Ernest Hemingway’s short story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, is a parable of life and death that has been interpreted in a multitude of ways. The story centers on the physical and psychological deterioration of the main character, Harry; a writer trapped in a self-induced exile in Africa. The story is narrated by Harry, who is painfully aware of his own mortality, and as his death approaches, he is compelled to confront his life and all the disappointed hopes and dreams it held.
The story’s title, ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro,’ refers to both the African mountain, Kilimanjaro, and to Harry’s ambition to climb it, an ambition which will now never be achieved. When Harry considers the idea of death, he is simultaneously filled with trepidation and acceptance. Hemingway’s exploration of death as a consequence of human malaise is a theme that recurs throughout the story.
The theme of death and its ancillary issues – despair, nostalgia, regret – is pervasive throughout the story. Harry’s physical and psychological deterioration is a reflection of his own mortality, and a metaphor for his imperfect life. The conflict between Harry’s past missteps and the irretrievable future plays out through his anguish and longing for what was and could have been.
The environment in which this story takes place – Africa – also serves to emphasize the theme of death. Harry’s physical decline is mirrored by the environment surrounding him, which is filled with wild and dangerous animals such as lions, as well as a landscape littered with the carcasses of animals that were killed in pursuit of game.
The story of The Snows of Kilimanjaro presents both a stark and yet thought-provoking view of life and death. At the core of the story is the idea that life must ultimately confront death, and that our mortality is something to be neither feared nor dismissed. The protagonists’ struggles to find meaning in his life in the face of his own mortality is something that provides a poignant insight into the human condition.
Awkward and Crippling Memories
The atmosphere of painful memories, however, is often quite heavy, almost like a second physical presence. This atmosphere of despair and regret is further highlighted by the mention of Harry’s unspoken relationships with two women, the Italian girl, and Helen. Helen, who was Harry’s wife, was neglected by Harry in favour of his pursuits in hunting and adventure, and the Italian girl was his mistress, who abandoned him as soon as his money ran out. These past experiences are a constant reminder to Harry of his flawed existence.
Harry is crippled by fear and regret, unable to come to terms with his own mortality and haunted by his mistakes. He reflects on his own bad choices and failed ambitions. His outrage at the unfairness of life, that he should suffer so much physical pain and emotional despair after a life half-lived, is evident in his interactions with his companion, the narrator.
Despite the heart-rending themes, there is a potent message of hope. Despite death being a certainty of life, it is a reminder that it is up to every person to make the most of life before it comes to an end. The notion of an individual being responsible for their own life and ultimate destiny is something that Hemingway effectively conveys in the narrative.
By examining the motivations behind the protagonists’ lives, it is possible to ascertain Hemingway’s intentions with the story. It is a reminder of how finite life is, and how quickly it can pass, and while death is an inevitability, it is up to each person to make the most of it.
The Charms of The African Setting
The environment of Africa, which is the canvas for Hemingway’s story, also serves to emphasize the theme of death. Harry’s physical decline is echoed by the environment surrounding him; a world full of danger, with wild animals and a landscape littered with the remains of hunting trophies. It is here, in a part of the world where death is omnipresent, that Harry’s plight will ultimately reach its end.
The symbolic progression of Harry’s journey towards death is further highlighted by the changing landscape of Africa. As the story progresses, the African wilderness becomes not only a symbol of danger but also of escape; a symbol of hope in the face of mortality. For example, when Harry awakens to find himself surrounded by a pride of lions, his feelings change from terror to comfort, as he finds solace in their presence. It is here, in the African setting, that Hemingway artfully illustrates the purpose and meaning of death in the human experience.
The imagery and atmosphere of Africa, combined with the narrative of Harry’s plight, serve to underline the message that life must confront death and that, amongst the pain and regret, our mortality should be viewed as a meaningful part of the human experience. It is here, in the African setting, that the story of The Snows of Kilimanjaro is ultimately resolved.
