The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Autobiographical Motives in the Snows of Kilimanjaro
It is often said that great artistic inspiration can only be born out of experience. Some of the saddest stories ever written were created by authors who had experienced some great trauma in their own life. Similarly, the most realistic and engrossing depictions of foreign lands are often penned by those who have actually been there. Authors often draw on their own personal experiences and musings in order to create moving and realistic works of fiction. Thus, even through fictional literary works, one can learn a great deal about the author themselves. One of the best examples of an author who poured their own experiences and emotions into their writing is Ernest Hemingway. His short story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” reflects a great deal about the life of the author himself. (Burgess, 1978) With this in mind, the following essay will examine the life of Ernest Hemingway, explaining how The Snows of Kilimanjaro was greatly impacted by the author’s own experiences and circumstances.
Perhaps the most obvious influence of Hemingway’s life on his short story comes through in the setting of the story. The characters are in Africa, living in a somewhat primitive, yet comfortable camp after the primary character, Harry, begins to succumb to gangrene. (Hemingway, 1970) Hemingway himself travelled to Africa for safari on multiple occasions, and his experience shows through in his detailed writing about the scenery and African wildlife. (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) Harry’s recollections of his past life also seem to draw from locations and experiences from Hemingway’s own life.
The time setting of the story is also very significant in this discussion, as the main character Harry is part of the so-called “lost generation,” or the generation of people who came of age during World War I. (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) Hemingway himself was of this generation. Both he and Harry served in World War I, upon which Harry reflects. (Hemingway, 1970) Both Harry’s and Hemingway’s respective experiences in the war came to shape who they are as people, and give both individuals a sense of being somewhat lost.
Hemingway’s use of symbolism in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” can also be explained by his own experiences and beliefs. Across many of Hemingway’s literary works, such as Farewell to Arms, mountains symbolize purity, goodness, and peaceful tranquility, where lowlands and plains symbolize corruptions, rot, and imperfection. (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013)This is true of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” as well. This common symbolic representation across Hemingway’s works is due to his own contemplations on mountains and nature in the various locations he visited. The mountains were mostly viewed from far off, and few people ever climbed them. Furthermore, the tops of these mountains were subject to freezing temperatures, which largely preserved anything atop them. The lowlands, by contrast, were easily traversed by many people, and subject to rot and decay. Thus, Hemingway likely associated many of the evils of human nature, as well as death and decay itself, with the plains. (Burgess, 1978) On the other hand, he symbolically viewed the mountaintop as a place where timelessness and purity could manifest for those who could achieve the feat of climbing them. In the short story, Harry wants to die as the clean, preserved Snow Leopard atop Kilimanjaro, rather than rotting away slowly on the lowly plains. (Hemingway, 1970) Harry wanted to become preserved atop the mountain as a symbolic representation of his desire to complete all of his planned writing and be preserved in history. This is something that Hemingway also wanted to do, as he struggled to find meaning and morality in the midst of a confusing, often directionless existence. (Burgess, 1978) Going down in history as a great writer is something that few people can do, just as only a few people can ever conquer these mountains. Harry, and Hemingway, both saw the mountains as a representation of their life goal, to become timeless and pure in history through their artistic literary expression.
Probably the most significant parallel to be drawn from Hemingway’s life and this short story is the characterization of Harry. Both Hemingway and Harry, as mentioned before, are part of the “lost generation.” (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) This influences them in profound, existential ways. Both feel somewhat lost, and as though they are often simply going through the motions of life in searching for meaning. Hemingway’s four marriages hint at the fact that he had trouble finding lasting love and may have been simply pretending to be in a state of marital bliss, much as Harry is in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) Harry, at the beginning of the story, being overcome by a state of depressed apathy as is largely representative of the “lost generation,” tells his wife that he doesn’t love her and that he never loved her at all. (Hemingway, 1970) This is despite the fact that his wife, Helen, is very loyal, kind, and intelligent. Although Hemingway had many long relationships with women who were good and kind, he was unable to find a happy romantic life. (Burgess, 1978)
Hemingway’s depiction of Harry mirrors Hemingway’s own life in many notable ways as well. For instance, Hemingway lived in Paris and believed it to be a hub of interesting people and experience, for which he could find inspiration for his writing. (Burgess, 1978) Harry also reminisces about his time in Paris and all of experiences he had which he promised he would write about, but never managed to. (Hemingway, 1970)
Beyond their membership in the “lost generation,” war experiences, and times in various locations around the world, both Hemingway and Harry are also writers. (Hemingway, 1970) Just as Harry discusses the grand influence of his life experiences being the catalyst for his writing, so too did Hemingway believe that his life experiences should be included heavily in his writing, even if the plotlines were entirely fictional. (Burgess, 1978) Harry’s musings allow Hemingway to express many of his own beliefs and fears through the character of Harry. For instance, one of Harry’s biggest lamentations is that his wife’s wealth has impacted his creativity and ability to write. He blames both Helen and her money on his own procrastination and declining literary output. (Hemingway, 1970) This mirrors Hemingway’s own belief that his increasing fraternization with the wealthy and powerful due to his rise as a writer was causing his writing to suffer. (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) Harry comments about how boring and superfluous the lives of the wealthy are, and believes that it is starting to wear off on him. His reason for coming to Africa in the first place, in fact, seems to be to regain his sense of literary integrity and motivation. (Hemingway, 1970) This parallels the strongly held belief of Hemingway that location and setting directly impact one’s ability to write and create. (Burgess, 1978)
It is through such a detailed examination as this that one can make the assumption that Hemingway was in fact, writing a great deal about himself and his own thoughts and worries when he created the character of Harry. (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) Under this assumption, more conclusions about who Hemingway himself was and what he thought about can be drawn by further exploring the character of Harry.
