The Snows of Kilimanjaro Summary and themes

 The Snows of Kilimanjaro Summary

The Snows of Kilimanjaro Summary Ernest Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is a classic short story that is widely regarded as one of his finest works. The story follows the protagonist, Harry, who is on safari in Africa with his wife, Helen. Harry is a writer who has never achieved the success he feels he deserves, and as he lays dying from a gangrene infection, he reflects on his life, his failures, and his regrets. In this article, we will delve deeper into the story's plot, themes, and characters.

Plot Summary

The story begins with Harry and Helen on a safari in Africa. Harry is suffering from a gangrene infection, and his condition is worsening. He has a conversation with Helen about his life and his regrets, particularly about not achieving literary success. Harry is bitter about his life and is consumed by regret, and as his condition worsens, he starts to hallucinate.

In his delirium, Harry has flashbacks to his past, including his time in Paris, where he lived with his first wife, Hadley. He also remembers his affair with Cynthia, a wealthy woman who offered to support him financially, but whom he left for Helen. As Harry's condition deteriorates, he becomes increasingly resigned to his fate and regrets his wasted life.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro Summary Finally, as Harry lays dying, a rescue plane arrives, but it is too late. Harry passes away, and Helen is left to grieve and reflect on their relationship and her own regrets.

Concerning the structure of this story, note that Hemingway divides it into six sections and within each of these sections inserts a flashback that appears in italic, continually juxtaposing the hopeless, harrowing present with the past, which often seemed full of promise.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro Summary and themes

The flashbacks themselves center around concerns about the erosion of values: lost love, loose sex, drinking, revenge, and war. They are a mix of hedonism, sentimentality toward the human condition, and leaving unfinished business. Here, in this story, the symbolism of Kilimanjaro is contrasted with the symbolism of the plains. Harry is dying in the plains from gangrene, a stinking, putrid, and deadly infection, causing his body to rot and turn greenish black. Against Harry's background of dark, smelly horror and hopelessness, Hemingway contrasts Harry's memories of the good times that he had in the mountains. Good things happen in the mountains; bad things happen on the plains. Hemingway ends his story with Harry's spirit triumphant, as when Harry dies, his spirit is released and travels to the summit of the mighty mountain where the square top of Kilimanjaro is "wide as all the world"; it is incredibly white as it shines dazzlingly in the sunlight. The mountain is brilliant, covered with pure white snow; it is incredibly clean — a clean, well-lighted place.

·        It is important to note here that there were three deeds throughout Harry's life that facilitated his otherworldly trip to Kilimanjaro at the time of this death:

·        Giving away his last morphine pills that he saved for himself to his friend Williamson, who is in horrendous pain

·        Harry's intention to write (the mental writing of the flashbacks) in his painful stupor

·        Sacrificing himself to his wife as opposed to absolving himself

During his otherworldly flight over Kilimanjaro, Harry sees the legendary leopard. The dead, preserved leopard can be seen as a symbol of immortality, a reward for taking the difficult road. Harry himself was a "leopard" at certain times in his life, as were some of his acquaintances in his own stories. Specifically, Harry can be seen as a leopard during

·        His youth, when he lived in a poor neighborhood of Paris as a writer

·        In the war, when he gave his last morphine pills for himself to the horribly suffering Williamson

·        On his deathbed, when he mentally composes flashbacks and uses his intention to write

·        When he stays loyal to his wife and does not confess to her that he never really loved her

·        Some mystic impulse within Harry and within the leopard drove them to seek out God, or the god within themselves, or immortality that resided far from ugly, mundane reality.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro Summary In most civilizations, God or God's promise of immortality resides on the highest mountain top: Mount Olympus for the Greeks, Mount Sinai for the Hebrews, Mount Fuji for the Japanese. If the leopard was searching for some sort of immortality, then it found immortality at the summit of Kilimanjaro, where it lies frozen — preserved for all eternity.

When Harry looks at Kilimanjaro, he sees it as a symbol of truth, idealism, and purity. When he dies, tragic irony exists. The leopard died in a high, clean, well-lighted place; Harry, in contrast, dies rotting and stinking on the plains, lamenting his wasted life and his failure to complete his desired projects.

In his novels and especially in his short stories, Hemingway often uses mountains to symbolize goodness, the purity, and cleanness, and he uses the plains as a symbol of evil and confusion. This contrast has often been commented on by Hemingway scholars.

Not surprisingly, because death is at the core of this story, one of the central themes that occurs again and again in Hemingway's stories and novels is man's direct encounter with death or with approaching death. Whether a man is in war and on the battlefield (as Nick Adams is in several stories; as are Hemingway heroes in his novels A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and parts of The Sun Also Rises) or facing death (as Nick Adams is when he is severely wounded in "A Way You'll Never Be" and "In Another Country"), or on big game hunts, facing charging animals (as Francis Macomber is in "A Short Happy Life"), the theme of man's direct encounter with death is always pivotal to the story. Death is always present as Hemingway examines how man reacts and behaves in the face of death. In this case, as with other of Hemingway's heroes, we have a writer, Harry, who never writes what he has wanted to; now it is too late. Death is so near that it can be smelled, even in the presence of the stinking, smelly hyena.



"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is a story that explores themes of regret, mortality, and the struggle for artistic success. Harry is a writer who has never achieved the success he feels he deserves, and he is consumed by regret over his wasted potential. The story also explores the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of life. Harry's realization that he is about to die forces him to confront his own mortality and reflect on the choices he has made in life.

Another theme in the story is the struggle for artistic success. Harry is a writer who has never achieved the success he feels he deserves, and he is bitter about the fact that he has wasted his talent. The story explores the sacrifices that artists must make to achieve success, as well as the price that must be paid for failing to do so.


The two main characters in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" are Harry and Helen. Harry is a writer who is bitter about his lack of success and consumed by regret. He is also physically ill, which adds to his sense of despair. Helen is Harry's wife, and she is portrayed as a caring and devoted partner who is trying to help Harry in any way she can.

The story also features several minor characters, including Pop, the safari guide, and Molo, the cook. These characters help to provide context for Harry and Helen's journey and offer a glimpse into the world of African safaris.


In conclusion, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro Summary " is a classic short story that explores themes of regret, mortality, and the struggle for artistic success. The story's protagonist, Harry, is a writer who has never achieved the success he feels he deserves and is consumed by regret. The story is a powerful reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of living it to the fullest.



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