Book Review: Snows of Kilimanjaro (Ernest Hemingway).

Snows of Kilimanjaro

– Ernest Hemingway


Snows of Kilimanjaro is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway. The story focuses on Harry, a writer, who is unwell and is reflecting on his life while waiting to die. The story gives us insight into Harry’s life and the events which brought him to this point.

The story of Snows of Kilimanjaro begins with Harry and his wife being stuck in Africa while on a safari. Harry has gangrene; he and his wife are waiting for the rescue plane to show up. Harry didn’t apply iodine to his cut that then became infected. In the beginning, Harry keeps drinking and insults Helen, who is just trying to help him. He knows that he isn’t going to survive till the rescue plane gets there.


The focus shifts from the present to the past. Throughout the story, there are a series of flashbacks that focus on different times and situations of Harry’s life. Helen is a rich woman, and Harry has been living off his wife’s money. This trip to Africa was supposed to be his fresh start. He has spent too much time in the past procrastinating, drinking, and indulging in materialistic pleasures. Now he keeps regretting the things he wanted to do but didn’t. It is difficult to understand Harry at the start of the story; he seems rude and spoiled. As the flashbacks started, you get an insight into his character and understand him a little better.


The themes of death and regret plays a huge part in this story. Harry’s gangrene is caused by a scratch of a thorn that he didn’t disinfect. The flashback shows his experiences with mortality when he was a soldier in WW1 and got injured during a German bombing. He also keeps thinking about his writing career; it will end with him. I think he worries about the kind of legacy he is leaving behind both as a person and as a writer. His impending death makes him regret some life choices he made. In a way, it takes Harry to be on his death bed to think about all the wasted opportunities that are weighing heavily on him now.


The nature surrounding Harry and Helen has parallels with what is happening to Harry. The way Hemingway describes these parallels; you are never taken out of the story. The memories that flood Harry when he awaits his death are overwhelming to him. He reflects on events and behavior he hasn’t thought about in years. Everything is coming back to him, and in a sense, that is bringing regret with it. His wife, Helen, tries to be a reasonable voice, telling him that he will get help, and he will be okay. Harry treats with contempt at times maybe, even trying to blame his regrets about life on her.

Snows of Kilimanjaro is a very interesting story. The narration shifting from present to the past gives a unique perspective into Harry’s life that makes it easier to understand the man he is now. The descriptions and atmosphere of the story paints a vivid picture; it is well written. The darker themes about death and regret are dealt with a subtlety. I enjoyed reading this story.

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