This essay reviews the short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, by Ernest Hemingway. The main theme in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” is that all people should behave and live proactive, and they should take risks to experience the taste of their lives. The story serves as an example to those who live passively, sitting around and benefiting from others, and then become miserable, unsatisfied with their lives and overwhelmed with the feeling of emptiness. To recognize and better observe the theme of the story, Hemingway employed symbolic characteristics transformed into things and animals.
During his youth, the main character and protagonist, Harry acts a procrastinator in the active world, who also lacks motivation and responsibility. He lives carelessly in the world of indulgence, as he is heading for a bitter failure upon realizing that he was not following his dream of becoming a writer. As the story begins, we learn that Harry is facing death. On his trip trough the African Safari, his leg develops an infectious wound from a thorn that poisons his blood and spreads into gangrene.The gangrene in his leg has developed from a neglect of the wound, which reminds us Harry’s neglectful attitude towards his own life and his lack of action plan without agenda. Harry’s companion on the safari is his wife Helen, whom Harry hates and whom he blames for his failure to fulfill his early promise as a writer.
Harry thought he had nothing to loose since he was dying, “he would not have to fail at trying to write” about any of the experiences he had always “saved to write,” “put them off, and delayed the starting” (Hemingway, 1936, p. 2244).Harry has accumulated layer of memories, experiences and thoughts to transform, but as he is reflecting those during his flashbacks, he realizes that “he had never written a line of those” (Hemingway, 1936, p. 2246). Hemingway developed a credible story plot through the internal struggle in Harry. Harry, an ambitious writer, started to realize during his terminal condition that he had not achieved his true goals. He went to a point of blaming other people for being sick and dying, for an absurd death that was to follow, and for stories he never wrote.He shows his regret for not becoming a proactive writer by stating “he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well” (Hemingway, 1936, p.
2244). His inner reasoning for not being successful led him to blame his wife Helen, whom he married for her money. Harry emphasizes his pursuit for a better life and more money in the statement, “Your damned money was my armour.
My Swift and my Armour” (Hemingway, 1936, p. 2247). Throughout the story, Harry modifies his attitude towards the upcoming death.
In the beginning, he sees dying as a relief and ending it all, but later he states he is bored by the idea of dying. Instead, all he feels is “a great tiredness and anger and that this was the end of it”(Hemingway, 1936, p. 2244). Finally, when Harry feels an end is coming, he begins to fear his death, and he tries to “send it away without speaking” (Hemingway, 1936, p. 2257).
He feared death realizing that he needs more time to complete his unfinished work. We can see that even in the last moment of his life, Harry could not let go and was filled with regret above his wasted life.In addition to his feelings on mortality, Harry demonstrated quite bitter feelings towards the women. Harry has a quite demeaning attitude towards the woman, especially towards his wife Helen on the African Safari. We can sense his bitterness in his statement, “you bitch, you rich bitch” (Hemingway, 1936, p. 2247) and “she shot very well this good, this rich bitch, this kindly caretaker and destroyer of his talent” (Hemingway, 1936, p.
2247). In conclusion of this essay, in “Snows of Kilimajaro” Hemingway utilized animal symbols to depict the character of the protagonist, who was an insecure, vindictive and egocentric man.For an example, in the preamble, Hemingway describes the dead leopard that died in the high altitude of the Kilimanjaro, symbolically referring to Harry who fell short of his goals. Later when Harry becomes wounded, the vultures surrounding their camp sight remind him of dying. The next animal symbol that Hemingway used to describe Harry’ character was the hyena. The hyena was to symbolize a scavenger in comparison to Harry’s lifestyle of exploiting others.
The message we can capture from “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is that if we find our own passions and talents, follow our own dreams, only then we can become truly happy with our lives.