Harry is introduced as an individual in failing health, on the doorsteps of death itself. Being confronted with death, he feels great sorrow (expressed to his wife as apathy) that he was unable to ever do all the writing he had wanted to get done. (Hemingway, 1970) While Hemingway himself was not necessarily in any grave danger at the time of this writing, he did have his fair share of life-threatening injuries as well as a good deal of firsthand experience in both World Wars. (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) Combine this with an individual already predisposed to existentialism and it is safe to say that Hemingway himself often felt like his death was impending and worried that he would not be able to ever become the writer that he wanted to. Just as Harry turns bitter and somewhat nasty towards his wife and the lifestyle she has brought him, so too did Hemingway likely feel resentment towards his rich friends and romantic relationships for sacrificing his artistic integrity. (Moddelmog & Gizzo, 2013) Finally, Harry’s death on the plains of Africa is very significant. As mentioned before, the plains to Hemingway represented immorality and decay. (Burgess, 1978) Harry’s death on these plains encapsulates the fear that Hemingway has about his own death being surrounded by evil and rot, and his worries over the possibility that he might never write a great story, and be preserved, as the leopard on top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
This story is a fantastically written and engrossing piece of literary fiction that causes the reader to contemplate their own mortality and the meaning of existence. Hemingway was able to create such a work of art by drawing upon his own life experiences and beliefs, and more importantly by mirroring the character of Harry after himself. Though Hemingway met a tragic end through suicide, his writing lives on. Through his works of fiction, the reader can learn a great deal about who Hemingway was and how he contemplated the most perplexing topics in life. Despite his troubled state at the time of his death, one can only hope that Hemingway found some semblance of lasting peace, and he will forever be remembered as the pristine leopard on the snowy mountaintop.
Life of Main Character in the Snows of Kilimanjaro
The story about pain, about being fed up with the reality, about dying at the foot of the mountain which is said to be the highest in Africa. The thing as uncertain as the unknown presence of the mysterious skeleton of the leopard lying close to the western summit, dried and frozen. One ponders on the reason for the animal to climb that altitude. So far, the question with no straight answer : WHY. Why did the leopard climb the mountain ? How to explain logically what it was seeking there? How to explain what Harry was looking for, dying slowly at the foot of Kilimanjaro and struggling within himself with his sort of “writer’s block”?
Some could say Harry blamed the girl for their coming to Africa. Your bloody money – was the rude answer to the girl having complained about the very fact of their coming on the Black Continent and that the “things” would have looked totally different if they had not arrived there; as if her purely materialistic approach to human life – the way Harry perceived the girl, at least – might have been the reason for his painful disease.
On the other hand, this disease was brought about by some “exterior factors”, though factors that occurred for they probably did something wrong : I don’t see why that had happen to YOUR leg? What have we done to have that happen to US ? – the girl asked.
Outwardly, she adored their sojourn together in Africa, but now, after this horrible accident, her hatred gained the upper hand of her admiration. She looked after Harry, cared about him and at last, she loved him, but still one can’t resists the strong impression that her unmingled and kind of tangible feeling towards Harry was only a perfect disguise, a black veil under which she tried to hide successfully her true face, the face of the Sister of Mercy.
