In the world of Ernst Hemingway, the creation of art is a matter of life and death, no more and no less. Hemingway constantly is questioning in his own art how to write honestly with how to face death. In his short story Snows of Kilimanjaro, we meet Harry a dying failed artist who reflects on the choices in his life that have lead him to not create important art. Harry feels he has failed in his life because he has not created important art, but the only reason he hasn't created 'important' art is himself. Through exploring Harry’s past, and his inner thoughts Snows of Kilimanjaro offers a theory of the failure of a man and a theory of important art. We open the story with a conversation between Harry and his wife discussing the gangrene that is rotting away at Harry’s leg. His wife insists that he should not give up, and yet Harry has decided to give in to the gangrene and death not fearing it but feeling unfulfilled in his life thinking to himself: “Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well.” (Hemingway) The gangrene becomes a symbol of his loss of artistic purpose and is slowly eating away at him until he dies. Harry has come to accept death because he knows he cannot create art so for him there is no point in living if he cannot create. His thoughts also lead us to believe that this dying version of Harry is but a ghost of the man he used to be. There was once a version himself that lived a life worthy of creating and writing down art. The audience gets a glimpse into Harry’s past and inner dialogue through italicized sections in the story.
Harry thinks of his time in Paris and reflects, “He had whored the whole time and then, when that was over, and he had failed to kill his loneliness, but only made it worse, he had written her, the first one, the one who left him, a letter telling her how he had never been able to kill it... How when he thought he saw her outside the Regence one time it made him go all faint and sick inside, and that he would follow a woman who looked like her in some way, along the Boulevard, afraid to see it was not she, afraid to lose the feeling it gave him.” (Hemingway) As Harry reflects on his past he remembers times where he felt something, all of the italicized passages represent raw emotions felt in his youth. He talks of Paris and romanticizes over a woman, but it not just lust, he loves this woman he yearns for her. He sees her face in everyone on the street; he searches for her, hopeful and never letting go of that feeling. The love he feels her is such a foreign side to Harry that we have not seen as the audience. Other moments italicized talk about his time in the war times of fear, anger, determination, sadness all things we again watch him breeze over in the present although he is dying. Harry can’t bring himself to write about these past experiences because of the raw emotion that is attached to them, and how disconnected he is to these feelings now.
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