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Hills Like White Elephants From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia "Hills Like White Elephants" is a short story

by Ernest Hemingway. It was first published in the 1927 collection Men Without Women. [edit]Plot summary The story takes place at a train station in the Ebro River valley of Spain. This particular day is oppressively hot and dry, and the scenery in the valley is barren and ugly for the most part. The two main characters are a man (referred to only as "the American") and his female companion, whom he refers to as "Jig." While waiting for the train to Madrid, the American and the girl with him drink beer and a liquor called Ans del Toro, which the girl compares to liquorice. Their conversation is mundane at first, but quickly drifts to the subject of an operation which the American is attempting to convince the girl to undergo. Though it is never made explicit in the text, it is made clear (through phrases of dialogue such as "It's just to let the air in" and "But I don't want anybody but you," among numerous context clues) that the girl is pregnant and that the procedure in question is an abortion. After posing arguments to which the American is largely unresponsive, the girl next assents to the operation, while saying: "I don't care about me." However, he then responds, "You've got to realize that I don't want you to do it if you don't want to." He continues, "I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you." She attempts to drop the subject, but the American persists as if still unsure of the girl's intentions and mental state. She insists, "Would you please please ... please stop talking?" He is silent a while, and repeats, "But I don't want you to," and adds, "I don't care anything about it." She interjects, "Ill scream." The barmaid comes out through the beaded curtains with two glasses of beer and puts them down on the felt pads. She notes, "The train comes in five minutes." The girl was distracted, but then smiles brightly at the woman and thanks her. The American leaves the table and carries their bags to the opposing platform, but still no sight of the train in the distance. He walks back through the station, and everyone else is still waiting reasonably for the train. Pausing at the bar, he drinks another Anis, alone, before rejoining the girl. He then asks her, "Do you feel better?" She again smiles at him, "I feel fine. There's nothing wrong with me. I feel fine." The story ends. [edit]Symbolism and setting The girl's reference to white elephants could be in regard to the baby. The American could see the baby as a white elephant and not want to raise it because of the cost, while the girl could see the child as an extraordinary addition to her mundane life of drinking and mindless traveling.[1] "Hills Like White Elephants" shows Hemingway's use of iceberg theory or theory of omission: a message is presented through a story's subtext; for instance, in the story the word 'abortion' is never mentioned although the male character seems to be attempting to convince his girlfriend to have an abortion. [2] The symbolism of the hills and the big white elephant can be thought of as the image of the swollen breasts and abdomen of a pregnant woman, and to the prenatal dream of the mother of the future Buddha in which a white elephant appears in her dream (in this case, a symbol of prestigious leadership.) [3] Apart from the hills, other parts of the setting provide symbolism which expresses the tension and conflict surrounding the couple. The train tracks form a dividing line between the barren expanse of land stretching toward the hills on one side and the green, fertile farmland on the other, symbolizing the choice faced by each of the main characters and their differing interpretations of the dilemma of pregnancy. The girl focuses on the landscape during the conversation, rarely making eye contact with the American.[4] [edit]Dialogue "They look like white elephants," she said. "I've never seen one," the man drank his beer. "No, you wouldn't have." "I might have," the man said. "Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything." The girl looked at the bead curtain. "They've painted something on it," she said. "What does it say?" "Anis del Toro. It's a drink." "Could we try it?" The reader must interpret their dialogue and body language to infer their backgrounds and their attitudes with respect to the situation at hand, and their attitudes toward one another. From the outset of the story, the contentious nature of the couple's conversation indicates resentment and unease. Some critics have written that the dialogue is a distillation of the contrasts between stereotypical male and female relationship roles: in the excerpt above, for instance, the girl draws the comparison with white elephants, but the hyper-rational male immediately denies it, dissolving the bit of poetry into objective realism with "I've never seen one." She also asks his permission to order a drink. Throughout the story, the girl is distant; the American is rational. [5] While the American attempts to frame the fetus as the source of the couple's discontent with life and one another, the tone and pattern of dialogue indicate that there may be deeper problems with the relationship than the purely circumstantial. This ambiguity leaves a good deal of room for interpretation; while most critics have espoused relatively straightforward interpretations of the dialogue (with the girl as the dynamic character, traveling reluctantly from rejection to acceptance of the idea of an abortion), a few have argued for alternate scenarios based upon the same dialogue.[6] Hills Like White Elephants The hills across the valley of the Ebrol were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went on to Madrid. "What should we drink?" the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.

