Analysis of Hills Like White Elephant and Sonny’s Blues: Plot, Setting, and Characters

The variety of literary works can easily teach the reader or make to change the reader’s mind and attitude to a situation. On the one hand, the works and their messages differ because of various authors, periods of time, and interests.

On the other hand, the similarities between the works of absolutely different authors are united by their messages to help the reader evaluate this life and make the necessary improvements.

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The analysis of Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin proves that different approaches to life and its challenges, unique visions of the writers, and certain writing techniques may lead to one purpose – promote the reader to think about people around and grasp the ways of how to understand each other.

Such fiction elements like plot, characters, and settings in the two short stories are perfectly described and serve as powerful means to explain the essence of the stories: plots of the stories touch upon the relations of two relatives (a couple in Hills Like White Elephants and brothers in Sonny’s Blues), who need to takes important decisions and think about their future lives in spite of rather depressive and disappointing settings.

The success of the story usually depends on a properly chosen author’s technique. In case with the works of Hemingway and Baldwin, their choices of techniques are justified and rather effective. The plots of the stories under discussion are all about human relations and the necessity to find out the connection and understanding.

The peculiar feature of Baldwin’s plot is the idea to use flashbacks and add to the plot more captivating details and facts. It may seem that the reader knows enough to accept one more idea, however, a new flashback adds another circumstance that should be evaluated on a new level, and the relations between two brothers become more interesting and understandable.

Hemingway describes a certain period of time between two people, who are going to make one of the most important decision in their lives. And even in the situation, when the decision should be taken by both, male domination is still evident, and a girl does not have enough powers and skills to live in accordance with her own principles and demands.

In Hills Like White Elephants, a young couple is bothered with an idea of having a baby. A girl believes that “things are like white elephants” so strange, so innocent, and so beautiful (Hemingway 121). She wants her unborn child help her to accept this world as it is and enjoy its beauty and charm.

However, her couple is not ready to forget about his interests and desires and devote his life to their baby. Almost the same is observed in relations between two bothers in Sonny’s Blues. Sonny tries to demonstrate his brother the beauty of music and the grounds of his choice, but it is hard for the elder brother to follow his brother’s dreams and thoughts.

Settings of the stories deserve more attention, especially the one used by Hemingway. His idea to unite setting with symbolism is winning and more noticeable in comparison to Baldwin’s attempts. Though “there was no shade and no trees” (Hemingway 119), the situation seems to be uncertain.

Everything is not as it should be, and the characters should be ready for a new challenge. The author does not give concrete descriptions but it becomes clear that the idea of abortion is burning. The setting of Sonny’s Blues is clearer: “the people, the houses, the music, the dark, quicksilver barmaid, with menace” (Baldwin 11). The author does not want to use specific setting to attract the reader but relies on his powerful use of flashbacks.

Both reading unite all fictional techniques in a proper way; each writer uses one certain technique better that makes these stories captivating and effective in their own ways. Flashbacks in the plot make Sonny’s Blues more captivating and intriguing for the reader, and powerful examples of symbolism in setting cannot stop amazing the reader of Hemingway’s works.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” In Sascha Feinstein and David Rife The Jazz Fiction Anthology. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills Like White Elephants.” In Margaret Bishop Single Scene Short Stories. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2007.

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