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Home » The Haunting Tale of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”: A Summary by Ernest Hemingway

The Haunting Tale of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”: A Summary by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a haunting tale of regret and missed opportunities. Set against the backdrop of the African savannah, the story follows the final hours of a writer named Harry as he lies dying from an infected wound. Through a series of flashbacks, Hemingway explores the themes of love, loss, and the fleeting nature of life, leaving readers with a poignant reminder of the importance of living in the present. In this article, we will provide a summary of Hemingway’s classic short story.

The Setting

The setting of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is one of the most important elements of the story. Hemingway sets the story in Africa, specifically on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The story takes place in the early 20th century, a time when Africa was still largely unexplored and mysterious to many Europeans. Hemingway’s descriptions of the landscape are vivid and detailed, painting a picture of a harsh and unforgiving environment. The heat is oppressive, and the sun beats down relentlessly on the characters as they struggle to survive in this hostile environment. The mountain itself is a symbol of the characters’ struggle, representing both their physical and emotional challenges. The setting of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a powerful backdrop for the story, adding depth and meaning to the characters’ experiences.

The Plot

The plot of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” revolves around the character of Harry, a writer who is dying from an infected wound. As he lies on his deathbed, he reflects on his life and the choices he has made. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, which reveal Harry’s past relationships and experiences. Harry’s wife, Helen, is with him as he dies, and the story ends with her contemplating the meaning of his life and their relationship. The themes of regret, mortality, and the search for meaning are central to the plot of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

The Main Characters

The main characters in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” are Harry, a writer who is dying from an infected wound, and his wife, Helen. Harry is a complex character who is struggling with his own mortality and the regret he feels for not living his life to the fullest. He is bitter and resentful towards Helen, whom he blames for his lack of success as a writer. Helen, on the other hand, is a devoted wife who is trying to comfort Harry in his final moments. She is patient and understanding, even though she is aware of Harry’s flaws. Together, they confront the harsh reality of death and the regrets that come with it.

The Themes

One of the main themes in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is the idea of regret and missed opportunities. The protagonist, Harry, reflects on his life and realizes that he has not lived it to the fullest. He has always put off his writing and his dreams, and now he is facing death without having accomplished what he wanted to. This theme is further emphasized by the presence of the frozen leopard on the mountain, which represents the idea of wasted potential. Another theme in the story is the contrast between civilization and nature. Harry is a writer from the city, but he is now stranded in the wilderness with his wife. He is forced to confront the harsh realities of nature and the fragility of human life. This theme is also reflected in the imagery of the mountain itself, which is both beautiful and deadly. Overall, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a haunting tale that explores the human condition and the struggle to find meaning in life.

The Symbolism

The symbolism in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is rich and complex, adding depth and meaning to the story. One of the most prominent symbols is the mountain itself, which represents both the beauty and the danger of life. The snows on the mountain, which are melting and disappearing, symbolize the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. The hyena, which appears throughout the story, represents death and decay, while the leopard, which Harry dreams of hunting, represents his desire for adventure and his fear of death. The vultures, which circle overhead, symbolize the inevitability of death and the way that it is always lurking in the background, waiting to strike. Overall, the symbolism in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” adds depth and complexity to the story, making it a haunting and unforgettable tale.

The Style and Tone

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a haunting tale that explores the themes of regret, death, and the fleeting nature of life. The story is written in Hemingway’s signature minimalist style, with sparse, direct prose that conveys a sense of urgency and immediacy. The tone is somber and reflective, as the protagonist, Harry, reflects on his life and the choices he has made. Hemingway’s use of imagery is particularly effective, as he paints a vivid picture of the African landscape and the harsh realities of survival in the wilderness. Overall, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a powerful and thought-provoking work that showcases Hemingway’s mastery of style and tone.

The Use of Flashbacks

The use of flashbacks is a common literary technique that allows authors to delve into a character’s past experiences and provide context for their current situation. In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Ernest Hemingway employs this technique to great effect, as the protagonist, Harry, reflects on his life while slowly succumbing to a gangrenous infection. Through these flashbacks, we learn about Harry’s relationships, his failures, and his regrets, all of which contribute to the haunting atmosphere of the story. By using this technique, Hemingway is able to create a sense of depth and complexity to Harry’s character, making his eventual demise all the more tragic.

The Role of Death

Death plays a significant role in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” The protagonist, Harry, is dying from an infected wound, and his impending death is a constant presence throughout the story. Hemingway uses Harry’s impending death to explore themes of regret, mortality, and the meaning of life. Harry reflects on his life and the choices he has made, realizing that he has not lived up to his potential. He regrets not pursuing his writing career and not being a better husband to his wife. As he nears death, Harry also contemplates the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. Hemingway’s portrayal of death in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is haunting and thought-provoking, forcing readers to confront their own mortality and the choices they make in life.

The Criticism of Society

In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Ernest Hemingway presents a haunting tale that not only explores the themes of death and regret but also offers a scathing criticism of society. Through the character of Harry, a writer who has wasted his talent and succumbed to the shallow pleasures of the rich and famous, Hemingway exposes the emptiness and superficiality of the modern world. Harry’s flashbacks reveal a life of excess, where he traded his artistic integrity for material comfort and social status. Hemingway’s portrayal of Harry’s wife, Helen, and her friends further highlights the vacuity of their existence, as they engage in meaningless conversations and indulge in frivolous pursuits. The story’s setting in Africa, with its stark contrast between the natural world and the artificiality of human civilization, serves as a powerful metaphor for the destructive impact of modernity on the environment and human spirit. Hemingway’s critique of society is subtle but unmistakable, as he shows how the pursuit of wealth and status can lead to a life devoid of meaning and purpose.

