Integrity Vs. Submissiveness In Hills Like White Elephants By Ernest Hemingway And Good People By David Foster Wallace

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Manifestation of an obstacle that promotes a disagreement will create opposite sides of personal integrity or submissiveness. When an individual is faced with a problem, their initial actions are dependent on their beliefs and encouragement of those involved. However when a decision is slowly solidifying, the individual whose opinion is not favored will begin to persuade the opposite person into changing their minds. Thus, converting their brightened choice into a shaded alternative. In this essay the short stories, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “Good People” by David Foster Wallace, will display a comparison and contrast between how their main characters demonstrate personal integrity and submissiveness through their representations of light and darkness.

To begin with, the short story, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway shows their main characters, the American and the girl, in a situation where the girl is pregnant and their conversation is whether or not to keep the unborn child or go through the procedure to abort the unborn child. The girl begins to indicate that the beautiful valleys of Ebro look similar to white elephants and later insists how bright of a comment it was to say such thing. However, the American man seemed detached to what the girl had to say and he agrees to her joyful statements only to redirect her thoughts into believing that getting rid of the baby is the brightest idea. “It’s lovely, the girl said. It’s really awfully simple operation Jig, the man said. It’s not really an operation at all” (line 40-42). The American man is trying to appear as taking responsibility and asserting a proposition yet, tries to save his freedom by masking his selfish desires into a bright resolution. Furthermore, towards the end of the story, both the American man and the girl are waiting for the train to arrive. The girl is ahead of the man standing in the bright sunlight as they discuss but, the American man feels as if his freedom is darkening and tries to reel the girl back to submissiveness. “We’ll wait and see. Come on back in the shade, he said. You mustn’t feel that way. I don’t feel that way, the girl said. I just know things” (line 83-85).

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With this in mind, the short story, “Good People” by David Foster Wallace tells the story of Lane A. Dean, Jr., and his girlfriend Sheri Fischer in a situation where they are faced with a pregnancy and decide whether or not to carry out an abortion. This dilemma becomes more difficult in their lives due to their religious beliefs that exhorts against committing abortions. The author uses the characteristics of darkness to show the uncertainty and the choosing between integrity and submissiveness through the main character. “Lane was very still and immobile and looking past the bank at the downed tree in the shadows and its ball of exposed roots going all directions and the tree’s cloud of branches all half in the water.” (Wallace pg. 890) The author uses this passage to show us the anxiety that is occurring in the mind of Lane. He sees his shadowed options going in opposite directions and all with different outcomes that will test his integrity and both the lives of him and his girlfriend. This is the comparison between Hemingway’s and Wallace’s stories because although they both have a similar concept of deciding on abortion, they both provide implicit situations involving representations of light and darkness hence the words, shade and bright, to involve their characters to react to them.

On the contrary, what makes these short stories different from each other is in the direction in which the style of confrontation is being used. Similar to the comparison of both stories, the author still uses characteristics of light and darkness. However, the main characters of Hemingway and Wallace use different perspectives as to persuade submissiveness or emphasis integrity. In Hills Like White Elephants, the American man was going through his life doing anything he wanted with no responsibility. Once the girl proclaimed to be pregnant, his freedom was being disturbed and he began to persuade the girl to accept going through with the abortion. The American man’s perspective was assertiveness and he began altering his overshadowed opinions into bright affirmations to influence the girl’s viewpoints towards his own. “Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along. Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want any one else. And I know its perfectly simple” (line 94-96).

On the other hand, Good People describes Lane A. Dean. Jr., and Sheri Fischer during their dilemma as timid and less spoken words. They both were sitting silent on top of a bench in the park but, with only the thoughts of Lane to be heard. In this case, Lane’s perspective was less confrontational whereas, the American man was persuasive and said the words that the girl would want to hear. In fact, Lane reassured Sheri that he would go with her and be there with her at the clinic but, later felt awful that he said things to Sheri to try to make her feel better when they both knew they were not true. Lane stays silent and lets his mind play out the words that he has been trying to say. Furthermore, towards the end of the story, Lane intelligently goes over his thoughts and as quick as a light, sees into Sheri’s heart and evaluates what needs to be said. “Lane Dean first felt he could take this all in whole: everything seemed distinctly lit, for the circle of the pin oak’s shade had rotated off all the way, and they sat now in sun with their shadow a two-headed thing in the grass before them” (Wallace pg. 894) Lane sees his shade in front of him symbolizing his personal problem with his girlfriend however, his perspective allowed him to view his integrity patiently and think about how much it meant to him.

In conclusion, the comparison and contrast of Hemingway’s and Wallace’s short stories appeared towards the personal values of integrity and morality and submissiveness to individuals involved in the situation. Both authors gave their character’s dilemma a manifestation of light and darkness to amplify the gravity of their situation.

Works Cited

  1. Abcarian, Richard, and Maravin Klotz. Literature, the Human Experience: Reading and Writing. Bedford/St Martin’s, 2006.


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