Stories Like White Icebergs


I didn’t really start getting into Hemingway’s writing until a few years ago. I’d only read the famous short story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” for a class in high school. That was it. Then a couple years ago I was blown away by one of his short stories, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” and began further exploration, including one novel (The Sun Also Rises) and several more short stories. After this additional exposure I began to learn a little more about him, and also his “Iceberg Theory” (or theory of omission) of writing which, as you might guess from the name, proposes that most of the story should lie “beneath the surface.

” I already enjoyed Hemingway’s economy of words and learned from a fellow reader (Hi, Richard!) in my Great Books Foundation discussion group at the Nora Library to think in terms of “everything in a Hemingway story is there for a reason.” (I can still hear Richard asking, perhaps somewhat mischievously, “Why is he giving him a cigar?!?” at our discussion of the Hemingway story, Indian Camp.) I learned a lot at that meeting. 🙂 Another Hemingway story that had been frequently recommended to me was the story, “Hills Like White Elephants,” so when coming up with a roster of stories to read for my 2013 short story reading project, I made a place for this one as the “five of clubs.”


***spoiler alert*** But why not just read the story online yourself, though? One place you can find it is here:

  What was memorable to me about this story, which involves a couple traveling in the Ebro valley in northeastern Spain to a city where the woman will have some kind of procedure (never actually mentioned but clearly An abortion), is that the two characters themselves could be said to apply the “Iceberg Theory” to their relationship. Hemingway doubtless is applying it to the story, but their relationship adds another layer. An ice cube floating in a puddle of water on an iceberg? I’m sure that can happen in nature, so why not literature. Have you read this story? What did you think of it? Do you enjoy the theory of omission or do you prefer stories that are told in a more straightforward way? (Below: the Ebro valley in Spain – looks beautiful!)


What is your favorite Hemingway story?


  1. May 7, 2013 at 9:08 am

    “Enjoy” is my answer to the next-to-last question. The artist should just do his work. Don’t worry about me; I’ll catch up.

    “The Killers” is my answer to the last one.


  2. Jay said,

    May 7, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Thanks, Tom, for the comment and visit!

    Good answer on the first one. I’ll count myself in that group also.

    I’ve read and liked “The Killers” (I think Dale at Mirror With Clouds steered me to that one). My favorites are the one I mentioned above and also maybe “Soldier’s Home”



  3. Melissa said,

    May 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Hills Like White Elephants is very good, but like you A Clean, Well-Lighted Place has always been a favorite of mine!


    • Jay said,

      May 8, 2013 at 7:28 am

      Hi Melissa,
      Good to see there are others who “of those who like to stay late at the cafe” 🙂


  4. Dale said,

    May 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I liked “The Killers”, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Gambler, The Nun and The Radio”. “Hills Like White Elephants” is one of two stories on my DMI list. And, yes, I like the theory of omission. Great post, Jay, and great photos!


    • Jay said,

      May 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

      Thanks, Dale. I’ve only read “The Killers” of the ones you mention. I had three Hemingway stories in my DMI this year. I am consciously rationing his remaining stories so they will last me years…


  5. Jayde-Ashe said,

    May 10, 2013 at 3:50 am

    Hills Like White Elephants is one of my favourites, so much so that I wrote about it today! Some others that I love from his book ‘Men Without Women’ are: In Another Country, The Killers, Fifty Grand, A Canary For One…
    Ok I’m a bit obsessed with Hemingway. And I love the theory of omission.


    • Jay said,

      May 13, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Hi Jayde-Ashe,
      I enjoyed your post.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.Always happy to meet another Hemingway fan!


  6. Richard said,

    May 12, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Hi Jay, Thanks for the shout-out. That Great Books session on “Indian Camp” was one of my favorites and I still don’t think Nick’s uncle gave out cigars to the indians on a whim. I have been reading Hemingway and books and articles about him and his life since the early ’50s and have recently been rereading the Nick Adams stories (of which “Indian Camp” is one) again. I was blown away by “The End of Something” which did not impress me on first reading over 60 years ago…but then not much did at that time. I also love “Soldier’s Home”, “The Battler” and “My Old Man” and yes, I do like the “iceberg method” especially now that I am old enough to appreciate it. See you later this month for “The Ledge”, a wonderful story in real life as well as in fiction. Richard


    • Jay said,

      May 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for commenting. I am looking forward to “The Ledge” next week too. I haven’t started it yet but will read it a couple times at least before our meeting. (It’s one of the stories in that “Greatest Short Stories of the Century” anthology too, btw)

      I think i mentioned above that I’m kind of rationing Hemingway’s stories out to myself. I don’t want to be a glutton and read them all right away…



  7. October 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    […] been a Hemingway story, it would probably be about three pages.  The iceberg theory (read about it here) that is applied to Hemingway would not really hold water (so to speak) with “The Open […]


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