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The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Leslie Lefever The Snow’s of Kilimanjaro Ernest Hemingway The Snow’s of Kilimanjaro is a short story that author Ernest Hemingway related to on many levels. His mortality and his fear of dying before his writings were completed are also the fears of the lead character, Harry. Ernest Hemingway also utilized his own experiences on safari to Africa, to lend a sense of reality to his story. Another element on a personal level was the relationship between Harry and his companion, who happens to be Harry’s wife. The relationship is a strained one, comparative to Hemingway’s own relationships with his many wives throughout his life.

The Snow’s of Kilimanjaro opens with references to death. The native people indigenous to this part of Africa translate Kilimanjaro’s western summit into “Ngaje Ngai”, which when translated is the house of God. A leopard carcass is alluded to, a dried and frozen carcass, to be specific not just the skeletal remains but the actual carcass. Which is still well enough in tact to be identified as a leopard somehow represents it’s dominance and stealthy attributes. The scavengers hold the leopard with such regard that it’s prey is still fearful of the predator after it’s soul has ascended to the heavens.

The ominous bald headed creatures flying above and their mingling cousins perched stoically amid the bush, lured to the camp by the rotting stench of Harry’s gangrenous limb. The perpetrator of this life threatening and ultimately life taking injury was not a bullet or a knife, which when retelling of his death would have made Harry out to be more hero like. Harry’s death would be at the end of a thorn. A scratch so insignificant that it deemed no immediate attention at the time of it’s infliction. But, had now grown into an infection so severe, that even amputation could not ave his life.

The internal dialogue Harry has with himself gives the reader insight into what he would have written about had he ever begun. The early references to death tells the reader that this story is not going to be humorous, it peaks the readers curiosity and makes the story interesting. The ongoing dialogue that Harry has with himself and the use of flashbacks are Hemingway’s devises for explaining to the reader why Harry is so bitter and resentful toward his wife. Harry holds his wife responsible for his unsuccessful writing career. While Harry lies dying, he an’t help but reflect on all that has been left unfinished in his life.

Ruminating on his unfulfilled desire to become a writer, he lashes out at his wife. For if it weren’t for her and her social status, he would not have been so distracted. Her wealth supported them both, Harry had no sense of urgency compelling him to write. Harry became complacent, he had abandoned his dream and now he needed to blame someone for his miserable life. He had a pattern of using wealthy women, he even goes so far as to tell his wife that if she hadnt left her wealthy neighborhood to be with him, he wouldn’t be in the ituation he is in now.

As he goes through the stages of death; blame, denial, acceptance and fear, Hemingway uses internal dialogue to shed some light on Harry’s past and ultimately his demise. Harry had caused his own failures, by drinking too much. By letting his pride get in his way and by being lazy Harry had ruined his own life. But like so many unsuccessful people, blame has to be put on someone, Harry blamed everyone but himself. The symbolism Hemingway chooses for death is the animals and also the dreams and internal dialogue. The animals represent what Harry wishes to be, nd what in fact Harry has become.

The hyena has a couple of meanings, imminent death and the opportunist that takes advantage of and uses situations to help themselves. The hyena is also representative of death, by appearing frequently on the edge of the camp, as if monitoring the progression. Ultimately the hyena signals Harry’s loss of the battle between life and death. Harry is very much like the hyena, he had taken advantage of many women, primarily wealthy women. Like a scavenger he would pick the women clean, obtain what he wanted and then move on to a new victim.

The leopard symbolizes dominance, agility, and possibly the guide to the entrance to heaven ( Moore The vultures are another symbol for death. Hemingway begins this story describing the scavengers patiently soaring in ever increasing numbers, hovering and gathering together. Slowly moving closer to the camp just like death closing in on Harry. Once again for the final time the hyena comes to the camp, first in a dreamlike that Harry has while sleeping. The horrible odor of the hyenas breath, and then the weight of it’s head at the foot of the cot, it’s snout closer, and then the weight of the entire animal upon his chest.

Harry attempts to will the hyena away, unable to speak. As Harry sleeps that night, Hemingway writes as though Harry is conscious, symbolizing perhaps his life flashing before his eyes. Harry is rescued by his pilot friend, Compton and flown to safety. The reader then realizes what has truly happened when Mt. Kilimanjaro comes in to view, this is Hemingway’s symbolic statement that Harry has reached “The House of God”. The hyena ceases to whimper, it has now begun to cry with human like characteristics signifying the death of Harry and announcing, as though it was a journalist, the news of his death to the public.

Ernest Hemingway wrote ” The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, which even though it is a fictional short story, it contains personal experiences and issues Hemingway dealt with throughout his life. Hemingway’s own fear of dying before finishing his writings and his own mortality were expressed through Harry. Also Hemingway’s many relationships with women bears a striking resemblance to his main character’s persona. The way Harry treats his wife may very well come from Hemingway’s own treatment of his wives, the resentment, hostility and the feelings of lost opportunities may be deep seated emotions in the author.

And possibly by writing down these emotions it helped Hemingway to cope with any unresolved issues. Ernest Hemingway traveled to Africa frequently on safari, his knowledge of the behavior of the various animals and his own experiences lend a sense of adventure and reality to this story. The character’s along with the thought provoking plot and his writing technique of using symbolism and internal dialogue enables Hemingway to convey the message. The message of this story seems to be, A man should not misuse or neglect his talents and also, he should not take advantage of others.

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