The short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway gives a look into the life of a man facing death in the African savannah as a result of an infection. Exotic locales and predominate dialogue are common in Hemingway’s writings and are evident in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” as well. “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway portrays the theme of death by use of specific narration, the protagonist’s, Harry’s, attitude, and symbolism.
Throughout “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Hemingway uses the narration device of the flashback to provide a contrast to Harry’s present state and his life. The present state narration is composed mostly of dialogue and is devoid of Harry’s inner thoughts. The flashbacks are very similar to dreams and express Harry’s emotions and the way he lived life prior to his infectious state. These flashbacks are put into italics, whereas the present state of Harry is in plain type. It is at the end when this narration, writing and type style reveal Harry’s slipping mental state while he enters his death. The reader thinks when the plane comes and picks Harry up it is a “real-life” situation because of the lack of italicized type, but as the reader reads on it is evident that the rescue was materialized in Harry’s dream world. This meshing of flashback and present-time narration towards the end of Harry’s life shows how he has entered his dream world, which in fact is his life, and he accepts his death. This blending of flashbacks also shows how a life not only includes experiences, such as Harry’s war experience and travel expeditions, but also includes death. Hemingway provides insight into his theme of death by use narration through flashbacks.
Harry’s attitude towards death throughout the story reveals a lot about Harry’s character and opens up stereotypical ways one deals with death. He is calm and quite and does not request much and still wants his wife to be comfortable. His relaxed nature in his death is partly due to the fact he has been around it all the years of his life and his curiosity has been stifled. “For years [death] had obsessed him; but now it meant nothing…” (255). His calm and quite state is also shown when he cites all he needs is a “whiskey-soda” (255). His need of alcohol in his dying state also contrasts him to...
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...acted as a catalyst for Harry’s lost spirituality when after the war, he used them for whoring to forget about the terrible things he saw. Through Helen, Harry’s wife, Harry’s trust in women further vanishes through his artistic destruction through the wealth Helen has provided to him. This destruction of Harry caused by women, makes women death symbols, quite similar to the hyena. The last symbol Hemingway uses is Harry’s rotting leg itself. The rotting leg is a symbol for Harry’s rotting life. It is ironic that a man who has gone to war and has been trough many times of danger is dying because of a small thorn scratch he received while taking photographs in Africa. This irony and symbolism show Harry’s failures are literally and figuratively eating away at him. The use of symbols and their meanings portray the theme of death in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”.
Ernest Hemingway focuses on the theme of death I his short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by using the devices of narration, attitude towards death and symbolism. With all these devices into account the reader can see Harry’s mental state and thoughts on death as well as what has led up to his spiritual and physical death.
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