Comparative Analysis


Life decisions are usually the most difficult decisions, especially when you have to make a decisions consulting someone else. In the following stores; Russell Banks’, “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” and Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants”, we see in both stories two different couples struggle with the same problem, both women are pregnant. In each story, the roles are reversed. In Banks story, we see the woman wants to get an abortion and the man is against the procedure, but in Hemingway’s story the man wants Jig to get an abortion and Jig does not agree. Throughout both stories all four main characters want to please one another, and does not want anything to change within their relationships, but soon to find out that won’t happen and life decisions have a cause and effect.

In both stories, the women are pregnant, but no one ever bluntly says the words “pregnant,” “expecting,” or “with child;” however, we can tell that the women are pregnant due to context clues. In Banks’ story, the woman says, “I’m already putting on weight” (64). As readers there is nothing before or after that statement that recalls any other meaning, but that she is definitely pregnant. There is a mood of secrecy in the way she announces her pregnancy. Why not be blunt about the situation? It hints to the readers that if she proclaims the truth out loud she may not want to go through with the operation. Especially the dialogue that follows after her statement. Hemingway’s story has the same way of hinting around their ‘problem.’ The first place we see in the story of her being pregnant is when the man states, “it’s really an awfully simple operations, Jig” (417). He is trying to talk her into having the procedure and not worry that something wrong may happen to her. In both stories there is a character who wants to keep the baby. They cannot change the other person’s opinion, but they try their hardest to sway their opinion.

Focusing on setting, both are set in a form of transportation. In “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat,” the setting is in a rowboat in a middle of a lake. Their conversation about the “procedure” is in a private setting where no one is around and they can talk freely. However, during their conversation there is still a sense of awkwardness and tension. For example, after she told him she told her mother about her being pregnant it says, “He started rowing again, faster this time and not as smoothly as before.” This gives us the sense of him becoming uneasy with her mother knowing what is going on and how she will handle the situation. Hemingway’s story is set at a train station stationed in Ebro heading to Madrid. This symbolizes their current relationship position. Literally they are waiting for their train to take them to Madrid, but figuratively they are at a standstill in their relationship due to Jig not wanting to get an abortion and him wanting her to get one. Then when they get on their train they are going to move either forward in their relationship or move in separate directions.

In both Hemingway’s and Bank’s story there is a male dependency, but the difference in Hemingway’s is Jig is dependent on the American and in Bank’s, the woman has a dependency on her father if he was still alive. The woman states, “If Daddy were alive, it would be different” (64). Talking about their relationship the woman would know her dad would not approve and may possibly not be with the black man. The death of her father gives her the independence and the ‘ok’ of being with him since her mother approves of them both being together. However, in Hemingway’s story, Jig is dependent on the American by listening and doing everything he says she should do. She cannot pick out her own drink for herself. She has to ask him what he thinks she should do. Talking about the procedure with the man she then states, “Oh, yes. But I don’t care about me. And I’ll do it and then everything will be fine” (418). Her focus is what can keep them both together and not jeopardize their relationship, even though they both know, but have not come to terms that nothing will ever be the same. The dependency on both the male roles shows the authority the male figures had/have in their lives.

As an ending to the stories there is no definite answer to whether the women go through with the procedures. In “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” the story ends with a form of action. The girl, “Step carefully out of the boat and walk to where she lived with her mother” (67). Due to the fact that earlier in the book she told him that her mother was going to take her to the operation we see that her heading to her mother’s house is showing readers she is getting the operation done. The ending can give us an opportunity to make our own ending, because it ends before we actually know what happens. In the end of “Hills like White Elephants” it ends in dialogue. There is awkwardness of knowing their relationship is on the rocks, because when the man returned from the bar he asked her, “Do you feel better?” “I feel fine, there is nothing wrong with me. I feel fine” (419). The mood she gives off is a sense of hesitance and trying to cover up her real emotions to please the man. Again, in this story we never see if she ever goes through with the operation, but given the way they act toward one another it gives readers the sense of them not having a future together in the end.

Work Cited

Banks, Russell. Black Man and White Woman in a Dark Green Rowboat.1981. Print

Hemingway, Ernest. Hills like White Elephants.1927. Print.


One thought on “Comparative Analysis

  1. Brooke, your comparative analysis presents a thoughtful examination of Hemingway’s and Banks’ stories. Fashioning a title that offers a window into your analysis, creating more graceful transitions, and editing with more attention to diction and MLA guidelines would strengthen the paper.


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