Essay: Hills Like White Elephants and M. Butterfly Comparison

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Hills Like White Elephants & M. Butterfly Comparison

M. Butterfly and "Hills Like White Elephants"

The man' and 'the girl.' Through these identifying monikers alone it should be obvious why the short story by Ernest Hemingway entitled "Hills like White Elephants" would be a favorite of Rene Gallimard, the hero of David Hwang's drama M. Butterfly. Gallimard is fascinated with the culture of China, or rather the Chinese culture as constructed by Westerners like Puccini, the 19th century author of the opera Madame Butterfly. Gallimard, rather insecure about his own masculinity, desires a female very different than his French wife -- he wants a woman who is passive and yielding. He thinks an Asian woman is ideal to 'fit the bill.' But what Gallimard really desire is a female impersonation rather than a real female, which is why his unintentional tryst with a male in a woman's attire is such a fitting fate for him.

However, the Hemingway short story reveals that not all men are similarly punished as Gallimard, even though they may treat women in an equally false fashion. The story "Hills Like White Elephants" is about a 'man' and a 'girl,' a vulnerable, young pregnant girl who is being pressured into getting an abortion by her evidently older, more dominant male lover. The 'girl' agrees with 'the man,' even though she is afraid and evidently does not want the abortion. She is going alone because her lover tells her that it is necessary for their relationship to continue. She begs him to say that if she does get an abortion than things will be all right between the two of them again. All she cares about, more than her own dignity, even her own pleasure or future, is her relationship with the man. This makes the girl the ideal woman in Gallimard's eyes, even though Hemingway the author seems to cast the relationship between the man and the girl in a slightly darker and more sadomasochistic fashion than would Gallimard, if Rene were authoring the story "Hills Like White Elephants." There are many negative allusions by Hemingway to how much alcohol girl and the man drink, for instance -- one of the things the girl weakly says that they can look forward to is trying new drinks, once she has the abortion.


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Hills Like White Elephants and M. Butterfly Comparison.  (2008, December 13).  Retrieved November 13, 2019, from

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"Hills Like White Elephants and M. Butterfly Comparison."  December 13, 2008.  Accessed November 13, 2019.