Chapter: Introduction to Ernest Hemingway
There has been no American writer like Ernest Hemingway. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that there has been no American like Ernest Hemingway who was also a writer. For this enfant terrible of the World War I "loss generation" was in many ways his own best character. Whether as the young "Champ" or as the middle-aged "Papa," Ernest Hemingway became a legend in his own lifetime. So completely has his name been absorbed into American culture, that he might almost seem a hero of folklore rather than a creative writer.
See - Ernest Hemingway: 1899-1961: It was not enough for Ernest Hemingway to be a "celebrity." He was a writer and the job of the writer is to write.
From New England campuses to Oregon lumber-camps, the name of Ernest Hemingway is known, and known well, even by men and women who find it difficult to remember when they last opened a book of serious literature. People who never read anything Hemingway wrote and cannot produce the title of one of his books will often know exactly what you mean by "the Hemingway type of man," and are more than likely to know something about "the Hemingway style." Whether Hemingway "belongs to the ages" certainly can be (and has been) debated. But there can be no doubt that he "belongs" to the people of America and the people of the world.
Although the drama and romance of his life sometimes seem to overshadow the substance of his work, the fact remains that Ernest Hemingway was first and foremost a literary man-a writer and reader of books. This is too easily forgotten amid all the talk about safaris and hunting trips, adventures with bullfighting, fishing, and war. That Hemingway enjoyed being famous is clear enough; he played in the public spotlight with enthusiasm. But he was also aware of the fact that any artist who makes "good news copy" is in danger of becoming little more than another Sunday-Supplement feature. And Ernest Hemingway was an artist-a man who knew very well that a writer might become a "celebrity" for all the wrong reasons.
It was not enough for Ernest Hemingway to be a "celebrity." He was a writer and the job of the writer is to write. As a young man in Paris after World War I, he read voraciously and wrote deliberately with a kind of self-discipline approaching severity. Far from being the romantic soldier-of-fortune, the "lost" expatriate drifting from bar to bed to bullfighting arena. Hemingway, from the very beginning, was preoccupied with his craft, his art, his work. Literature was never far from his mind, so much so that Gertrude Stein once described him as being, despite his play-acting, a man of "museums" - an image which hardly fits the the Sunday-Supplement portrait of Hemingway the Bearded (or unbearded) Adventurer. In Paris, Hemingway himself recollected, "I was trying to write, and I found that my greatest difficulty (apart from knowing what you truly felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, or what you had been taught to feel) was to note what really happened in action, what the actual things were which produced the emotion which you experienced. . . . I was trying to learn to write, commencing with the simplest things. . . ."
This preoccupation, which must be the preoccupation of any artist, never deserted Ernest Hemingway. In the lean years when his work was going badly, no amount of hunting or fishing or bullfighting could drown the taste of his own future-or fear of failure. "He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself, by drinking so much . . . by laziness, sloth, and by snobbery, by pride," he says of the writer in The Snows of Kilmanjaro, adding that "the thought of his own death obsessed him. . . ." This was a warning that Ernest Hemingway gave to himself many times in his life, with an intense honesty basic to the man no less than to his work. "You made an attitude that you cared nothing for the work you used to do, now that you could no longer do it."
This would seem to be a peculiarly solemn self-reproach from a Romantic Adventurer-or perhaps not so peculiar after all. For Ernest Hemingway understood all too well that while many men can function in obscurity, it takes a strong man to survive his own fame-at least as an artist. In his brief message accepting the 1954 Nobel Prize, for example, Hemingway remarked that "a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him." And in this acknowledgement of essential loneliness, the ever-present danger of failure which must accompany true work, Hemingway was reminding his public - and himself - that every artist must indeed be Santiago the fisherman in The Old Man and the Sea: that is, an individual who attempts to transcend his own limitations.