The Message of Acceptance
The message of acceptance is further articulated through human relationships. Harry’s relationships with his wife and his mistress provide an example of how individuals can grow through understanding and acknowledging pain, regret, and mortality. The characters in Hemingway’s story, who struggle with the idea of their own mortality, serve to illustrate the real pain and vulnerability of life, and of the importance of facing death with patience and understanding.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro presents the reader with a powerful and evocative message of human mortality and suffering, but ultimately, of acceptance. Hemingway adeptly weaves together the disparate elements of his story, from the narrative of Harry’s struggle with his physical decline, to the ensuing exploration of regret, nostalgia, and unfulfilled dreams. The story also serves to remind us of the value of relationships, both with those in life and with death.
In conclusion, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a powerful parable of mortality and regret, of life and death. Its theme of acceptance resonates strongly, as does its message of making the most of life before it comes to an end. Ultimately, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a reminder of the beauty and fragility of life, and of how death can bring both suffering and understanding.
The Dark Truths
The overpowering sense of pain and regret are tangible within The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The story is full of dark truths, which reveal the unspoken feelings of many of the characters, in particular Harry. The idea of a life half-lived, of ambitions and relationships that have been neglected or abandoned, are ever-present, and serve to illustrate the difficult realities of life and death.
The moments of joy, no matter how small, are also highlighted in the text. Harry’s interactions with his drinking partner, the barman, are emblematic of a friendship based on acceptance and understanding. Such moments are suddenly lost, however, and replaced with the reminder of death, as when Harry is bitten by the hyena, and his presence at the bar is usurped by a taxidermist’s animal.
Much of the story’s power and resonance lies in its portrayal of death as something inevitable and yet, not necessarily an end. As the story ends, Harry faces his own mortality in a dignified way, and in his embrace of death, there is also a suggestion of hope and redemption.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro tackles difficult themes such as despair and mortality, yet ultimately provides a powerful message of acceptance and understanding. The dark truths that Hemingway expresses in the story are a reminder of the impermanence of life, however they are also an invitation to make the most of life, and an affirmation that in facing death, we can also find joy, beauty, and redemption.
The Deeper Meaning
The deeper meaning of The Snows of Kilimanjaro lies in the idea that death is neither something to be feared nor dismissed. The protagonists’ struggles to find meaning in his life in the face of his own mortality is something that provides a poignant insight into the human condition. Hemingway’s ingenious use of symbols and atmosphere throughout the story serves to highlight this, as well as the importance of making the most of life before it comes to an end.
Harry’s story goes beyond simply contemplating death, and instead focuses on the ways in which individuals can grow through understanding and accepting pain, regret, and mortality. It is here, in the midst of Harry’s suffering and death, that he is able to confront the consequences of his past and to understand his own mortality.
The story of The Snows of Kilimanjaro provides a lasting reminder of how fragile life is, and how it can quickly pass us by. By examining the motivations behind the protagonists’ lives, it is possible to appreciate the beauty of the human experience and how death can become a means of redemption.
The Value of Human Relationships
The value of human relationships is a theme that runs throughout the narrative. Harry’s relationships with his wife, Helen, and his mistress, the Italian girl, illustrate how individuals can face difficult experiences with patience and understanding. Harry’s ability to appreciate the importance of these relationships helps him to understand not only his own pain, but also the importance of facing death with dignity and grace.
The story also serves to remind us of the beauty of the human experience, and of the positive outcomes that can come from relationships with both those in life and with death. Such relationships can help us to find meaning and understanding in difficult situations, and ultimately to make the most of our time on earth.
The passages of time and the developing relationships between Harry and the other characters serve to demonstrate the need to cherish every moment, and to confront mortality with wisdom and understanding. We are reminded of the importance of being bold and brave in the face of suffering, and of the need for acceptance in the face of death.
The unwavering nature of death is another theme which Hemingway masterfully explores throughout The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The story’s premise of a life half-lived is a powerful reminder of how quickly life can pass us by, and how fragile our existence can be. In the face of his own mortality, Harry is able to confront his past mistakes, and ultimately gain a better understanding of his own life.
The notion of being responsible for our own lives and destinies is a potent reminder of the need to proactively make the most of our time on earth. The story serves to illustrate the importance of cherishing each moment and facing death with courage and grace.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro provides a powerful exploration of mortality and regret, of life and death. Its overarching theme of acceptance is something which resonates strongly with people, as does its message of making the most of life before it comes to an end. Ultimately, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a reminder of the beauty and fragility of life, and of how death can bring both suffering and understanding.