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snows kilimanjaro

Explain the title 'The Snows of Kilmanjaro.'


The title comes from the great mountain looming over the story. Harry has been on safari with Helen, and a seemingly minor injury has led to Harry's developing a fatal case of gangrene. As Harry lies dying, he contemplates his life and the opportunities he squandered to be a good writer in favor of a life of pleasure. Memories of the past—and especially moments of valor or masculine camaraderie—are interwoven with Harry's realization that he has chosen a life he does not admire with a woman whom he thinks has led him to become a man he does not admire.

The story is framed by mention of the mountain itself. It opens with an italicized portion in which we learn that Kilimanjaro is called in Africa "the House of God" and that a leopard carcass had been found, paradoxically, near the top of the mountain. The end of the story presents Harry falling into a dream from which he doesn't awake, believing that he is being flown out of the valley to a hospital. Instead, the airplane in the dream takes him to the top of the mountain, signifying his death.

In another story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," Hemingway established a motif that carries throughout his work. Places that are clean and well-lit are associated with good places where people live honest lives. In "Kilimanjaro," the mountain top is clean and well-lit, especially compared to the places where Harry has been wasting his life and the safari plain where he lies dying. The ending, then, offers a positive note, even though Harry dies.

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