The language Ernest Hemingway uses in “Mr. and Mrs. Elliot” is very simple and straightforward. Stylistic devices or embellishments are not present in the text and dialogue is also absent. These deliberate choices of the author suggest that his purpose was to present a straightforward story that shows the commonness of failed marriages and the disappointment and bitterness it brings to the couple.
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Imagery is rarely employed in the story. When it is used, it is mostly connected to the physical setting: “So they all sat around the Cafe du Dome, avoiding the Rotonde across the street because it is always so full of foreigners, for a few days and then the Elliots rented a chateau in Touraine…” (ll. 80-82)
The short story makes an allusion to the Lost Generation; this term defines a generation of American writers who gained their fame in the 1920s, after the First World War. After the war, they migrated towards Paris, which became a cultural spot for them and their interests.
First, the boat on which Mr. and Mrs. Elliot travel to Europe symbolizes the couple’s escape from being judged. As we have seen, Mr. Elliot’s mother rejects Cornelia – probably because of her age – but is happy when she finds out that the couple is not going to live in Boston. The boat symbolizes escaping judgmental views and a detachment from traditional views.
The baby that the couple cannot conceive symbolizes Mr. Elliot’s lack of masculinity. He knows that his wife is not too old to have a child, so the pressure is even greater because he is young and supposedly capable. Mr. Elliot’s masculinity and virility are called into question and mocked by his inability to conceive.