Harry was passing away – or rather decaying – slowly in Africa, at the foot of the mountain said to be the on this continent. He forgot how to write ( in fact, he has never written anything at all ), although his memories, written recollections of the long gone past, of his days back in Europe seem to be something in the shape of the chapters of his next book. Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. (…) Well he would never know, now. To think so means to be somehow conscious of the fact that You would never do all the things You were to do, since Your own life has changed co dramatically that there is hardly any space for creation, for something new to come into existence. The story about the chore boy was the one he had saved to write. He knew at least twenty good stories from out there and he had never written one. Why? Harry sinks into deep thought asks himself WHY ? But then, this is the girl he wants to answer this “tormenting” question he could not find the answer to, himself. He is the person who seeks, and seeks the truth, the absolute, absolute being the clue for his quest, and possibly the proper remedy for his powerlessness. The powerlessness of the dying writer.
The last scene of the story being Harry’s vision in sleep. A feverish dream of his returning back home in a little plane. It glides above the earth to change its direction quite unexpectedly and fly up over the top of Kilimanjaro. He sees the white square summit of the mountain, unbelievably white in the sun, so enormously huge but so dignified. And this is to be the “final cut” of his journey, the place of his eternal rest. In those days someone found the reason for the leopard to climb that altitude. Harry managed to find his fate. And then he knew that there was where he was going.
Subject of Death in Three Different Novels
The subject of death is very emotional and controversial. Death comes to every form of life one day and that is a day that is awaited upon by all. One can never know how and when they are going to die. There are three short stories that deal with death and whether it defines the value of life. The three stories that deal with this topic are “The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway, and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” also by Ernest Hemingway. In these stories, it is evident that the attitude that is taken towards death shapes the nature of one’s life, thus death defines the value of life.In the short story “The Death of the Moth,” it is apparent that the narrator sees that when the moth’s death is approaching it changes the way that it is going to live the rest of its life. The narrator realises that the moth at first flutters around to find a way out. After flying for a long time and then finally dropping on its back the narrator knows that the moth’s time has come. The narrator believes that the moth doesn’t give up on life, but instead keeps on trying its best to use what it has left to the best.After perhaps a seventh attempt he slipped from the wooden ledge and fell, fluttering his wings, on to his back on the windowsill.
The helplessness of his attitude roused me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly. (p. 46) This quotation shows how the narrator concluded that the moth, after trying so hard, was exhausted and was dying. Virginia Woolf illustrates how the narrator believed the moth, like humans, when it had the chance changed the way it was going to die. The narrator states the moth had many options, it could have just given up, or it could have tried to the end, which it did. It is evident that the narrator knew the moth died with dignity; it was able to fight to the end; it fought with death, but was defeated. This thus portrays that the attitude towards death shapes the nature of life. Another quotation that helps to prove what the narrator thought of the moth’s death is:Just as life had been strange a few minutes before, so death was now strange. The moth having righted himself now lay most decently and uncomplainingly composed. O yes, he seemed to say death is stronger than I am. (p. 47) The narrator noticed that the moth lay in a position that did not show it as being weak and insignificant, but as something that had died with dignity and had fought all the way to the end.
Therefore, in this story Virginia Woolf illustrates that death defines the value of life, because the narrator illustrates that the moth knowing that death was waiting kept on fighting to the end, and achieved dignity and admiration. Similarly, in the short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” Ernest Hemingway toys with the idea that death defines the value of one’s life. In this story it is evident that the old man is keeping himself away from death. The dark and death to him symbolize pure nothingness. The old man’s idea of death and darkness resort him to staying awake all night and then sleeping in the day, because the nothingness has gone, just to come back again. A quotation from the story that is said by the old waiter, he is thinking to himself that like the old man he finds everything to be nothing:Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. (p. 44) Here it is evident the old waiter believes that he sees himself in the old man and like him finds everything to be nothing. Everything is nothingness having no real meaning and only bringing death closer and closer. In this story the character knows where death is and to him it is in the night and in the nothingness.
The character’s attitude towards death shows how dignity in his life really matters. It is stressed throughout this story that one must have dignity to be something, because after all a man is nothing:It is light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was nothing that he knew too well. It was all nothing and a man was nothing too. It as only that and light as all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. (p. 44)
The old waiter thinks that a person needs dignity and he says this when he is going for a drink. The man not only believed that death and darkness signified nothingness, but he also thought that to stay away from death you had to been in the right surroundings. This is where light and cleanness plays a very big part. In order for one to retain their dignity from death they had to be in the right atmosphere doing the right thing. Death is defining this character’s life because he knows that death is creeping up on him and he makes himself a routine that he follows everyday. Thus, Ernest Hemingway in this story shows that death defines the value of life, by making one realize the deeper meaning of life, which is that there is no deeper meaning there is only nothingness.Finally, In the short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” Ernest Hemingway once again deals with the attitude towards death and the shape that it gives life. In this story, it is evident that the central character is struggling with death, and he finds death an adventure. It is an adventure that adds to the others he has experienced in his life. Death is something that comes on a person when their time has come. In this story, the character sees death as something that occupies space and comes to get him.
