Regret in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”
In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway, the third person omniscient narrator tells the story of a man’s struggles as he approaches the end of his life. The story begins with an epigraph describing a “dried and frozen carcass of a leopard” at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (1983). Initially, the epigraph is not connected to the text until the conclusion of the story when the leopard contrasts to the hyena. Early on, the reader discovers that the main character, Harry, is gradually dying due to a knee infection he suffered during his safari to Africa with his wife. As the couple lies stranded in the scorching hot African desert, Harry passes his time by evaluating his life. Harry aspires to possess qualities similar to those of the leopard; however, his characteristics resemble the hyena. The symbolism of animals and the internal and external expressions of rot help the reader see that Harry’s regret leads to his eventual death.
The narrator’s use of symbolism through animals gives the reader a better understanding of the quality of life that Harry has lived. Upon reading the epigraph, the reader realizes that the noble leopard died with a purpose on his challenging quest to reach the summit of the mountain. It is clear that the leopard embodies traits including dominance, audacity, and poise. These defining qualities are those of which Harry could not achieve in his life. The hyena, conversely, is a symbol of cowardice, laziness, and death in the story. Harry’s cowardice is shown as he re-evaluates his once promising career in writing. Harry embodies qualities similar to those of the “filthy” hyena who attacks vulnerable prey (1990). His life was summarized by “never what he had done, but always what he could do” (1988). Rather than pursuing his remarkable talents in writing, he “sold out” for his wife’s wealth and “chose to make his living with...
Cited: Hemingway, Ernest. “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature Seventh Edition Version D. Ed. Julia Reidhead. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007. 1983-1999. Print.
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