"It's pretty hot," the man said. "Let's drink beer." & "Dos cervezas," the man said into the curtain. "Big ones?" a woman asked from the doorway. "Yes. Two big ones." The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt pads. She put the felt pads and the beer glasses on the table and looked at the man and the girl. The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry. "They look like white elephants," she said. "I've never seen one," the man drank his beer. "No, you wouldn't have." "I might have," the man said. 'just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything." The girl looked at the bead curtain. "They've painted something on it," she said." What does it say?" "Anis del Toro. It's a drink." "Could we try it?" The man called "Listen" through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar. "Four reales." "We want two Anis del Toro." "With water? " "Do you want it with water?" "I don't know," the girl said. "Is it good with water?" "It's all right." "You want them with water?" asked the woman. "Yes, with water." "It tastes like licorice," the girl said and put the glass down. "That's the way with everything." "Yes," said the girl. "Everything tastes of licorice. Especially all the things you've waited so long for, like absinthe." "Oh, cut it out." "You started it," the girl said. "I was being amused. I was having a fine time." "Well, let's try and have a fine time." "All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn't that bright?" "That was bright." "I wanted to try this new drink. That's all we do, isn't it--look at things and try new drinks?" "I guess so." The girl looked across at the hills. "They're lovely hills," she said. "They don't really look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees." "Should we have another drink?" "All right." The warm wind blew the bead curtain against the table. "The beer's nice and cool," the man said. "It's lovely," the girl said. "It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig," the man said. "It's not really an operation at all." The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on. "I know you wouldn't mind it, Jig. It's really not anything. It's just to let the air in." The girl did not say anything. "I'll go with you and I'll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it's all perfectly natural." "Then what will we do afterward?" "We'll be fine afterward. Just like we were before." "What makes you think so?" "That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy." The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads. "And you think then we'll be all right and be happy." "I know we will. You don't have to be afraid. I've known lots of people that have done it." "So have I," said the girl. "And afterward they were all so happy." "Well," the man said, "if you don't want to you don't have to. I wouldn't have you do it if you didn't want to. But I know it's perfectly simple." "And you really want to?" "I think it's the best thing to do. But I don't want you to do it if you don't really want to." "And if I do it you'll be happy and things will be like they were and you'll love me?" "I love you now. You know I love you." "I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you'll like it?" "I'll love it. I love it now but I just can't think about it. You know how I get when I worry." "If I do it you won't ever worry?" "I won't worry about that because it's perfectly simple."

"Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me." "What do you mean?" "I don't care about me." "Well, I care about you." "Oh, yes. But I don't care about me. And I'll do it and then everything will be fine." "I don't want you to do it if you feel that way." The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees. "And we could have all this," she said. "And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible." "What did you say?" "I said we could have everything." "We can have everything." "No, we can't." "We can have the whole world." "No, we can't." "We can go everywhere." "No, we can't. It isn't ours any more." "It's ours." "No, it isn't. And once they take it away, you never get it back." "But they haven't taken it away." "We'll wait and see." "Come on back in the shade," he said. "You mustn't feel that way." "I don't feel any way," the girl said. "I just know things." "I don't want you to do anything that you don't want to do " "Nor that isn't good for me," she said. "I know. Could we have another beer?" "All right. But you've got to realize " "I realize," the girl said. "Can't we maybe stop talking?" They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table. "You've got to realize," he said, "that I don't want you to do it if you don't want to. I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you." "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 it's perfectly simple." "Yes, you know it's perfectly simple." "It's all right for you to say that, but I do know it." "Would you do something for me now?' "I'd do anything for you.' "Would you please please please please please please please Stop talking." He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights. "But I don't want you to," he said, "I don't care anything about it." "I'll scream," the girl said. The woman came out through the curtains with two glasses of beer and put them down on the damp felt pads. "The train comes in five minutes," she said. "What did she say?" asked the girl. "That the train is coming in five minutes." The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her. "I'd better take the bags over to the other side of the station," the man said. She smiled at him. "All right. Then come back and we'll finish the beer." He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train. Coming back, he walked through the barroom, where people waiting for the train were drinking. He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the train. He went out through the bead curtain. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him. "Do you feel better?" he asked. "I feel fine," she said. "There's nothing wrong with me. I feel fine." Ernest Hemingway (1899-1861) Response Narrative Analysis Critical Interpretation: A Feminist Approach Note: definitions, or questions will appear in this window when you click textual links. Click colored question mark buttons for information on internal threaded links.

a region in Spain Is there snow on the hills? Is this an image of innocence? This side of what? barren; nature is absent There is no shade and no trees "on this side" so we might presume they are found on the other side of the valley. This description sets up an opposition (one side versus the other) that may be echoed thematically parallel lines which do not intersect This is a metaphor for the relationship of the couple who are unable to connect with each other. A curtain hides or covers. It is the entrance to the bar. Is it significant that the curtain is not solid but rather divided into pieces by the strings of beads? This image reoccurs throughout the story. They are outside of the building with the flies. They are being kept out as well. Why? Why are they at the station. Where are they going? Are they waiting for a train or just waiting? Here we see the separation between the couple and the people inside the bar. Also, the man does not address anyone in particular, rather he addresses the curtain itself. There is a sense of aloofness and lack of human responsiveness. There is no effort at graciousness on the part of the foreigner and no overt hospitality on the part of the hosts. Might this speak to the period and the cynical attitudes of the people? The opposition between the dry place, where the couple is, and the white hills in the distance is seen here. Again we see a split between the barren wasteland and nature. Already this seems to be a central metaphor in the story. Is the larger question of the abortion illuminated by this opposition? a rare, expensive possession that is a financial burden to maintain; something of dubious or limited value; an endeavor or a venture that proves to be a conspicuous failure. This idea of a burden seems to mirror the relationship of the couple and the issue they are dealing withthe possibility of the girl having an abortion. She looks at the hillspresumably an oasis of natureand sees barrenness. Are the white hills a metaphor for the pregnancy of the woman which may end in