A quotation that illustrates this is:Because, just then, death had come and rested its head on the foot of the cot and he could smell its breath…It moved up on him now, but it had no shape any more. It simply occupied space. ‘Tell it to go away.’ It did not but it moved a little closer. ‘You’ve got a hell of a breath,’ he told it. (p. 606) Death was right over this man and it was something that had been coming and he had seen it coming. His attitude towards it changed how he lived the rest of his life because he decided that if he was going nothing was going to stay behind after him because he was going to take everything. He was going to make his wife unhappy, which he did. The reason for this is because he did not really love her; he had for a short while. He was still with her because of her money and she treated him well. He had already loved once and lost the love of his life. This man was not frightened of death he was ready for it. He was a man that got bored of things very quickly. He changed his women like he changed his clothes, and death was also something that he was becoming bored of.
A quotation that shows this is:I’m getting as bored with dying as with everything else, he thought. ‘It’s a bore,” he said out loud. ‘What is, my dear?’ ‘Anything you do too bloody long.” (p. 605) This illustrates that death for him was becoming something that was just there, and was something that you could just get rid of. He was wrong; of course, because he was taken by death, and when he was he was frightened. In this short story it is evident that the source of this character’s frustration and disappointment was that he could no longer write. When Harry wrote he was free to say and feel what he wanted, this was all expressed in his writing. There were many things that had happened in his life that he wanted to write about but no longer could. This explains why Harry lashed out his wife so much; he could not write what he felt so he let it all out on the nearest person. He blamed his wife as being the one that no longer let him write. Thus, once again Ernest Hemingway illustrates that death defines the value of life. Harry’s writing is what defined his life, and after he had a meeting with death this was taken away from him. His life was taken away from him, so he had nothing to live for. All in all, it is evident that death defines the value of life. When the characters realize that death is approaching they all look at it a different way. They all do different things with their remaining time. Some use it wisely whereas others do not. Death is not the end of it all, death is the end to the lifetime that a person has just lived, but death is also the beginning of something new.
Death is that everybody will experience, but for some it is an adventure while for others it is a tragedy; it all depends on what you do with your time before leaving.
The Meaning Behind the Animal Metaphors and Flashbacks in The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Analysis of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway
The story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” was written by Ernest Hemingway in 1938. First, Ernest Hemingway reflects his concerns as a writer and his life in general through this story. In this story Ernest wants to “remark some aspects that affects some American writers such as politics, drink, women, money, and ambition” (Pollklas, 1998); also, Ernest Hemingway also shares his fears through the story because he thinks that he could finish his life without taking advantage of the time. This story begins with an epigraph about the mountain of Kilimanjaro and a dead leopard on the summit of the mountain. Then, the characters Harry and Helen (who are a couple) are in a plain in Africa, and they start talking about Harry´s gangrene in his right leg. Also, they both are waiting for a plane to take them out of Africa. Harry is an ambitious writer, and he is married to Helen due to her money. In addition, this story presents many flashbacks in which Harry remembers the good times in his life. At the end of the story, Harry imagines himself flying over the Kilimanjaro Mountain and then he dies. Moreover, in order to understand the story, it is important to mention the way in which the leopard and the hyena depict different stages in Harry´s personal and emotional life, to compare and contrast the plains and the mountains, to demonstrate how the epigraph reveals the spiritual and the quest for knowledge, to indicate the ways in which Harry and Helen became stereotypes of the chauvinistic and feministic aspect, and also to state the significance of flashbacks for the meaning and development of the plot in the story.
