The Snows of Kilimanjaro was first published in 1936. The story is not in the public domain and cannot be presented. Here is a summary presented for your convenience
The main character is a man named Harry. He has gone to Africa on safari where he is punctured by a thorn and develops an infection. As the infection progresses toward a slow death, he has time for introspection; time to think about his life, his work and the people in it.
Though he is a writer, he has been reluctant to write, and it seems that he believes some of the finer things that he has seen and realized in his life will remain un-captured and unwritten. In the following excerpt (quoted under the fair-use doctrine), Harry expresses some of the regret while thinking about the woman he loves now (Helen) and the women that he has loved in his life:
He argues with Helen, attempting to blame her for several of his acute short-comings; living decadently and drifting away from genuine people to live comfortably among the rich, who were not worth writing about:
As he approaches death, he seems to lapse into a dream state where he imagines that a plane is coming to take him to the top of Kilimanjaro. He engages the pilot, Compton, in some playful banter and boards the plane. He realizes that the plane has come to take him to the mountain and the story seems to mark his death with that realization, "Just then the hyena stopped whimpering in the night and started to make a strange, human, almost crying sound." Helen awakens to find that he has passed away.
This story has very strong auto-biographical overtones for Hemingway. The parallels to his life in 1936 are unmistakeable. And they seem to persist into his future as well. When awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, he was injured and unable to attend the ceremony. He sent a letter which was read aloud at the event. A quick examination of that speech reveals that some of the same thoughts and themes exposed in The Snows of Kilimanjaro still haunted him in 1954 and were revealed again in his "Banquet Speech" which comments on the introspective loneliness of a writer's life.
Return to the Ernest Hemingway Home Page