Time and physical setting
Published in 1927, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway is probably meant to take place in the 1920s during a summer’s day.. The action of the story – the dialogue between the characters – takes places over less than an hour.
Though not exactly precise, the physical setting is the only element that the narrator depicts with details. The broad setting is Spain. The specific setting is a train station’s bar, somewhere between Barcelona and Madrid, close to the Ebro River.
The setting is described on various scales, from the broader picture of the landscape with “long and white” (p. 475, l. 1) hills to the specific details of the bar with a curtain “made of strings of bamboo beads” (p. 475, l 4). The atmosphere is almost suffocating, perhaps representing the girl’s sense of lack of alternatives: “On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun.” (p. 475, ll. 1-2)
The physical setting is also depicted using contrasts. One the one hand, there are the snowy hills, on the other hand, there is the country which is “brown and dry” (p. 475, l. 18) and has valleys filled with “fields of grains and trees” (p. 477, l. 23). This...