First of all, the narrator mentions in the epigraph of the story a frozen leopard, “Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude” (1). This is a foreshadowing in which the leopard represents a stage in Harry´s life which may be death and the seeking for heaven. Also, this may represent another stage never reached in Harry´s life for as the leopard, Harry never accomplished the summit of the mountain, which may signify the peak of his own writing. In spite of living a marvelous life, he never wrote anything about it. Furthermore, another important animal is the hyena since it depicts also a foreshadowing of Harry´s death, “… a hyena crossed the open on his way around the hill… that bastard crosses there every night… every night for two weeks.” (8), so the hyena is waiting for Harry´s death as vultures lurking their prey. On the other hand, the leopard is worthy for it has taken the tough road to Kilimanjaro, which represent the house of God, and also the leopard represents some different stages in Harry´s life; for instance, Harry´s time at war when he helped Williamson, “Nothing passed out Williamson until he gave him all his morphine tablets that he had always saved to use himself …” (13), here, Harry´s deed is wonderful since he sacrifices himself to release Williamson´s pain. Also, Harry does not want to hurt Helen and he does not confess her that he has never really loved her, “I love you, really. You know I love you. I´ve never loved anyone else the way I love you…He slipped into the familiar lie he made his bread and butter by” (5). Hence, he also sacrifices himself not to disappoint even more his wife. The leopard not only depicts the good deeds and stages of Harry but also the approaching to immortality by Harry as the frozen leopard in the epigraph that may represent life on heaven and earth; This may be one explanation to the never-answered mystery of the Masai. Moreover, the hyena represents the decay of Harry and the worsening of his illness until reaching an end which is death, “It had moved up on him now, but it had no shape anymore” (14). The narrator is mentioning the hyena that has no shape any longer, and also the approaching of it toward Harry closer every time until the moment it catches and impedes Harry to talk; “It moved up closer to him still and he could not speak to it… but it moved in on him so its weight was all upon his chest…” (14), the hyena is seen as a representation of death since it has no shape anymore and there readers may notice the process of death. Also, another important aspect is that the hyena resembles so much Harry in the sense of the odor since Harry says he stinks, “I´m awfully sorry about the odor though…” (1), and also when he talks to the hyena he mentions that it also stinks, “You´ve got a hell of breath, you stinking bastard” (14). So, the hyena depicts the stage when Harry is sick just about to die.
The story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” presents some similarities and differences between mountains and plains. First, the symbolism of the mountain Kilimanjaro is contrasted with the symbolism of the plains; in the story, mountains represent life because they contain “green-rising forest and the solid bamboo… waterfall” (15); therefore, these images give a sense of living because nature grows up just when there is fertile land, but in the case of the plains nature is more difficult to be seen. Moreover, mountains also represent the good events that Harry had lived in the past. For instance, in the flashbacks presented in the story, Harry starts remembering the journeys in his past in which he had lived happily such as “in the morning at breakfast, looking out of the window and seeing snow on the mountains in Bulgaffa” (3); although he had enjoyed these places, he had not written about those places, so he just have good memories about mountains. On the contrary, the plains represent decay and death because Harry is dying in the plains of Africa, but Harry presents not only a physical decay, but also a mental decay. First, he has a “gangrene … in his right leg” (2), so that illness is going to cause his death, but also Harry is presenting a psychological decay because he is hopeless and he complains all the time because “all he felt now was a great tiredness and anger” (2). Furthermore, mountains and plains also contain some similarities since both of them are stages in Harry´s life. Therefore, mountains and plains are stages that teach Harry that life is passing by and the only certain thing is death because when he is in the mountain, he is happy, but he does not pay attention to this because he is worried about other things. In addition, when he is in the plain in Africa, he does not take advantage of the time because he is complaining all the time about the illness that he suffers from “I don’t want to move… There is no sense of moving now except to make it easier for you” (1); in both places the mountain and the plain, Harry is living without concern.
The epigraph presented in the story helps readers understand the spiritual essence and the quest for knowledge. First, when the author says “Kilimanjaro is a snows- covered mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God” (1); this place symbolizes the paradise because in this place people can find peace and the meaning of life. Also, hills and mountains have always been related to the closeness with God because of the religious aspect since these places can be closer to heaven such as the Olympus Mountain in Greek Mythology. Therefore, people usually want to climb to the mountains in order to get close to God and feel the divinity of God´s power. Moreover, “Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude” (1); the leopard represents strength, power, and courage because the leopard dies trying to reach the summit of “The House of God”, so he dies trying to fulfill a purpose which is get closer to God and trying to find the meaning of his life. Also, this leopard has been found dead, and his death represents the immortality of the leopard because he dies physically, but he will be remembered all the time because of his braveness because not everyone would take that risk of going to that place knowing that he or she can die. Furthermore, these scenes represent Harry´s life since Harry at the beginning of the story is lazy, and he does not take advantage of his life, but at the end he goes through a journey in which he tries to find a significance to his life, so he behaves as the leopard climbing the mountain until “The House of God” in order to find peace and knowledge.
