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Love in “Hills like White Elephants” and “The Importance of Being Earnest”

The Theme of Love in Poems

The theme of love is differently represented in the literary works by Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in terms of the meanings it embeds. In particular, the concept of love in the Hills Like White Elephants is confined to the extent of understanding between the man and the girl who express their reluctance to give birth to a child. There is also mentioning of the idea of relationship and how the protagonist understands the concept of love. In contrast, Wildes play refers to love as a general attitude of good admiration, intentions, and honest affection. Specifically, the hero chooses two identities Jack Worthing and Earnest to meet the demands of social norms. Although Ernest confesses that he is in love with Ms. Fairfax, the latter loves him because of his social position.

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Both stories are confined to a special use of body language that characterizes the stereotypical relation between males and females. In this respect, both women and men are placed in a similar social context that distorts the relations and puts them into the frames. Such a position is represented in the Importance of Being Earnest, where social status is prioritized in terms of marriage; in contrast, love as a notion refers to the general attitude accepted in society. In contrast, the story Hills Like White Elephants discusses the routines of relations, as well as the deviation from the accepted norms, because pregnancy is the undesired event both for the girl and the man at the railway station. The distance and rationality prevail over the feeling, turning love into a social rather than emotional, or personal phenomenon.

The Theme of Separation and Loss of Identity

The problem of social stereotyping and the influence of the environment on peoples decisions and identities are revealed in multiple short stories and novels (DiYanni 145). This is of particular concern to Good Country People by Flannery OConnor, A & P by John Updike, Astronomers Wife by Kale Boyle, The Boarding House by James Joyce, Marriage Is a Private Affair by Chinua Achebe, and Gimpel the Fool by Isaac Bashevil Singer. All these stories reflect on the solitary existences of the protagonists who are considered to be social outcasts. In addition, the novels discuss the negative influence of the social environment that impose unnecessary restrictions on individuals, making them lose their identities if they do not correspond to the accepted beliefs.

The story Good Country People discusses the problem of separation and resistance to comply social frames. The protagonist of the story is Joy who lost her leg and is now rejected by all social and religion mores, leading to the impossibility to co-exist in a world without disabilities. Astronomers Wife is also the narrative about the isolated existence and detachment of Mrs. Ames from her husband who is too involved into his own job and problems. Therefore, she is keen on participating in all household activities. She feels that she is pushed away from society, because of the impossibility to grasp her own identity in the shadow of her husband. Similar to Mrs. Ames, the main protagonist of the story, a teenager clerk has decided to protect the girls in the bathing suits, although it is forbidden by the rules. The Boarding House reveals a story about Polly who is involved in an affair and who has to obey the circumstances. The strictness of marriage traditions is represented in the story Marriage is a Private Affair that discusses the theme of cultural diversity and its influence of marriage traditions, including the roles distributed about males and females. Finally, Gimpel the Fool highlights the discrepancies between the beliefs accepted in society and the ones perceived by Gimpel. Although the heros honesty and innocence are exaggerated, the author intends to render the idea that Gimpel lives in a deceitful world that discourages human virtues.

Representing Symbolism in the Stories

Hills like White Elephants and Astronomers Wife render symbolic representations of social relations and beliefs. In particular, both stories place an emphasis on the distant relationship between a man and a woman that are portrayed through symbols. Specifically, in the story Hills like White Elephants, white elephants are associated with pregnancy, because it is something unwanted on the part of both the girl and the man at the railway station. Therefore, the story disguises Hemingways explanation of iceberg theory, according to which, a message is delivered through the narration context, which implies that the girl wants to make an abortion.

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Astronomers Wife is full of symbols and hidden messages as well. In particular, the author resorts to symbolism to reveal Mrs. Ames loss of identity and belonging, because of the prevalence of her husbands control. In the context of the story, the author wants to emphasize the loss of identity by calling her astronomers wife. The heroine is assigned with her true name only after the plumber arrives. The plumber, therefore, is the antagonist who has come to Mr. Ames. However, since he is busy with his own affairs, his wife has to take responsibility. Further signs of symbolism are revealed through comparisons of the plumber with the rain who puts an end to the drought. The plumber, therefore, allows the heroine to take control of his life and feel that her personal identity can be discovered. Mrs. Ames, finally, feels attention on the part of her the plumber. The awareness that she can help someone and that her assistance is beneficial allows her to feel that she is not isolated from society.

The Role of the Setting

The Boarding House is the reflection of the society in Dublin at that time. The events take place in a boarding house that symbolizes a trap of social frames and rules, particular for women who are determined to take advantage of existing norms to compel Mr. Doran to marry Mrs. Mooneys daughter Polly. All the characters represent the underpinning that shapes the welfare of society. In particular, there is a strict distinction between the victims and exploiter, where the role of the victim is assigned to Mr. Doran, an honest young man who is forced to obey the rules. As per the exploiters, Mr. Mooney and her daughter Polly perfectly suited this role because of their aspiration to match societal norms. Aside from marriage considerations, the problem of relationship between males and females are also considered in the story. The house serves as a place where the characters are restricted by the house walls.

Similarly to The Boarding House, Astronomers Wife also takes place in a house, which is also the symbol of imprisonment of social stereotypes. As soon as the plumber arrives, Mrs. Ames starts feeling that the attention is paid to her, because her husband is distracted by other business ideas. The house, therefore, is the symbol of lost freedom for Mrs. Ames who has to stay under the control of her husband. She is unlimited in space and time and, therefore, the plumber is the only connection with the external world. Moreover, the heroine is deprived of the independence and communication, because of the prevalence of the marital status. Once again, the setting creates the stage for the events and enhances the inevitability of losing her identity.

Analyzing Protagonist and Antagonist in the Stories

The protagonists in the story reveal their qualities, goals, and ideas through constant interaction with their antagonistic representations. Similar approaches have been revealed in the stories such as Good Country People and Gimpel the Fool. In particular, Gimpel is involved in relationship with Elka who manipulates him, leading to immoral behavior. As a result of these relations, the hero manages to transform from a naive member of society to a more conscious one who realizes the existing social vices. Similar to Gimpel, Hulga Hopewell is represented as social outcast who is in search of her own unique place in the world.

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Both characters have a different outlook on the world due to the firmly established social and moral views. As such, although Gimpel is believed to be naive person who is under the influence of social values and stereotypes, he still manages to face the challenge to become less vulnerable to the problems it faces. Elka is a completely opposed character who strives to take advantage of Gimpels kindness and honesty. However, her inadequate and unfair attitude to Gimpel has transformed the hero into a more honest and adjusted member of society who managers to confront its vices.

In Good Country People, Mrs. Freeman is the antagonist who has a much clearer view of the reality than Hulga Hopewell who lives in a fake world and rejects the established standards, because of the failure to meet her needs. While referring to Mrs. Freeman, the heroine rebels against these laws and chooses to operate in diseased and exaggerated dimensions of life. At the same time, such an opposition to reality helps the heroine to survive in a world of illusion that separates her from the real world and makes her feel more comfortable and independent.

In conclusion, both stories point to the solitary existence of the heroes who have a different view on society and their place in it. Specifically, although the norms and moral contradict their beliefs, they strive to adjust to the world by creating fake realities and integrating their vision to a social environment.


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