The Hemingway Cult
That Hemingway's work has limitations is obvious enough, and it is unfortunate that efforts to define these limitations have often aroused passions which have nothing to do with the work itself. Something of a "Hemingway cult" has arisen, a sort of club encouraged by men who often seem more like cheer-leaders than literary critics. Hemingway himself, of course, was partially responsible for this development; haunted by fear of failure all his life-failure of art, failure of nerve, failure of other and perhaps more intimate areas of existence - Hemingway could tolerate little criticism. Too often he reacted to challenges either with bellowing denunciation or adolescent sulking, and questioned the motives, not to mention the manhood, of those who actually cared enough to read his work instead of merely praising it. His use of baseball-boxing-hunting jargon in the most absurd circumstances indicated that Hemingway had come to believe in his own "colorful" public image; unleavened by self-perspective or self-humor, the mannerisms had become the substance. "I trained hard and I beat Mr. de Maupassant," he bombulated to Lillian Ross of The New Yorker; "I've fought two draws with Mr. Stendhal and I think I had an edge on the last one." Only Hemingway could have said it, and only Hemingway could have believed it.
It is always difficult, of course, to know when a writer's subject becomes an obsession, but Hemingway's insistence on "virility" and "manhood" does have its ludicrous aspects; and, one cannot escape the conclusion that his perpetual assertion had its basis in some murky sub-stratum of anxiety. Certainly, the Hemingway hero is often a refugee from what is ultimately the most "dangerous" area of existence: the complexities of the human soul. Action itself, after all, may be a narcotic-a way of making it unnecessary to "confront" any experience that cannot be handled as one handles a gun or a trout-line. It is possible for a man to be so frightened of life that he has to run out and shoot something, and in this sense Hemingway's work has been termed, with some justice, an "art of evasion."
Throughout Hemingway's work there is a panic-stricken flight from all complexity, human or non-human, and this produces a thin aesthetic. It is one thing for an artist to translate complexity into simplicity; it is quite another thing to ignore the complexity altogether, and to limit one's work to those areas where "thinking" is no longer necessary. This reservation applies to his language as well. It may be true that, as Hemingway said, good prose is like an iceberg, with only a small part showing on the surface. But it is also true that icebergs must remain in chilly and arctic waters-or they turn to mush. If the "hard" surface of Hemingway's prose is in some ways admirable, in other ways it is the product of weakness rather than strength.
This is not to say that Hemingway's work is to be dismissed as insignificant. Indeed, it was precisely because Ernest Hemingway was an artist that he could turn his own failures, his own fears, into an art which is both significant and true. But in order to understand what he did produce, it is necessary to understand what he could not produce. In short, Hemingway made the best possible use of his limitations, but we must clearly define these limitations in order to appreciate the use to which he put them.
Two episodes in Hemingway's life - the fact that he was "blown up" in World War I, suffering a painful and terrible wound without any "stance of manhood" whatsoever, and the fact that his father committed suicide-shaped many of his attitudes, and indeed shaped much of his work. Like Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms, like Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, like all of his heroes in all of his books, the fear of "thinking" and the fear of "letting go" was always close to Ernest Hemingway. The nightmare of chaos and passivity was a terrible nightmare, and one to be avoided, at all costs. That Hemingway evolved his own solutions to this nightmare, and based his art upon them, is something for which everyone interested in people and books must be thankful. But we need not assume that his solutions were universal ones, nor need we shrink from examining the art itself.
Each man exists in his own skull, and this is true of readers no less than of writers. Those critics who attempt to bully readers into awe-stricken admiration, who intimate that anything but praise of Hemingway is in some way tantamount to a failure of "virile imagination," do no service to Ernest Hemingway, and even less service to literature. The present book is an attempt to help readers understand Hemingway's work, and to perceive the weakness and strength which made this work possible. It is neither a tribute nor a confession of faith.
Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park Illinois, the second of six children, His father, Dr. Clarence E. Hemingway, a physician and enthusiastic outdoorsman, helped shape Hemingway's love for hunting and fishing. This influence was not unopposed by Hemingway's mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, who was a religious and pious woman; she wanted Ernest to learn music. But the young Hemingway followed his father's example; he spurned the church organ and took to the fishing rod and gun. Dr. Hemingway, however, despite his pursuit of outdoor sports, was rather sentimental and over-domesticated at home-a fact which the young Hemingway resented and remembered in later years.