a barren womb full of air? Her comment is a metaphorical interpretation of her surroundings. He, on the other hand, responds as if she had made a literal statement. They do not understand one another. Their modes of thought are entirely different and this sets up the rest of the story and the couple's tragic relationship. The girl is already aware that he would not respond to her comment about the hills. She is somewhat attuned to the fact that their relationship is doomed. The man becomes defensive here. His comment is absurd and seems merely a mechanism to antagonize the girl. Is this intentional or is the man perhaps threatened by the woman and the situation. We might presume that the girl is unable to read/speak Spanish. This is an indication that she is, like her companion, an American. The man, however, does speak Spanish. This calls for a degree of dependency of the girl on the man. This in turn helps to define the dynamics of their relationship. He is in control. Why does everything taste like licorice? Licorice is sweet but in medicine induces vomit. Might the man mean that "everything" possesses a dual positive/negative nature, e.g., happiness cannot exist without sorrow. Does this comment reflect the cynicism of the age? She agrees with his statement that "everything" tastes like licorice. The next sentence is quite elusive. What has she been waiting for that has the toxicity of absinthea green liqueur having a bitter anise or licorice flavor and a high alcohol content. Whatever it is it angers the man. Is the bitterness/potency of the alcohol a metaphor for the couple's relationship. How is the alcohol an anesthetic for the couple. Might it also function as an indication that an abortion, accompanied by anesthetic, is being contemplated? They irony is explicit. images of life in contrast to images of barrenness which surround the train station and the couple Is this its only function? The place where they are has no name. The absence of a name, and hence a real sense of place, seems to parallel the relationship of the couple. They don't know where they are. How can they then know where they are going? She does not read or speak Spanish. She is dependent on the man. Note the manner in which he addresses the woman. It is unfriendly and demanding. Licorice is both a sweet candy and an ingredient used in medicine as a purgative. The trees function much the same way as the beaded curtain, which separates the couple from the other people/life. Likewise, the trees are a dividing line separating the couple from the nature/fertilityanother hint that abortion (what might be considered unnatural) is the unstated topic of conversation. We might picture the hills themselves as rounded like a pregnant woman's womb. They are found on the other side of the valley, however, and can only be seen from a distance. The girl's contemplation of the distant hills might signify that the girl is becoming conscious of the difficult choice between the dry country where she is with the man (a future abortion or barrenness of the womb) and the natural hills (carrying the child to term and leaving the man) which currently resemble the burdensome "white elephants." Note that the man never looks at the hills. He is in denial that the choice is a difficult one. Might this be a play on his insistence that she gets an abortion or put more bluntly "cuts it out." The girl is given a name. A jigger is a measure of alcohol. Presumably the "operation" is an abortion. He sees the operation as a simple medical procedure. She appears to view the option of an abortion as a complex decisionboth for the life of the child and the life of the relationship.

The implication here is that Jig does not view the abortion as natural while the man does. If they have conflicting ideas about something as basic as nature itself, how can they sustain a relationship? It is difficult to imagine that this couple was truly happy before the pregnancy. The girl clearly wants to keep the child. What does this subjective qualification say about the man's attitude toward people? Toward Jig? She is probably alluding to the baby and the abortion. The abortion takes on larger implications than the ending of a pregnancy. The decision seems to be a choice between independence (doing what she wants regardless of consequences) and dependence (doing what he wants to make him happy.) He does not have room for a baby in his life. His love is measured out with "coffee spoons." It is limited and therefore inauthentic. The woman's seems to have decided to keep the baby. Hills Like White Elephants By Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) A Study Guide Cummings Guides Home..|..Contact This Site . Type of Work, Publication, Setting, Characters Plot Summary, Narration and Style, Themes, Climax Symbols, Study Questions, Essay Topics, Author Information . Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...2008