The Relationship between Harry and Helen

The relationship between Harry and Helen, the main characters in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” is a complex one. At the beginning of the story, it is clear that they have a strained relationship. Harry is bitter and resentful towards Helen, blaming her for his failed writing career and their unhappy marriage. However, as the story progresses and Harry’s condition worsens, their relationship begins to shift. Helen becomes more caring and attentive towards Harry, and he begins to appreciate her presence more. In the end, as Harry faces his own mortality, he realizes the depth of his love for Helen and regrets the way he treated her in the past. The relationship between Harry and Helen is a poignant reminder of the importance of valuing our loved ones while we still have them.

The Importance of the Leopard

The leopard is a crucial character in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” The leopard represents the wild and untamed nature of Africa, and its presence serves as a reminder of the dangers that lurk in the wilderness. The protagonist, Harry, is haunted by the image of the leopard throughout the story, and it ultimately serves as a symbol of his own mortality. The leopard’s importance in the story highlights the theme of man’s struggle against nature and the inevitability of death. Without the leopard, the story would lose much of its power and meaning.

The Significance of the Title

The title of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” holds great significance in understanding the themes and motifs present in the story. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, represents a symbol of purity and transcendence. The snows atop the mountain, which are melting due to global warming, represent the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. The protagonist, Harry, is also facing his own mortality as he lies dying from an infected wound. The title serves as a reminder that life is short and precious, and that we must make the most of our time before it is too late.

The Influence of Hemingway’s Life

Ernest Hemingway’s life had a significant influence on his writing, and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is no exception. Hemingway’s experiences as a war correspondent during World War I and as a big-game hunter in Africa are reflected in the story’s themes of mortality, regret, and the search for meaning in life. The protagonist, Harry, is a writer who has squandered his talent and is now facing death from an infected wound. As he lies dying on the African plain, he reflects on his life and the choices he has made. Hemingway’s own experiences with injury and illness, as well as his struggles with depression and alcoholism, are evident in Harry’s despair and sense of futility. The story’s haunting imagery and stark prose are characteristic of Hemingway’s style, which was influenced by his belief in the power of understatement and his desire to convey the essence of human experience in simple, direct language. Overall, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a powerful reflection of Hemingway’s own life and the themes that preoccupied him throughout his career.

The Reception of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a haunting tale that has captivated readers since its publication in 1936. The story follows the journey of Harry, a writer who is dying from an infected wound while on safari in Africa. As he lies on his deathbed, Harry reflects on his life and the choices he has made. Hemingway’s vivid descriptions of the African landscape and Harry’s inner turmoil have made this story a classic of American literature. The reception of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” has been overwhelmingly positive, with many critics praising Hemingway’s ability to capture the essence of human experience in a few short pages. The story has been adapted into several films and has inspired countless writers and artists. Despite its dark subject matter, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” remains a powerful and moving work of fiction that continues to resonate with readers today.

The Legacy of the Story

The legacy of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is one that has endured for decades. Hemingway’s haunting tale of regret and missed opportunities has resonated with readers around the world, and its impact can still be felt today. The story’s themes of mortality, love, and the human condition continue to inspire new generations of writers and readers alike. Hemingway’s sparse, direct prose style has also had a lasting influence on the literary world, and his legacy as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century remains secure. Whether you’re a fan of Hemingway’s work or simply appreciate a well-crafted story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a must-read for anyone interested in the power of literature to move and inspire us.

The Adaptations of the Story

One of the most notable adaptations of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is the 1952 film adaptation directed by Henry King. The film starred Gregory Peck as the protagonist, Harry, and Susan Hayward as his wife, Helen. While the film stayed true to the basic plot of the story, it made several changes to the characters and their relationships. For example, in the film, Helen is portrayed as a more sympathetic character, and her relationship with Harry is given more depth and complexity. Additionally, the film added several new scenes and characters, including a group of African porters who help Harry and Helen on their journey. Despite these changes, the film was generally well-received and is still considered a classic adaptation of Hemingway’s story.

The Analysis of Hemingway’s Writing

Ernest Hemingway is known for his concise and direct writing style, which is evident in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” The story is told through a series of flashbacks, as the protagonist, Harry, reflects on his life while waiting for rescue on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Hemingway’s use of imagery and symbolism adds depth to the story, as Harry’s physical deterioration mirrors his emotional and spiritual decline. The vultures circling overhead represent death and the inevitability of Harry’s fate, while the snows of Kilimanjaro symbolize the purity and beauty of life that Harry has failed to fully appreciate. Hemingway’s writing is haunting and evocative, leaving a lasting impression on readers long after the story has ended.

The Comparison with Other Hemingway Works

When compared to other works by Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” stands out as a haunting and introspective tale. While Hemingway’s other works often focus on themes of masculinity, war, and adventure, this short story delves into the psyche of a man facing his own mortality. The story’s protagonist, Harry, reflects on his life and the choices he has made as he slowly succumbs to an infection on a safari in Africa. Hemingway’s sparse and direct prose style is still present in this work, but the introspective nature of the story sets it apart from his other works. Overall, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” showcases Hemingway’s versatility as a writer and his ability to tackle a range of themes and subjects.