At school Hemingway was a "loner" although he edited the school paper. Not especially popular, he learned through his school experience that life is hard, and that only the toughminded survive. Hemingway's life at this time reflected his growing restlessness. He learned boxing and suffered a broken nose and serious eye injury; he ran away from home twice and spent months "on the road," working at a variety of jobs.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Hemingway tried to enlist, but was rejected because of his eye injury. After working as a cub reporter on the Kansas City Star he served as a volunteee ambulance driver in Italy where he was "blown up" by a mortar shell and received a wound which was to leave serious scars on his mind and spirit.
On his return to the United States, Hemingway worked as a newspaperman for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly. He came to know many good writers, among them Sherwood Anderson. In 1921 he married Hadley Richardson and returned to Europe, getting to know and love Spain, Switzerland, Austria, and France. At the age of 23 he covered the Greek-Turkish war as a journalist; by the time he was 25 he had interviewed such world-famous figures as Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Mussolini.
After covering the war Hemingway went to Paris with an introduction from Sherwood Anderson and met Gertrude Stein. He was seriously trying to write at this time but all was not going well with his marriage: Hadley was pregnant and wanted to return home. Meanwhile, Hemingway's stories had began appearing in avant-garde and popular magazines (inclading Atlantic Monthly). In 1923 he published Three Stories and Ten Poems; in 1924 In Our Time-a series of 32 fragments-was published in Paris. The collection of Nick Adams stories, In Our Time, was published in the United States the following year, and in 1926 The Torrents of Spring appeared, as did Hemingway's first successful novel, The Sun Also Rises.
Divorced from Hadley in 1927, Hemingway married - that same year - Pauline Pfeiffer, an editor of Vogue. In 1928 came a great shock: the suicide of his father, an event which affected him profoundly.
Later in 1928 Hemingway left Europe and took up residence at Key West, Florida, where Patrick Hemingway was born in 1929 and Gregory in 1932. A Farewell to Arms, which had appeared in 1929, sold 80,000 copies in four months and assured Hemingway of financial security. Hemingway now had three children (John Hemingway was the son of his first marriage), and was well into the role of "Papa."
In 1932 appeared Death in the Afternoon, and in 1933 Winner Take Nothing. During 1933 Hemingway also published the first of thirty-one articles and stories which were to appear in Esquire during the next six years.
Never one to stay put for long, Hemingway then traveled extensively, and the result was The Green Hills of Africa which appeared in 1935. With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil war in 1936, he devoted himself to the cause of the Loyalists, and in 1937 served in Spain as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance. That same year marked the appearance of To Have and Have Not - three related stories, two of which had been published separately. In 1938 Hemingway published The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories - a volume containing the title play, and all the stories of his previous collections, in addition to seven published but uncollected tales.
Toward The End
Hemingway completed For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1940, but his marriage was once again heading for the divorce court, and in 1940 he and Pauline separated. Hemingway promptly married the writer Martha Gelhorn (also in 1940), and began new travels with his new wife; after visiting China, they settled in Cuba. When World War II erupted, Hemingway leaped into the fray. After editing Men at War in 1942, he served as a war correspondent, accompanying American troops as they pushed the German forces back across Europe. Hemingway took to the war with enthusiasm; known as "Papa" by respectful troops, and a celebrity everywhere, he helped "liberate" the Ritz Hotel in Paris, actually posting a guard at the entrance with a notice: "Papa took good hotel. Plenty stuff in cellar."