Type of Work ......."Hills Like White Elephants" is a short story that observes the classical unities--that is, the action follows a single storyline (without subplots) that takes place in one place on a single day. Publication ......."Hills Like White Elephants" was first published in Paris in transition magazine (spelled with a lower-case t) in August 1927. In October of the same year, Scribner's published it in New York as part of a Hemingway short-story collection, Men Without Women. Setting .......The action takes place in the mid-1920s at a train station in Zaragoza, a major city in northeastern Spain on the Ebro River. Zaragoza is approximately 170 miles northeast of Madrid. The region around Zaragoza receives scant rainfall. The greenery observed by Jig may have flourished through irrigation. Characters Jig: Woman traveling in Europe with a male companion. The author does not disclose whether they are single, engaged, or married; however, it appears likely that they are girlfriend and boyfriend. The American: Man traveling with Jig. The Woman: Waitress at the train station. People in the Barroom Plot Summary By Michael J. Cummings...2007 . .......On a hot day at a train station in Zaragoza, Spain, a man and woman sit at a table on the shady side of the building while they prepare to order drinks. Because only the man speaks Spanish, he orders for themu0097first beer, and then Ans del Toro (absinthe, a powerful liqueur). A set of tracks runs on each side of the station. The train for Madrid will arrive from Barcelona in forty minutes on the sunny side of the building. .......In front of them, the land is dry. There are no trees. Distant hills appear white in the sun, and the woman says they look like white elephants. .......While they sip their drinks, their conversation reveals that the woman, Jig, and the man, identified only as an American, are at odds over her pregnancy. She wants the child and hints that she would like to settle down. He wants her to abort the child, saying the procedure u0093is awfully simpleu0094 and u0093not really anything.u0094 Afterward, he says, life for them can continue as before. .......Jig observes that the liqueur tastes like licorice. In fact, she says, everything tastes like licorice. Her remark, apparently made out of boredom, irks the man. .......u0093Oh, cut it out,u0094 he says. .......They go back and forth on the question of the child. Jig finally says, perhaps with a taint of sarcasm, that she will have the procedure u0093because I donu0092t care about me.u0094 The man says he does not want her to have it u0093if you feel that way.u0094 .......Jig gets up and walks to the end of the building. There, she looks around to the land on the other side. She sees trees, grain fields, and the Ebro River, then says, u0093And we could have all this.u0094 When the man tells her that they can have whatever they wantu0097u0093We can have the whole worldu0094u0097Jig says, u0093It isnu0092t ours any more . . . And once they take it away, you never get it back.u0094

.......A woman brings them two more beers and alerts them that their train will arrive in five minutes. The man then carries their two suitcases, each displaying labels from all the hotels at which they lodged, to the other side of the station. When he returns, he asks how she feels. She replies, u0093Thereu0092s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.u0094. Narration, Style, Unanswered Questions .......Hemingway wrote u0093Hills Like White Elephantsu0094 in third-person point of view that limits the narration to what the characters say and do; it does not reveal their thoughts. Hemingway's styleu0097developed in part when he worked as a newspaper reporter and correspondent early in his careeru0097is simple and compact, with short sentences and paragraphs devoid of verbosity. Adjectives and adverbs are few. However, this straightforward style, which he used in all his major novels and short stories, often conveys complex themes and suggestsu0097but does not explicitly stateu0097motives, mind-sets, attitudes, and so on. In this respect, Hemingway is imitating life, for seldom do two interacting human beingsu0097for example, you and your teacher, you and your spouse, or you and your bossu0097know each otheru0092s intimate thoughts. You usually must guess at what he or she is thinking; you must interpret. Among the questions the narration does not answer are the following: How do Jig and the American support themselves? Is he one of the members of the so-called lost generation, a group of writers who knocked about Europe in the 1920s after being alienated by American values? Does one of them come from a wealthy family? What is Jig's nationality? The author refers to the man as an American, possibly implying that she is from England, Canada, Australia, or another nation where English is spoken. Are Jig and the American single, engaged, or married? It seems likely that they are single, but the narrator never explicitly says so. What happens to Jig and the American after they leave the train station?

