By Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway?s background influenced him to write the short story ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro.? One important influence on the story was that Hemingway had a fear of dying without finishing a work. Hemingway confirmed this fear in many interviews. Baker, in ?The Slopes of Kilimanjaro,? states that Hemingway could well express the feelings of Harry because they both feared death in the event that they may have unfinished a work (50). Similarly, in ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro? Harry, the protagonist, is constantly facing death. In an effort to get his ideas and feelings expressed, Harry resorts to flashbacks, which to him were ?very real moments? (Chaman 111). In addition to his feelings on mortality, another influence on the story is Hemingway?s history with women. Hemingway married many times, possibly inciting the bitter feelings toward the women in his stories. By comparison, Harry is very bitter towards the woman, his companion on the wild African Safari. He demonstrates bitterness best in comments like ?you bitch, you rich bitch? (Hemingway 9) and ?she shot very well this good, this rich bitch, this kindly caretaker and destroyer of his talent? (11). Perhaps the most important influence on the story is that Hemingway had been on many safaris in Africa. In an interview with Pilmpton, Hemingway states that for ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro,? he drew on his ?knowledge and experience acquired on the same long hunting trip? and tried to ?convey the feelings felt while on his trip? (qtd. 32). This background together with a believable plot, convincing characterization, and important literary devices enables Ernest Hemingway in ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro? to develop the theme that a person should neither waste the gifts he holds nor lead his life taking advantage of others.
To develop this theme, Hemingway creates a believable plot through an internal conflict and a determinate ending. Hemingway formulates a believable plot through the internal conflict in Harry. Harry, an aspiring writer, came to realize in his dying all that he had not accomplished. He began to blame others for the death that was awaiting him and for all the things, he never wrote. Harry shows his disappointment of not being able to write by stating ?he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well? (Hemingway 5). Harry?s first blame for not being successful was his present wife, whom he married for her money. Harry emphasizes his quest for a better life and more money in the statement, ?Your damned money was my armour. My Swift and my Armour? (9). He further separates himself from his wife by implying he did not like doing things with her. Harry established this feeling with the statement, ?the only thing I ever really liked to do with you I can?t do now? (9). Harry also changed his opinion on dying many times. At times, he seemed to welcome the thought of ending it all, and at other times he was bored with the idea of dying. In the end, Harry was afraid of dying and tried to fend off his death; he tried to ?send it away without speaking?(15). Along with the internal conflict, Hemingway further creates a believable plot in his story by using a determinate ending. With the reference to the dead leopard on the mountain, Hemingway foreshadows the ending of the story from the very beginning. This short preamble indicates someone in the story will fall short of his or her goals. While dying of gangrene, Harry can see the vultures that were once circling above now beginning to perch around the camp sight (3). The next clue that Harry was going to die was the appearance of the hyena. Whenever the hyena appeared, it was to symbolize the onslaught of death. When Harry faced the realization of his death, it came ? with a rush?of a sudden evil-smelling emptiness?that the hyena slipped lightly on the edge of it? (15). Furthermore, when the death actually occurred it was the hyena that announced it with a ?strange, human, almost crying sound (27).
In addition to creating the theme with a believable plot, Hemingway also develops the theme of ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro? by convincingly characterizing Harry, the protagonist. Harry was a convincing character because he was constantly facing his death. From the beginning when the reader finds out he had gangrene, the story tells the reader that even if his leg was removed, he would still die. This whole short story is centered on the death of the protagonist, Harry. He went through many stages throughout the story, at first denial, then acceptance, and finally fear of death. Besides being convincing because he behaved consistently, Harry was a convincing character because his love of money motivated him to lie and even fail at his dream of being a writer. Harry, while in one of his fits, says to his wife, ?if you had not left your own people, your goddamned Old Westbury, Saratoga, Palm Beach people to take me on—,? hinting that the higher class from which she came was at blame. Harry had, in fact caused the downfall of his writing career by ?drinking so much that he blunted the edge of his perceptions, by laziness, by sloth, and by snobbery, by pride and prejudice, by hook and crook? (11). He had chosen to make a living other than by the pen- by chasing the money of others. Finally, Harry is convincing because he is plausible. Harry, like many others when faced with a problem, was looking for another reason for his destruction and not facing the truth. The truth is that in all his pursuits for money, he has forgotten his own dream of being a writer. He is also not unlike others who, when faced with final death, become frightened and try to escape the ?weight on his chest.?