Divorced from Martha in 1944, Hemingway had married Mary Welsh, a Time Magazine correspondent; after the war they settled in Venice. In 1950, Across the River and Into the Trees appeared, and met with much critical disapproval. This response infuriated Hemingway; The Old Man and the Sea, which appeared in 1952, was seen by some readers as an attack on the critical "sharks" themselves. Again Hemingway traveled, and in 1954 narrowly escaped death in an airplane crash, an event which occurred in the same year that he received the Nobel Prize. After a period of illness, Ernest Hemingway met his death as the victim of a "self-inflicted gunshot wound" in 1961, at Ketchum, Idaho, in the rugged country he loved so well.
Snows of Kilimanjaro
Theme Compared To ". . . Francis Macomber":
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is the story of the death of a writer in Africa. It was written in the same creative surge which produced "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," with which it has a great deal in common. In both stories the locale is Africa, the context a big game hunt; in both the male is married to a wealthy woman on whose riches he has come to depend; in both the male has become emasculated by this dependence; both stories end with the death of the male; in both stories, finally, the meaning is similar, if not identical - a man achieves significant existence, "life" itself, only by mastering the rite which initiates him into maturity. Macomber's existence is meaningless up until the time he is indoctrinated into the "code" by Wilson, professional hunter, and after it only too brief, for he is soon shot by his wife. It is made plain that Mrs. Macomber is the agent representative of all those forces which deny a man completion, maturity, wisdom, "life." He is in a state of servitude to her money, but money in Hemingway is almost always a symbol for whatever corrupts. The combination of the dependence on a woman and the dependence on her money will certainly ensure a psychological and symbolic immaturity. The fact that Macomber has learned and accepted the code indicates that he has broken gis servitude to the woman, who, hating him for breaking away, promptly kills him.
The psychologist would point out immediately that Mrs. Macomber is a symbol of the mother who, by one means or another, keeps her child psychologically dependent on her because she does not wish him to grow up and be lost to her. Rather than let him grow up she prefers to kill him so that he will always remain her "baby." The literary critic with Freudian leanings would find it obvious, reading Hemingway chronologically, that he wished to destroy the domination of his mother, and, in creating women characters who were lethal, nasty, and imprisoning, was figuring forth his profound need to destroy this domination. The alternate female creations (Pilar in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Renata in Across the River and into the Trees) are hardly people at all but fundamental creature comforts made visible.
But "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is by no means as simple a treatment of the theme as "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" gives us. Harry, the male in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," is a writer. He is, in fact, a writer remarkably similar to Hemingway himself. The autobiographical elements are plain. Harry has sold his talent out to creature comforts. He has married a number of times, each time to wealthier women. Now dying, he realizes he will never write the things he was going to. He has deluded himself, sold himself, and is conscious of defeat. Still, like Francis Macomber, he enters the company of the saved because like him he faces death with human dignity. The great, white, snowcapped mountain towards which the plane heads is the reward for his courage, the "clean, well lighted place," the clearing in the jungle of chaos and death and fear and horror, where human dignity prevails. The hyena whose evil odor pervades the camp is death; Harry's festering leg is death; when the hyena utters a "human cry" it is the woman who responds in her sleep. Led by Compton, another professional hunter, Harry is saved, just as Macomber, led by Wilson, is saved. Saved from what, the reader might ask. And this is not easily answered. He is saved, one could say, from what he fears, whatever that might be, proliferated as it is by the fertility of the human imagination, but fundamentally it is, of course, death.
Three facts about "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" make it, aside from its excellence as a work of fiction, of peculiar interest to the student. The first of these is that Hemingway used another writer's structure as a pattern for his own - something he had never done before nor would again. And it is a structure that involves a deception for the reader, a practice so remote from Hemingway's principles as a fiction writer as to be in itself remarkable. He followed the general pattern of Ambrose Bierce's well known story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," an unlikely source in itself. The second fact of some remark is that Harry is a writer. Most of Hemingway's characters follow some profession, in fact, many the craft of writing, but the profession is not insisted upon. Jake Barnes of The Sun Also Rises is a journalist with serious intentions to write, as is Nick Adams, Hemingway's titular persona in many short stories; Robert Jordan of For Whom the Bell Tolls is also a writer. Harry alone is seen in the context of the writer's choices and difficulties. The third fact that makes "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" unique in Hemingway's fiction is the obvious symbolism of the mountain itself - insisted on by the epigraph at the beginning of the narrative and by the fantasy, beyond Harry's death, in the narrative itself.
