David Foster Wallace and Ernest Hemingway: Contrasting Themes in Good People and Hills Like White Elephants

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In David Foster Wallace book “Good People” Lane Dean, Jr, and his girlfriend, Sheri Sigh, can still make their relationship work despite having a difficult choice of making religious and personal moral considerations in the unplanned pregnancy since both of them share a similar Christian belief that classifies abortion as a sin. Christians are urged to “not commit murder” (New International Version, Exodus 20:13). The couples can make a moral choice of keeping the baby and get married. However, in “Hills like white elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, it will be difficult for the couple, the American man and Jig, to make their relationship work due to their miscommunications and also both of them disagree in most of their discussions.

 The significance of communication in relationships

Good communication gives every partner a chance to speak his or her perspectives. However, in “Hills like white elephants,” communication seems to be a challenge to the young couple since when the man tries to convince Jig to go on with the abortion, she does not give him a chance to finish his decision. For instance, she begs him to, “please, please, please, please, please, please stop talking” (Hemmingway 566).

In “Sex without Love” by Sharon Olds, she points out poor communication lowers a lasting emotional connection with partners thereby leading to sex without love. She concludes the poem in the last stanza, line 21 “Just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time” (Sutton 178).

“One Perfect Rose” by Dorothy Parker portrays how good communication strengthens a long distance relationship, trust, and honesty. The speaker’s man sent her one rose flower since they started dating, which can speak and informs her of how her delicate leaves are enclosed in the heart of the man. Parker points out in Stanza 1, line 1, “A single flow'r he sent me since we met”…stanza 2, line 7-8, “Love long has taken for his amulet, one perfect rose” (Parker 124).

In “A Red Red Rose” by Robert Burns, good communication shows boosts morale in relationships thereby lovers having more interest and stronger commitments. The speaker points out in stanza 2, line 7-8, Lines 7-8 “And I will luve thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry” (Burns 28).

When one partner expects the other one to read their mind, miscommunication will present itself due to one of them assuming that his or her needs have been communicated while in the real sense, no one knows about them. For instance, the narrator points out how

“Lane is usually frozen thereby waiting for Sheri to say the words that would unfreeze him” (Dean 150). 

Power in Relationships

In the short story “Good People” the power of relationship is portrayed in the partner's decision making and communication prowess. In the story, Sheri has more potential since she speaks her mind, unlike Lane who hides her thoughts. She also decides to abort then at the same time withdraws her choice as Lane ponders on the abortion moral and Christian values.

In “Hills like white elephants,” the American man has the power over Jig since he keeps on making choices for her as the girl portrays the role of being submissive. He tries to manipulate and control her by taking advantage of her deep feelings for him thereby showing the superiority of the men and inferiority of women.


In the short story “Good People,” the theme of morality is widely explored by Lane and Sheri due to their religious background and personal morality whereby abortion and getting pregnant out of wedlock is viewed as a sin. However, the moral considerations are not depicted in the “Hills like white elephants” since Jig, and the American man is not religious as they also do not talk about societal expectations.  The theme of identity whereby the couples are faced with the choice of choosing or rejecting the identity of becoming parents is also explored in “Hills like white elephants” unlike in the “Good people” whereby parenthood is not discussed. The contrasting themes are vitals since they portray how our lifestyle that is influenced by religion, beliefs, and morals affects our decision-making. The author's themes suggest that relationships successful relationships require equal participation in communication, making choices, and the same respect for every partner's beliefs.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 1984.

Hemingway, Ernest. Complete Short Stories Of Ernest Hemingway. Scribner, 1998.

Sutton, Brian. "Olds’s Sex Without Love."The Explicator 55.3 (1997): 177-180.

Parker, Dorothy. "One perfect rose."From The Portable Dorothy Parker Penguin Books USA (1926).

Wallace, David Foster. Good People. Hatchett Book Group, 1996.

Burns, Robert. 'A Red, Red Rose'and Other Poems. Michael O'Mara, 2002.

December 12, 2023



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