In A Dash of Style we read that dialogue is the great accelerator. It sets the pace for a novel, giving mental breathers for the reader. In living, breathing reality, people don’t converse back and forth with rapid fire unless they are in a heated discussion. They take time to look at a person’s face, study any reactions, observe surroundings, and pause when something distracts. Quotation marks in novels feel most authentic when they follow the same pattern. Dialogue should not be over or under used, but have a balance.
Hemingway however, wants to show an argument in Hills Like White Elephants. His dialogue moves at a fast clip, rapid fire answers back and forth. Often, he doesn’t add dialogue tags, which A Dash of Style says help show the passing of time in conversation. Every so often, Hemingway shakes things up, putting dialogue tags sometimes at the end or in the middle of sentences, a trick A Dash of Style says shows subtle changes. In White Elephants the man asks the girl if she wants the Anis del Toro with water. “I don’t know,” the girl said. “Is it good with water?” Although adding the dialogue tag in the middle is subtle, it gives the affect of the girl pausing, before she’s asks the man’s opinion. The pause reveals her dependent and easily swayed personality.
This leads them deeper into their discussion which turns into a sort of argument. Hemingway’s work is brilliant in that he can capture the human experience by using simple dialogue. The quotation mark is a tool he uses to conveys a type of discussion many couples have had: one person in the argument has a strong opinion and tries to subtly manipulate the other into agreeing. The rapid fire dialogue makes it feel like a genuine argument. Neither character is taking time to look around or be distracted or think about other things. They are engaged fully in their conversation.