From a biographical point of view we can see that, after writing A Farewell to Arms, during the revision of which Hemingway learned of his father's suicide, the author fell on fallow ground. His earlier books had been immense successes, critically and financially. But Green Hills of Africa, Death in the Afternoon, and To Have and Have Not are hardly to be considered in the same category with The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. Doubtless, to a creative writer of Hemingway's ability, self - doubt and despair must have visited him, for he was able to evaluate his own performances better than anyone else, no matter how perceptive. In Harry he projects himself at a time of fallowness and unproductivity, surveying his life and conduct to find what had gone wrong and what could be salvaged. Hemingway projected himself into the situation set for Harry by his imagination; what if death should come to him now? What would he have gained, what lost?
Beyond this, the story is an analysis and criticism of the pressures and corrupting elements which destroy talent in society. Harry is not only a persona, or mask, for Hemingway, he stands for any man with a talent or capacity quietly and insidiously depleted by the society in which he finds himself. In his posthumously published book of reminiscences, A Moveable Feast, Hemingway refers with undisguised hatred to "a rich," by which he means those who do not work for a living. Such people feed on the artist who, by the very fact that he is extraordinary and potent, stimulates their jaded perceptions. They are sharks who feast on what great marlins the artist brings in from the depths; they are a form of death. Paradoxically it is just such people who provide the artist with the best audience, often enough. Their very need provides the artist with the occasion for his confrontations with death. They themselves will not, and cannot, confront the terrible thing, but they can share in the confrontation vicariously. So a curious symbiotic relationship is established between the artist and his audience. He performs for them, but a necessary condition for his performance is that he despise them; if he joins them, the keen edge of his talent is blunted and when it is blunted they discharge him from their interest. This explains Harry's bitterness against his wife, who, after all, is loyal, loving, affectionate and courageous but who, in Harry's mind, symbolizes what has destroyed his talent. She and the hyena and the vultures are one; when Harry escapes to the heights of Kilimanjaro he escapes all of these. But he has died.
"The Snows Of Kilimanjaro" As A Ritual Of Initiation
Anthropologists and students of comparative religion have long noted a similarity of basic patterning in many rites common to all cultures and times. Perhaps if we establish the nature and purpose of this pattern and then proceed to apply it to Hemingway's story, the general meaning of much of his work will be made clearer. Primitive man lived in conditions of fear because he was weak and the forces of nature were both terrible and unpredictable. He banded together and formed a community: putting it simply this community was made up of past and present members, the vegetation and animals which sustained them, the very land out of which , in the absence of knowledge to the contrary, they had sprung. Gradually, rules, procedures, and rites were established to control nature, visible and invisible, and because of the potency of this body of knowledge it very naturally became secret, learned only by the initiate's demonstrating his right to have it. The child was born twice then, first into the community through the instrumentality of the woman; he remained of the woman until the initiation into the community of the men. But before he could be born into the male community he had to die a mimic death, he had to endure pain and suffering of one sort or anothe . If he did so with bravery, or whatever show of courage and stoicism custom had established as mandatory, he was incorporated into the male community; he lost his old name, received a new one and henceforth lived by the code which made him a man and no longer a part of the female.
The reader will immediately see the relevance of all this to Hemingway's general patterning and themes. The code which Hemingway makes so important a principle in his fiction is the code of the male through which one learns to meet the terror of existence with dignity. Harry, insofar as he has allowed himself to be dominated by the female community, is still not a man. By his stoicism in the face of death, he earns entrance into the community of man. Led by a member of that community (Compton, the professional hunter) he is rewarded by being brought to the top of the great, peaceful, snow - covered mountain. He dies to his wife and to that world of death's minions. He has gone through the rite of initiation suacessfully. The reader, by his identification with Harry, has also gone through it.
