"The Snows of Kilimanjaro"
"?The Marvelous thing is that it?s painless,? he said. ?That?s how you know when it starts?" (Hemingway 3). A dying man in the middle of the African Safari, is the concept of Ernest Hemingway?s, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Hemingway, in this story more than any other of his works, used himself and his life experiences to create a great piece of literature.
After reading some Hemingway?s works it becomes apparent that he is writing about himself in many instances. Time and time again Hemingway uses his sense of adventure to make compelling stories. Hemingway, despite repeated attempts, could not enlist to fight in World War I. Few people are eager to go to war; Hemingway was disappointed when he could not. His passion for action was so strong, he was willing to risk dying for it. Soon after graduating high school, Hemingway volunteered to be an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. This took him to the Italian front. Not long after joining he was seriously injured by 200 steel pins that exploded from a mortar. He did not stop there. He climbed out of a trench in an open fire zone to rescue a wounded Italian soldier, for this he was awarded the Italian medal al Valore. This is courage, and yes, Hemingway had plenty of it. However it was Hemingway?s pure desire for action that drove him to such courageous feats. Hemingway never had a dull moment in his life. When a dull moment did arise, he attempted to kill it through his obsessive drinking. His reckless drinking lead to depression and high blood pressure which eventually contributed to his suicide. For a man that feared death and loneliness, which he made so clear in his stories, suicide would not be one?s first guess of how Hemingway might die. In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" however, it was almost as if he was foreshadowing his own death.
Through Hemingway?s surroundings he develops the setting for his books. Hemingway lived in Key West and on the coast of Cuba. Here he was able to understand the hard life of a fisherman enough to write one of the most famous and award winning books ever written, The Old Man and the Sea. In much the same way that Hemingway learned about the fisherman, Hemingway used his safaris in Africa to transform his first hand experiences into "The Short Happy Life of Franics Macomber," The Green Hills of Africa and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" opens with the protagonist, Harry, dying of gangrene in the African safari, "?Don?t be silly. I?m dying now. Ask those bastards.? He looked over to where the huge, filthy birds sat" (Hemingway 4) Knowing he will be dead within a few days, dyeing; and while all this is happening he is thinking of his life as a whole, looking back upon it with his wife. Hemingway made this created this bold statement emphasizing "the spirit of nada, nothingness, that lurks behind the glories of fame and fate" (Bowen 14). He tied in multiple plot lines throughout the book by going back and forth between Harry?s death bed and his life that he accused was ruined by money and women. "He would never write the things he had saved to write? Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either." (Hemingway 5) Throughout "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" Hemingway stays away from showing love, he made a wonderful life full of hate. He seemed to try to kill off everything meaningful in his life while talking to his wife. A fear of failure overwhelmed Hemingway. It seems that Harry?s thoughts could almost be the thoughts going through Hemingway?s own mind before he turned a gun on himself. Using his own firsthand experiences, Hemingway created a world many could not reach and an idea so few could touch.
Hemingway was inspired by what he saw, like many writers, but so few have written so directly about themselves. "You always said you loved Paris" (Hemingway 5). Harry?s wife tells him in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Hemingway did to. It was also the birth place of his first child as well. Here like in so many cases throughout the short story Hemingway is writing about himself. Hemingway often said that "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" was his favorite accomplishment and that he had never written so closely about himself in any other of his writings. This is very evident throughout the book, a feeling that Harry is truly Hemingway is very clear from the first to the last page of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Every time that Hemingway goes back in time in this story he is giving us view of the life he has lived. He blames everything and everyone for what he would have liked to do, or what he could have done, but didn?t. Throughout the novel Harry is clearly shown to be a writer by his constant regret of not finishing his work. Here Hemingway is once again referencing himself in his story. The vivid image that grows is so similar to Hemingway?s life, an almost concurrent biography of Hemingway could be written between the two characters. Harry?s character was so much like that Hemingway himself. His own experiences, feeling, and even personality in many ways were his own.
By capturing the essence of death and the meaning of life, Hemingway created one of his best works with "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." He would never truly be able to write about death first hand, but virtually the entire plot surrounding this idea comes from Hemingway?s firsthand experiences. Hemingway?s incredible literary talent allowed him to express himself in ways few people can. Yet Hemingway didn?t use this talent to write about something he had seen pictures or read about. Hemingway wrote about what he saw with his very own eyes.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories. Charles Scribner?s
Bowen Zack "On Hemingway" Blooms Major Short Story Writers. Pennsylvania:
Chelsea House Publishers, 1999
Gunton, Sharon "On The Snows of Kilimanjaro" Contemporary Literary Criticism:
Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1981