Harry and Helen are stereotypes of chauvinism and feminism. First, Harry is an example of a chauvinistic man because he treats Helen badly “Helen-Don’t you love me?… Harry-No… I don’t think so. I never have” (3); therefore, Harry is always insulting her and he says that the only thing that he cares about her is her money and he says that “your damned money was my armour. My sword and my armour … you bitch… you rich bitch. That’s poetry I´m full of poetry now. Rotten poetry” (4); in addition, Harry does not love Helen because he is with her in order to spend her money, and that is the way he has always been with women since he just looks for women who have money. Hence, Harry treats Helen like a sexual object saying “I´d like to destroy you a few times in bed” (7); as a chauvinistic man, Harry does not treat Helen respectfully. Moreover, Helen is also part of a chauvinistic society because she is presented as a submissive woman because she is always helping and taking care of Harry despite of his bad treats; for example, “Helen- it´s supposed to be bad for you. It said in Black´s to avoid all alcohol. You shouldn’t drink” (2); although Harry is always offending her, Helen is always helping him. Furthermore, Helen is also seen as a feministic woman in some parts of the story since she is the one who has money in the relationship, so that makes her independent from Harry “[money] was always yours as much as mine”(3); therefore, she is the one who gives money to Harry. In addition, Helen is a strong woman because she knows how to work alone; for instance, “she had gone to kill a piece of meat” (5); Helen is very good as shooting and that is a characteristic that not many women have because it is supposed to be a job just for men, but she breaks all the rules of a chauvinistic society. Hence, Harry is part of that feministic society because he is sick in his bed while Helen is outside trying to find something to eat. Also, Helen is the head of the family “her husband had died when she was comparatively young woman and for a while she devoted herself to her two children [one of her two children died in a plane crash some time later]” (6); therefore, Helen is a representation of an exemplary mother because she has to take care of her son alone. Moreover, another feministic characteristic in Helen is that she likes to read, so that means that she likes to learn about many things “She was always thoughtful… on anything she knew about or had read, or that she had ever heard” (5); this characteristic helps her to learn more, and knowledge is a very important aspect in order to avoid stereotypes.
Ernest Hemingway uses five flashbacks through “The snows of Kilimanjaro”; each flashback has some important significance for the development of the story. The first flashback is about loss of life and money since the narrator goes back to the times when he was in the World War I. First of all, he tells the story when he was living different experiences fighting against Turks and Greeks, “The Turks had come steadily and lumpily and he had seen the skirted men running and the officers shooting into them…” (9), this represents the loss of lives since the narrator actually fights at World War I. Then, he remembers when Herr Lent lost all his money because of being gambling all the time, “Herr Lent lost more. Finally he lost it all” (4), this means the loss of money, which involves the central idea of the flashback regarding loss. However, there is something else in regards to happiness, which is the remembrance of snow in Vorarlberg and the Arlberg. This remembrance brings good memories since Harry describes many of the activities he used to do there such as “singing Hi! Ho!… running the orchard in three turns… knocking your bindings loose, kicking the skis free and leaning them up against wall of the inn…” (4), Harry misses these good memories, and again he never wrote anything about it. So, the sense of loss is reflected throughout the flashback representing the loss of life and money, but also the happiness depicted by the snow. Then, the second flashback is about Harry´s attempt to avoid loneliness since he mentions when he was in Constantinople all alone, “ He had whored the whole time and then, when that was over, and he had failed to kill his loneliness, but only made it worse…” (8), Harry was so empty that he tried to fill his void with women who at the end after a fight abandon him leaving him alone and unable to finish with his loneliness. Also, another important feature of the second flashback is the worthlessness of Harry since he runs away from turkey led by fear, “ … he and the British observer had run too until his lungs ached… ” (9), here, readers may notice the futility presented by Harry whom only think of running away to Paris again. Furthermore, the third flashback is important for it depicts a sense of destruction and happiness. First, the narrator mentions the burning of Harry´s grandfather house “Then that log was burned down and all the guns that had been on deer foot racks above the open fire place were burned and afterwards their barrels…” (10), here, readers may notice that the house is completely burned down, which means destruction. After this, more destruction is presented by mentioning the disgrace of the proprietor of the hotel in Triberg who was caught up by a crisis, “The next year came the inflation and the money he had made the year before was not enough to buy supplies to open the hotel and he hanged himself” (11), so readers can realize the inescapable sense of annihilation mentioned by Harry in his memories; moreover, Harry really loved the place where he used to live in France. Even though he was poor, he was relatively happy in that place, “There never was another part of Paris that he loved like that, the sprawling trees, the old white plastered houses painted brown below, the long green of the autobus in that round square…” (11). The people in that town used to be poor, but they were happy in spite of the circumstances just like Harry. Hence, this flashback depicts a mix between destruction and happiness. The fourth flashback is important for it depicts the loyalty of a boy who was commanded to protect a barn, and when someone tried to barge in, he killed it and asked the narrator for help to carry the body. However, the poor little boy never thought to be taken to jail because of having committed a crime but to be rewarded instead, “He having no idea that he would be arrested. Thinking he had done his duty…and he would be rewarded” (13). This represents a misunderstanding since the poor little boy tried to help but he was taken to jail. Finally, the last flashback is the most important of all since it is the only one in which Harry does not regret of not having written since it is so painful to remember the wounded officer, Williamson, who was dying due to a bomb impact who even asks Harry to kill him “Shoot me, Harry. For Christ sake shoot me” (13); this scene is so terrifying for Harry that he gives him the morphine that he had saved for himself, “Nothing passed out Williamson until he gave him all his morphine tablets that he had always saved to use himself …” (13), Harry sacrifices his last morphine pill to help Williamson. This may give readers a sense of hope for Harry to survive since even though he is dying, his good deeds could save him from death. This may be seen as a way in which Harry may reach redemption. This redemption is the one that at the end helps Harry to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. To conclude, this last flashback is very important since it helps Harry to think that he is going to heaven. Harry dreams of himself flying over the Kilimanjaro, so he thinks he is in heaven though the reality is that he died in the plains of Africa.
