Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ is a short story that has become a classic for its powerful and vivid exploration of themes like mortality and the idea of a meaningful life. The story follows the protagonist Harry, who is on a hunting trip in Africa, reflecting on his life and his regrets in the face of his impending death. By examining the narrative structure, characters, and symbols, we can uncover the themes that Hemingway explores in his masterpiece.
Though many themes can be identified in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, mortality and the idea of a meaningful life stand out as being the most recurrent and significant. At the beginning of the story, it is suggested that Harry’s death is imminent, and it is at this point that he begins to reflect on his life and the opportunities he missed out on. Hemingway focuses on Harry’s sense of sadness and regret to emphasize the importance of a meaningful life. The idea of mortality is further explored through the imagery of the snow-capped mountain Kilimanjaro, which looms in the distance throughout the story. The contrast between the white peak of the mountain and the barren African landscape is used to remind the reader of the inevitable passing of life.
Hemingway’s use of symbolism is also key in exploring the themes of mortality and the idea of a meaningful life. One example of this is the leopard’s paw, which Harry finds in the opening of the story. This symbolizes his mortality, as it shows that death can come suddenly and unexpectedly. In addition, the hyena’s laughter in the night can be seen as a reminder that life can be cruel and unjust.
The presence of Harry’s wife Helen is also a key symbol in the story. Her presence is symbolic of Harry’s regret for his wasted life and unrealized potential. Her absence is also significant, as it highlights how he is alone in his final moments.
In The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway explores the themes of mortality and the idea of a meaningful life in a powerful and vivid way. By examining the narrative structure, characters, and symbols, we can see how Hemingway has woven these themes into his masterpiece.