Thursday, June 27, 2013

Writing for Whitey, Part II

She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.
That – aside from the appellations of “The American” and “Jig” the girl – is the only character description offered in Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” a perfect story to analyze as we take a look at the importance of race in writing.
Of what race are these people? Hemingway doesn’t tell us.
Is it important?
Read the story here.
Hemingway’s story is famous for its understatement – it’s agreed among literary geniuses that the “operation” the two are talking about is an abortion, but the word is never used. Even that is left up to the imagination of the reader, as is whether or not it’s ever done. It’s meant as a recreation of a mundane conversation one could overhear in any public place, the deepest meaning and outcome known only to the two speakers.
But does the story change if the American is, say, white, not black? Or that the woman is also an American – she can’t be a Spaniard; she doesn’t understand the language; another clue we have but a clue so ambiguous it’s nearly useless.
No, the story does not change.

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