To conclude, the use of animals is very significant in this story since the leopard and the hyena depict different stages and emotional feelings of Harry. First, the leopard represents Harry´s youth, and also the time when he went to the war and made good deeds. Also, the frozen leopard resembles Harry for afterwards along the story, readers may notice that Harry tries to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, which signifies heaven. So, this search for God and immortality was made by both, the leopard and Harry. Furthermore, the hyena mainly represents the stage of death and ailment for it always goes to the camp where Harry stays to lurk him and wait for his decease. Also, the hyena resembles Harry for both of them stink, the hyena for it is its nature and Harry because of the illness that he is suffering from. Furthermore, the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” presents a comparison and a contrast between mountains and plains. First, mountains are a symbol of life since the author uses some images such as waterfall, green-forest and so on. Also, these places represent the good events in Harry´s life; on the contrary, plains are a symbol of physical and psychological decay in Harry´s life since he is dying because of gangrene in his right leg. Furthermore, mountains and plains are similar because they both are stages in Harry´s life and teach Harry that life is passing by and the only certain thing is death. Moreover, the epigraph of the story reveals that Kilimanjaro, also called The House of God, symbolizes the paradise and the closeness to God, so people want to climb mountains in order to reach a spiritual essence. Furthermore, the leopard in epigraph represents strength, power, and courage because the leopard dies trying to fulfill a purpose which is get closer to God and trying to find the meaning of his life. Also, this leopard has been found dead, and his death represents the immortality of the leopard because he dies physically, but he will be remembered all the time because of his braveness. Moreover, Helen and Harry are a representation of chauvinistic society because Harry treats Helen badly, and also he sees her as a sexual object. In addition, Helen is also part of a chauvinistic stereotype because she is submissive at Harry´s treatments, and she is always there although he does not love her. Furthermore, Helen can be an example of a feministic woman because she has her own money, so she independent of Harry, and also she takes care of her child alone. Then, she likes to read and that means that she is learning and knowledge is important to avoid stereotypes in society. Also, the use of flashbacks is important to get the meaning of the story for all of them tell readers the background information about Harry´s life. In the first flashback, readers may notice a tone of loss of life and money through the stories told by the narrator. Then, the second flashback shows a time when Harry is trying to avoid feeling alone by hanging out with many women; however, he is not able to avoid it. Afterwards, the third flashback depicts a tone of destruction and happiness since the narrator describes how his grandfather´s house is burned down; also, he mentions the place where he uses to live in France, which represents a happy tone. Then, the fourth flashback is about the misguided loyalty of a choir boy who was sent to jail for being murdered a thief when being guarding a barn. Finally, the last flashback is the most important of all since in this one Harry helps a man who is dying due to a bomb impact; Harry gives him his morphine to release his pain.
Perspective on a Modern Marriage and Concerned Issues in The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro is one of the author’s finest and fantastical literary offerings. Quite compellingly, it is one part autobiographical in its protagonist’s mental ramblings and bravely one part drama as well. Set in the desert wildlands of Africa, the short story centers on a bitter and self-pitying writer named Harry who is stranded with his adoring, and ever doting wife, and slowly succumbing to his fight with the gangrene that has ravaged his leg. As the story progresses with the assistance of poignant lines of dialogue but mostly through Harry replaying his life, loves, and adventures in a fast-paced reel, it is clear that death is looming for the character. However, it is not death that assumes center stage in this composition. This work of Hemingway’s is in fact a critical look into the depths of a modern marriage; its limitations and unfortunate shortcomings.
