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?