Iceberg Theory In The Story Hills Like White Elephants

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Iceberg theory is an approach of writing practiced by numerous writers in which distinct parts of a story are concealed, some details that both the writer and the readers know naturally and intuitively. Ernest Hemingway gave the name to this method and felt that this approach of writing creates a stronger connection with the readers as the reader is perceptive and join the pieces that were looked over. According to him, the correct idea of the story must not show on the surface, but rather be found confined in the framework of the story.

The iceberg theory represents that only 10-20% of the material must be disclosed from the entire story. This is about a real iceberg where only the tip of the iceberg can be seen above water. The other 80-90% of the story is joint within the groundwork which is not clear.

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In this story, Hemingway uses minimalism approach, iceberg method and direct style with the main proposition that less is more. Instead of telling clearly, he designs the whole story as nothing more than an occasional talk between two people waiting for a train and does not expose the discomfort between them. As a result, many readers don't recognize that the two are indeed talking about having an abortion and going their separate pathways. Hemingway stripped everything and left merely the essentials. The story does not even bring up the term abortion and that is why this story was so revolutionary for its era.

The story commences with a narrative of a landscape and a railway station without revealing exactly where the incident takes place. The reader seeks and becomes interested in the story. When the man talks to the girl about the procedure she doesn’t respond but stares at the ground. The whole incident is illustrated from the girl’s viewpoint and readers develop sympathy for the young woman. The story is more intensified when the man creates to talk about the operation and doesn’t understand that the young woman isn’t feeling well. He repeats it again and the reader still doesn’t perceive what’s it all about and starts feeling sympathy for the girl.

Also, both the American man and girl talk in extremely brief sentences and barely say more than a few words at a time. The writer also avoids dialogues like “he said” or “she said”. These pieces when omitted leave the readers entirely up to their own judgment and perception.

Hemingway also employs minimalism in the narrative which is the theory. He does not give adjectives or adverbs unless really vital. He also doesn’t describe what the main characters mean when they speak. This minimalism way of describing creates an idea that the writer is presenting merely the facts and it leaves the readers with a feeling of something missing.

Lastly, Hills like white elephants is written in a very simple form, however, the reality is much more intricate. The reader does not have any idea about the past of the characters and this keeps the reader involved. Hemingway’s approach is direct where the sentences are formed using quotes and the method is iceberg where only a little bit is revealed.

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Iceberg Theory In The Story Hills Like White Elephants. (2021, August 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“Iceberg Theory In The Story Hills Like White Elephants.” Edubirdie, 16 Aug. 2021,
Iceberg Theory In The Story Hills Like White Elephants. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Iceberg Theory In The Story Hills Like White Elephants [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 16 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:

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