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Book Review: The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

Before death a man ought to think more about his past life. The same is evident in ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ of Hemingway. One recurring theme of Hemingway’s work is death, he mostly talks about it and then in the end one or two characters pass away without much fuss and commotion.

In The Snows of Kilimanjaro there are total five flashbacks. Harry and his rich wife Helen are stuck in the wilderness of Africa, near the Kilimanjaro Mountain. Harry has developed gangrene: he got the wound while taking a photo of a herd of waterbucks.

He is frustrated with his life’s overall performance as a writer. He misbehaves with Helen and keeps drinking whisky-soda. He is of the opinion that he wasted his life by marrying a rich woman and taken a life of sloth and luxury rather than working hard

He is so careless that he didn’t apply iodine on his wound as a result his leg is rotting day by day, which also indicates that how his soul is rotting day by day, as he was always indulged in self-infliction intentionally or unintentionally. While his stay in Africa, Harry ruminates a lot about his past life’s experiences taken in Paris, Karagatch, Constantinople, etc. Through the flashback stories of good and bad times spent in different countries including the war days, one can make out that Harry never had that settled life which he always thought of. Probably this pain made him so careless that he no more cares about his life and with a curable gangrene he feels insecure and on the verge of death.

He had started good life from Africa. Hence, Africa is the place where he hoped to start life afresh. But he thinks he is going to die of gangrene; he’s grown pessimistic of the same. On the other side, Helen is optimistic about finding a solution and is of the opinion that soon a plane would come from Nairobi to take them away. The woman takes care of him but he feels no gratitude for her, rather blames her for his decline.

One night he dreams of the plane and a man called Compton, he is on the plane, beneath he sees the plain and its dust and as the plane rises he experiences the white snows of Kilimanjaro which gives him the feeling that he is being taken to a paradise or to place where god exists.

Soon around midnight Helen wakes up to the whining hyena. In the torchlight she sees the hyena and Harry lying dead in his cot, the dressing bandage from his wounded leg has been disappeared.

The writer has made contrast difference between the plain landscape and the height of the mountains Kilimanjaro. The plain and dusty landscape depicts the struggle and pain of life where as the inaccessible Mountain like Kilimanjaro to which the writer has referred as the place of god is considered a place like heaven and the dead leopard there underlines the value of immortality. Just before death, Harry experiences the paradise-like place on the snow-covered top of Kilimanjaro.


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