments when we were together / in a white room and the curtain fluttered.” This was the image of serenity, where two people share their love. I imagine this to happen in a bright morning where the cool breeze of air slowly enters their curtained window. Zagajewski called on the readers to “return in thought to the concert where music flared.” Music is the language of the soul, and where music flared, souls are celebrating, as if singing songs of praise. In the end Zagajewski wrote “Praise the mutilated world / and the grey feather a thrush lost, / and the gentle light that strays and vanishes / and returns” hinting that while the good times seem to be lost, it will someday return and that should give men hope.

Deborah Garrison’s “Please Fire Me”

Deborah Garrison’s poem “Please Fire Me” is another poem about the frustration of women living in a man’s world. At the start of the poem, Garrison immediately sounded frustrated at having another “alpha male” coming into the picture. The frustration is perhaps not getting the attention to be promoted for years of hard labor because she is a female. Furthermore, her frustration is highlighted by the fact that other females seem impressed by the success of the “alpha male.” She wrote: “the little silly hens / clatter back and forth / on quivering claws and raise / a titter about the fuss.”

It does not do good to the image of the women when the “alpha male” goes on to charm the “little silly hens” “pantsless at lunch.” With her frustration, the speaker stated that she is “through with the working world” surrendering in a world dominated by men. At the end of the poem, the speaker related that she would like to go someplace else entirely, which might suppose to mean where women are given fair chance of success, free from discrimination. A place where women are not living under the shadow of men—where men and women are equal.

Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story written as if it was a series of journal entries by a certain woman and the first thing that comes into mind after reading the selection is that of sexual discrimination. The woman in the story apparently suffers from some illness. What this illness is was not really explained in the story, but the woman’s husband, who is a physician, diagnosed it as a “temporary nervous depression” and confined her into a room in the upper floor of an old colonial mansion.

Perhaps due to her illness and her solitude, she fancies a lot of things about the old house which her husband would not have any of. In the room, she cannot help but notice the wallpaper she described as having the color of “the strangest yellow” which makes her think of all the yellow things she ever saw—“not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.” Throughout the story, the woman related how her husband displays an apparent lack of care and compassion towards her feelings. She wrote “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” When her husband knew about how she felt towards the wallpaper, he hesitated replacing it, believing that she was letting it get the better of her—“and nothing was worst for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.”

Mother-Daughter Relationship in “I Stand Here Ironing”

Tillie Olsen’s short story entitled “I Stand Here Ironing” relates the relationship of a mother to her first-born daughter. The daughter, named Emily, displayed attitudes that was caused by her insecurities from her childhood experiences with her mother, who was the narrator in the story. Emily’s insecurities is also a product of her comparing herself with her siblings, most especially Susan, the narrator’s second child. The mother explained that Emily displayed a “corroding resentment” towards Susan. Susan is described as “golden and curly-haired and chubby, quick and articulate and assured, everything in appearance Emily was not.” Apparently, the mother failed to give sufficient attention to Emily, something which she was able to provide with her other children. This lack of attention was due to the fact that the mother is apparently raising Emily alone, working hard for them to be together.

The mother sent her to a nursery where bullying was rampant and she becoming a victim to it. While the mother knew that leaving her child in that nursery was not doing her child any good, she had no choice as it was the only way she could work and that they could be together. Emily was also sent to a convalescent home where she grew thin because the home provides “runny eggs for breakfast or mush with lumps.” Emily felt farther and father away from her mother that she pushes back at times when her mother embraces her. Emily’s insecurities may have also been caused by the fact that, while being the first-born, she also has a different father than the other siblings. The mother also felt the feeling of helplessness in the proper rearing of her first-born. The mother said, after realizing the talents Emily possessed, “You ought to do something about her with a gift like that—but without money or knowing how, what does one do?”

The flaw in the mother-daughter relationship is revealed at the beginning of the narration, where the mother is being asked to talk to someone, perhaps a school representative, it is really unclear as to who was asking her to come, to talk about Emily. It is apparent that the mother displays a lack of effort to give attention to her child, which is first and foremost what matters in any relationship. The narrator said: “Even if I came, what good it would do?” Ignoring the invitation to talk about their daughter is like ignoring her responsibilities to her child which was emphasized by what the mother herself confessed—that Emily was “a child of anxious, not proud, love.” In the end, the mother stated in surrender about her child: “She is a child of her age, of depression, of war, of fear. Let her be. So all that is in her will not bloom—but in how many does it? There is still enough to live by. Only help her to know—help make it so there is cause for her to know—that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron.”

Absurdities in John Updike’s “A&P”

I am not really sure what John Updike is trying to say in his short story “A&P” but it related some absurdities that may happen in real life. The story is about a person named Sammy who is working for the A & P operating one of the cash registers. It so happened that one day three girls went to the store only in bathing suits that even their feet were naked. The beach were miles off from where the story took place. Finding that what the girls are doing is indecent, the manager confronted them in front of the other shoppers, some of whom were feasting at the sight of three young ladies only in bathing suit. Sammy thought that what the manager did was not proper which, as he reasoned, embarrassed the three ladies. As a result, he quit his job. This, I believe, is perhaps the greatest absurdity a person could do in his life—to ruin your own life without a purpose.

Sammy resigned his position because of the three ladies, who were doing something mischievous. Mischievous, I say, because there was no purpose in flaunting their beach bodies in a town where there is no beach. It would have been understandable if the store was near a beach, but no, there was no beach for miles. If the ladies just wanted to give some excitement to the town, they could have done so in another manner. Something with purpose, even if its just for aesthetics. Something like organizing a beauty contest. There is nothing wrong with having a little fun as long as its clean fun. While what the ladies did may not be considered as “dirty,” it is definitely something naughty. What happened between the ladies and the store’s manager is not worth Sammy losing his job.