Themes Confronting the Future .......Jig and the American have been traveling in Europe from hotel to hotel in pursuit of pleasure. However, at Zaragoza, Jig expresses dissatisfaction with their nomadic existence, especially now that she is pregnant. For her, Zaragoza represents a moment of truth, a crossroads at which they must confront their future. She apparently wants to have the baby and settle down to a normal life, symbolized from her perspective by the greenery and thriving grain fields on one side of the station. He wants her to abort their baby so that they can continue their adventures. Carpe diem!u0097seize the day!u0097that is his rule for living. .......In an attempt to persuade him that they are going in the wrong direction, Jig says their life has become boring and repetitive: u0093Thatu0092s all we do, isnu0092t itu0097look at things and try new drinks?u0094 But the man sloughs off her question and renews his attempt to break down her resistance to the abortion. One problem for her is that she has difficulty asserting herself. She even asks his permission when she wants a drink. For example, when he mentions Ans del Toro, she says, u0093Could we try it?u0094 Later, she says, u0093Should we have another drink?u0094 Near the end of the story, she asks, u0093Could we have another beer?u0094 .......When he continues to press the issue of an abortion, she becomes frustrated and says, u0093Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?u0094 Just before the train arrives, he asks her how she feels. u0093Thereu0092s nothing wrong with me," she says. "I feel fine.u0094 Whether these last two sentences of the story mean that she has decided to choose the baby over the abortion, or vice versau0097or simply decided to put off a decision for another dayu0097is a matter for the reader to interpret. Inability to Communicate Effectively .......Jig and the American have difficulty articulating their feelings. Rather than bluntly stating their views, they imply, hint, euphemize. In the end, their conversation frustrates Jig, who tells the American, "Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?u0094 Selfishness .......The man appears to be manipulating Jig in order to perpetuate a lifestyle in which she is a convenient outlet for his libido. He is even willing to sacrifice a human life, Jillu0092s unborn child, so that he can continue their joyride. Too Much of a Good Thing .......The ancient Greeks had a saying: "All things in moderation; nothing in excess." But Jig and the American have apparently been living a life of excess. Consequently, life is no longer fun for Jig. When she samples a strong and dangerous liqueur to try to revive her interest in their great adventure, she says disappointedly that u0093everything tastes like licorice. Especially all the things youu0092ve waited for so long, like absinthe.u0094 Clearly, she is ready to abandon their dissipated way of life to settle down. Evasion of Responsibility .......The American seems unable to accept responsibility, for whatever reason. Rather than facing the challenges of normal life, he continually puts them off. Climax .......The climax occurs when Jig ends the conversation, saying, "Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?u0094 .

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Symbols White Elephants: From the perspective of the American, one of the hills resembling white elephants is the enlargement of the uterus that is becoming, or will soon become, evident as Jig's baby grows. A white elephant is a largely useless object that may be expensive to own and maintain, according to one of its definitions in standard dictionaries. From the perspective of Jig, one of the hills may represent the lifestyle of her and the American. Railroad Tracks: Railroad tracks run side by side but never meet. Thus, they could symbolize the relationship of Jig and the American. Zaragoza: The last letter of the alphabet occurs twice in the name of this city. Jig and the American may be two zu0092s that have reached the end of the road. Green Side of the Station: Obviously, this represents life, the baby, a new beginning. Arid Side of the Station: This represents dissipation and death. Ebro River: This waterway, which originates in the Cantabrian Mountains and flows 565 miles to the Mediterranean, represents vitality, life. It can also represent the passage of time. Ans del Toro: This represents the excitement the American offers Jig. But it fails to stir her. Baggage: This represents the past, which is the same as the future to the American. When he picks up the suitcases and carries them to the other side of the station, he is indicating that he wants to continue as before. Author Information .......Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American writer of novels and short stories. Before turning to fiction, he worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star and served as a First World War ambulance driver before enlisting with the Italian infantry and suffering a wound. After the war, he worked for the Toronto Star and lived for a time in Paris and Key West, Fla. During the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, he served as a newspaper correspondent, then lived in Cuba until 1958 and Idaho until 1961, the year of his death by suicide. His narratives frequently contain masculine motifs, such as bull-fighting (Death in the Afternoon), hunting (The Green Hills of Africa), war (A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls), and fishing (The Old Man and the Sea). All of these motifs derive from Hemingwayu0092s own experiences as a traveler and an adventurer. Arguably, he was a better short-story writer than a novelist, although it was his longer works that built his reputation. Study Questions and Essay Topics 1. Does Jig love the American? Does he love her? 2. Write an essay that takes a stand on what Jig has decided to do. 3. The following statement containing a quotation that appears in the plot summary above: When the American tells her that they can have whatever they wantu0097u0093We can have the whole worldu0094u0097Jig says, u0093It isnu0092t ours any more . . . And once they take it away, you never get it back.u0094 Comment on what Jig means when she says that "once they take it away, you never get it back.u0094 4. Write a short psychological profile of Jig or the American. 5. Write another ending for the story that tells what Jig plans to do.


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