It does not take very long for the emotional framework of Harry to be revealed to the reader. He is many roles and adaptations folded into one tragically human conundrum. He is a writer that no longer writes, a man who has had multiple lovers in multiple women (but has never truly loved one), and a well-traveled man who sees his marriage to his loving wife, Helen, as a hindrance to his inner muse and passions. Harry presents his story as to be pitied and sighed over, when the source of his anguish is in fact him and not his comfortable marriage. (Feminist critic Judith Fetterly has taken Hemingway to task for this particular trend in his works [the unreliable masculine narrator] even calling the writer out in her book, “The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction.”)Harry should be a very happy and fulfilled man; having settled down into a comfortable existence where he is assured the means to travel and explore opportunities, do newer and more amazing things, and have the loyalty of a woman by his side. However, Harry is far from satisfied; he is haunted by a history of regret and bad choices, and he cannot even be happy in the indulgent circumstances which his marriage to Helen affords him because he knows he’ll never love her back.
Helen cannot possibly see love in Harry’s eyes when it is gazing into hers, but she sees something in him worth loving, and she pines like the ever faithful wife for his love and attention. Like tired and world-weary companions, they bicker over drinks; Harry is caustic and careless in his argument but Helen is resilient and though still hurt, shakes off the words as though they were not indicative of Harry’s true feelings for her. Her pleas for him to forgo the whiskey and soda that he requests is not with the intent to control or manipulate him, but Harry still fights against her because as much as he resents her forbidding him, he resents himself for being immobile and not having the strength to fix it himself. Helen is the woman who enjoys loving, caring for, and needing a man; she finds herself and her emotional anchor in being wanted by a man as experienced as Harry. So she feeds his fancies and pleasures his appetites, and allows the calluses to grow on her ego, if it will meanall the world to his. It is highly speculative if Helen realizes her husband has merely settled down with her for stability and does not see her as a soulmate with whom he is complete and whole.
The greater picture is that while Harry is laying there physically dying of this monstrous disease that is wrecking his body; he is already the carcass remaining of a man who died several times over all in the name of living. He has loss lovers but not known the reward of sacrificial love; he has been a writer but has never established a distinctive voice for himself. He believes women to be his real disease as his relations with them have been the biggest waste of his years, and despite all his philandering, for being the fool in bed bought to please and to serve, he is a sexual failure. The writer Linda Wagner-Martin writes in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro: Overview,” that “Hemingway’s implication is that the rot that will cause Harry’s physical death is a corollary for the spiritual and moral rot that living with the wealthy- and neglecting his talent- has occasioned.” With his current wife, he is the ultimate fool; he has no motivation to write or even be himself so long as he can simply be whatever her financial comforts decide for him to be. At times, Harry pulls himself back from being too cruel with Helen or attempts to denounce his words. Yet, this only further betrays Harry as a manipulative figure who will only concern himself with caution or tact if and when the moment suits him.
It is in that African savanna that the reader experiences the gradual death of a meaningless marriage with Harry in his distorted state of being narrating rather lucidly how he has come to this point; his wife being the only one in the dark. Just as she is continually naïve and in denial over the irrevocable condition of his leg; maintaining that the plane will somehow arrive in time and all will be well. Perhaps, Helen is accustomed to protecting and holding onto a delusion, no matter how grandeur it might be. The reader recoils with every insult Harry casts his significant other’s way and hopes she has not been too terribly hurt, although one expects she would be. Although, it is clear Helen loves her husband; it begs to wonder how deeply this death has begun to take form in their marriage that Helen is so blind she cannot see her husband for who he is. The literary critic Robert W. Lewis goes so far as to discount the affections of Helen for her husband and instead portrays Harry as being the“tragic romantic” in his book of critique: “Hemingway on Love.” Still, this theory rings a little dully in light of the entire context of the story.
In conclusion, the characters of Harry and Helen serve as Hemingway’s customary references to turn to for a depiction of the modern American marriage. However, flawed and fragile they are drawn to be, they are the author’s creations and projections of a very warped marital universe. There is the verbally battering masculine figure who finds no contentment in his wife no matter what lengths she goes for him. This male figure is angry to be married, angry to be committed to anything other his pen and books; contained within this bubble of a world where he submits to his wife’s wishes and wants for purely ulterior motives. And then there is the wife, oh, the forgiving, taking, back-bending, and over-reaching female who submits to her husband’s domineering presence and personality, but can never submit enough for the world of Hemingway. Indeed, that is the real heartbreaking tragedy of this short story: the resignation of a romance doomed to fail and the resounding defeat of a woman’s love laid to rest at her husband’s cold feet.