He needs the job to continue his studies and help his family. Sammy may just acted too soon, but the manager gave him a chance to take back his decision to quit the job. Sammy turned down this generous offer which was a gesture of understanding on the manager’s part and proves to be another absurd decision by Sammy. He reasoned that “once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with it.” While there is some virtue in this line of reasoning, it seems to me that what is really holding people back from reconsidering an obvious mistake in decision making is pride. Pride could sometimes be an absurd virtue in decision making and often proves to be the hubris of most men, if not all.

Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B”

The poem “Theme for English B” is another poem by Langston Hughes written about the height of the Civil Rights movement. In the poem, Hughes related a story where an English instructor asked the speaker to write a one page paper. The instructor advised to “let that page come out of you– / Then, it will be true.” As an African-American, the speaker chose to write about their struggle for equality with the white. The speaker related how he, an African-American, like other races, likes “to eat, sleep, drink and be in love. I like to work, read, learn, and understand life,” specifying that they are humans just like everyone else.

The speaker said that “being colored doesn’t make me NOT like the same things other folks like who are other races.” The speaker wrote as a response to the instructor: “You are white— / yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. / That’s American. / Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me. / Nor do I often want to be a part of you. / But we are, that’s true.” These are all what those who fight for equality of rights between colored people and the white are arguing. The equality of rights has already been a long struggle, a lot o blood has also already been shed, and until now, there are still traces of racism where some people believe they are superior than others. More civilized perhaps, but still made of the same flesh and bone.

Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues”

Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” is another poem written about the struggles of African-American in a world dominated by white people. The poem evokes a mournful tone which reflects the feelings of African-Americans in their struggle against racism. It relates a story of the speaker hearing another African-American playing the blues one evening down on Lenox Avenue. Even the ambiance of the place is describes as melancholy. “By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light,” the speaker narrated. The mournful tone is emphasized by the speaker with phrases such as the piano player making “that poor piano moan with melody” and playing “that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.” The player’s song also includes lyrics that says “I wish that I had died” highlighting the mournful tone of the song. While the blues reflects a mournful tone and melancholy, the author still referred to is as a “sweet.” The blues, after all, is a genre in music invented by the African-Americans which reflects their identities.

Butler Yeats and the Second Coming of Christ

Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” relates to the Christian doctrine of the second coming of Jesus Christ. The poem is composed of two stanzas, the first of which describes the chaos that calls for the second coming. Yeats used the image of a falcon who is flying away to the falconer which may be interpreted as man turning away from God. With this, Yeats wrote that “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned.” This is a picture of chaos, where “things fall apart.” The lost of innocence is associated with sin, and evil becomes rampant when innocence is drowned. Yeats highlighted the chaos that resulted from man turning away from God by stating that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” The best refers to leaders and intellectuals whose lack of action and conviction stirs up the worst, which refers to the mob.

The second stanza relates to the second coming. Yeats started it by stating that, with all the chaos that is happening to the world, “Surely some revelation is at hand; / Surely the Second Coming is at hand.” The New Testament includes prophecies about the second coming. Yeats compared Christ with the Sphinx—that which has a head of a man but a lion’s body. This picture symbolizes the perfect harmony of intellect, emotion and conviction that is apparent to Christ.

Having a man’s head, Yeats characterized Christ with all the virtues of a man, which God created in his own image, and that includes the emotions of humans. By giving an image of a lion’s body, Yeats characterized Christ as one with conviction, determined to do what he is meant to do, and that is to return harmony to the world by saving the virtuous from the evil. This is due to the fact that the second coming of Christ is closely associated with the final judgment. Yeats described Christ as having “A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun” which all the more emphasizes Christ’s wisdom and anger with how the world has become due to man’s turning away from God.

William Blake’s “The Tyger”

“The Tyger” by William Blake is one of the most prominent poems often recited by primary school students. The poem is not so much about the tiger but more of its creator and has religious meaning. Being a creature of the night that is fierce and frightening at the same time, Blake used the tiger to illustrate the darker side of creation. In contrast to the lamb, which Blake has another poem about and is also mentioned in “The Tyger,” the tiger is something to be feared, to the point that it symbolizes evil. Blake asked a series of question about its creator, one of which compares the tiger’s creator with that of the lamb’s.

Blake asked: “Did he who make the Lamb make thee?” which emphasizes the difference in their characteristics and reflect the creators virtues. It was as if asking whether one who created such a creature that symbolizes meekness and purity could also create something that was the exact opposite of it. Blake also asked: “Did he smile his work to see?” which was really asking whether the tiger’s creator was satisfied with such kind of work—to create a creature that was fearsome, that thrives in the darkness of the forest and preys on other weaker creatures. The series of questions was highlighted by the question of what kind of a creator could create such a creature as the tiger. But while the tiger is a creature to be feared, it is also a creature of beauty and grace.

John Donne’s “The Flea”

As if poems are easily understood unless analyzed carefully, John Donne’s “The Flea” was written in Old English, which makes it more difficult to understand. To analyze the poem, one must first analyze how the words translate to modern English. After that, it will be easier to understand. The poem is about the speaker convincing to another person, perhaps a lover, to have sex. The speaker states that through the flea, which has bitten them both, their two bloods have mingled, something which the one who is spoken to denies to the speaker. It must be noted that when two people have sex, their bloods are mingled and they become one. At least that is what religion preaches. The speaker, believing that the flea has already married them by joining their bloods, asked that they do the act. Furthermore, the speaker asked that they should not kill the flea, since, the speaker says, “the flea is you and I.”

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