Perhaps the most important way Hemingway develops the theme of this story is that he uses foreshadowing and symbolism. Hemingway uses symbols, including the memories that Harry recalls and the different animals to enforce the theme of ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro.? Perhaps the most obvious occurrence of symbols is that of the different animals. The different types of animals represent both the type of person Harry wishes to be, and the type of person he actually is. First is the leopard, it represents all that he has not accomplished. The leopard, being the fastest land animal has mastered his surroundings and accomplished greatness. Harry?s quest for excellence in his writing is shown throughout the story, this is directly correrlery to the great skill and dominance of the leopard of his kingdom. Harry strives to be like the leopard and accomplish greatness, but because of his blaming of others, he falls short. He is more comparable to that of the hyena. The hyena is a scavenging animal, dirty and sneaky. Harry is like the hyena in that he scavenges off the women in his life. He does not care about them; he only cares about what they might supply him with. In the story, the woman goes off to ?kill a piece of meat? (10). Secondly, Hemingway also uses foreshadowing to help develop the theme. The first thing we read about it the dead leopard, leading the reader to think of death. Then as the story progresses the reader reads of the ?huge, filthy birds,? and how they are slowly progressing closer and closer just like the death approaching Harry.
After analyzing how the author?s background, the plot, the characterization, and the literary devices contribute to the development of the theme ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro,? one understands why this story rates high on the literary scale of value. One reason that this story rates high is that it fully achieves its purpose. The story achieves its purpose by the use of different writing skills and techniques. Hemingway uses not only his great analytical mind, bus draws upon his own experiences in life. His travels to Africa, and his troubled past with women, are both shown to detail in this writing. Hemingway then develops his theme by using the internal conflicts of the characters, and through the development of conflict introduces a believable plot. The most important way he develops the theme is by using symbolism. From the start, Hemingway is using symbols, and in every turning point, from the vultures introducing the death to the hyena bringing it in the end the story uses symbols. His use of symbolism is a contribution to the characters, and the overall readability of the story. Secondly, another reason this story rates high is that it has a significant purpose. Hemingway in writing “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” fulfils the purpose of entertaining, and entertainment with a deaper side it makes the reader think about life.
He not only keeps the reader reading, but makes the reader think why or what made the character do this. This background together with a believable plot, convincing characterization, and important literary devices enables Ernest Hemingway in ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro? to develop the theme that a person should neither waste the gifts he holds nor lead his life taking advantage of others.
Baker, Carlos. ?The Slopes of Kilimanjaro? Ernest Hemingway A Life Story. New York: Scribner?s, 1969. Baker discusses Hemingway?s determination to produce as much quality work as possible. Hemingway after suffering from insomnia and wild mood swings decides to write less, but more quality. Hemingway also had a fear of dying without finishing a work, and could well express the feelings of Harry in ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro.?
Nahal, Chaman. ?The Short Stories? The Narrative Pattern in Ernest Hemingway?s Fiction. Madison: Fairleigh, 1971. 80-119. Chaman points out that in ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro? the different uses of writing style. Harry the dying hunter has flashbacks describing exciting events that have happened to him in his past adventures. Chaman goes on to point out that although these seem like flashbacks to the reader, they are ?very real moments? to Harry.
Plimpton, George. ?An Interview with Ernest Hemingway? Hemingway and His Critics. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York: Hill, 1961. This interview, conducted by Pilmpton with Hemingway, discusses some Hemingway?s influences on his writings. Hemingway states that in ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro? that he was drawing on his knowledge and memory of his last hunting trip to Africa, and trying to convey the feelings felt while on his trips. It is evident in this interview that Hemingway is extremely dedicated in trying to make his writings as enjoyable and meaning as possible.
Shuman, R. Baird. ?Ernest Hemingway.? Magill?s Survey of American Literature. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 3. New York: Marshall, 1991. Baird discusses the life of Hemingway, beginning with his birthplace and ending with the taking of his own life. Hemingway was well versed in the finer things in life with his mothers teachings but much preferred hunting and more masculine activities with his father. Another important influence in his writings is his experiences on great expeditions to Africa.
Watts, Emily S. ?Iconography…? Ernest Hemingway and the Arts. Chicago: Illinois P, 1971. 51-95. Watts explains that Hemingway does not write much on the topic of suicide. One might think this would be a large subject in his stories, but he mentions suicide only briefly in one story. Although Harry in The Snows of Kilimanjaro does die, he has little choice in the manner.
Baker, Carlos. ?The Slopes of Kilimanjaro.? Ernest Hemingway A Life Story. New York: Scribner?s, 1969.
Hemingway, Ernest. ?The Snows of Kilimanjaro.? The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories. New York: Scribner?s, 1970.
Nahal, Chaman. ?The Short Stories.? The Narrative Pattern in Ernest Hemingway?s Fiction. Madison: Fairleigh, 1971.
Plimpton, George. ?An Interview with Ernest Hemingway.? Hemingway and His Critics. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York: Hill, 1961.