Analysis And Commentary
Prefixed to the text of the story there is an epigraph. An epigraph is a statement, usually a quotation from another writer (although such does not appear to be the case here), of a phrase, or a sentence (never more than a paragraph), which serves to epitomize the meaning of the work. To the novel The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway had fixed two epigraphs, one from the Bible, the other from Gertrude Stein about "the lost generation." The quotation from the Bible had given him his title and established his theme in contrast to the Stein quotation. It will be very important then for us to look closely at what Hemingway says in his epigraph to "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," for in it he gives us directions about what the story means.
The first sentence of the epigraph is a statement of fact: we are told that Kilimanjaro is 19,710 feet in height and "is said to be" Africa's highest mountain. Next we are told that the Masai, who are the native inhabitants of the region, call its western summit "Ngaje Ngai" translated as "the House of God." Near the top we are told is "the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard." The last sentence, very laconically, and therefore to be read with an ironic tone, informs us that no one has been able to explain what the leopard was "seeking at that altitude."
Let us take each of these pieces of information in turn. Since God for most people, dwells in the sky his abode must be on that which is highest and most inaccessible to man. Olympos for the Greeks, Fujiyama for the Japanese, Sinai for the Hebrews were all abodes of God. The abode of God is paradise, the place of salvation, of peace, of joy, of timelessness. So it is no wonder that the Masai call this summit the "House of God." But here, near the summit, we note the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. He is, in iact, preserved; he will not decay; he has secured for himself a kind of imperishability, a kind of immortality. But what was he doing there? The leopard is a lowland animal; certainly there is no game for him to hunt on the heights. What impulse then directed him to seek the summit? As we read the story we will see that Harry, like the leopard, driven by impulses and demands unknown to most, seeks these heights too. As a man, as an artist, he is driven to areas beyond the interest of average people. Almost explicitly Harry is identified with the leopard. But if Harry is identified with the leopard it is unavoidable that what Harry seeks is God.
There are two further comments which may usefully be made here. One is that in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" there is a more than casual similarity between the demand put on the artist, the saint, and the demand on every man who wishes to be saved, that is, "go to heaven." It s possible to read the story as a Christian allegory: Harry, like all men, has been endowed with the image of God; he suffers this image to be corrupted, tarnished, and all but destroyed, and then is saved from "the country of the enemy" by Compton, who like an angel and emissary of God, arrives from the sky to lead him back to God. The second comment is that this kind of symbolic structure occurs frequently in Hemingway. In A Farewell to Arms there is a contrast throughout between the mountains and the plains. The good priest who befriends Lieutenant Henry and invites him to his home in the mountains, where it is not embarrassing to talk of God, is also an emissary of God. It is significant that Lieutenant Henry does not accept his invitation, but that at the end of the novel he has escaped to the mountains of Switzerland. An easier comparison with the leopard and Harry is Santiago of the Old Man and the Sea who also goes out (analogous with "up") "too far." He, however, survives, although his prize (the marlin) does not, except in skeletal form.
Analysis Of First Part
As in most of his short stories, Hemingway starts with conversation, so that the reader must listen as he listens in life, trying to accustom himself to the voices, to find out what is going on. Necessarily this initial conversation is cryptic and elusive. Gradually the scene focuses and we learn that a man, apparently injured but now released from pain, is settled on a cot under the shade of a tree, that his truck is disabled, that vultures are sailing above the camp and settled too on the grounds just beyond, and finally that a plane is expected. Further we find that the man is a writer, his leg gangrenous, and that he is conscious of his possible death. He has his wife with him, to whom he is not at all nice, and a servant boy. The scene, by the notation of the animals about and other pieces of information, is clearly defined as the African plains. The man is full of regret that death should be coming to him before he has had an opportunity to write those things he wished to. It is clear he blames his wife and all she represents for destroying his talent.
The reader should first note the apparently artless way in which all of the necessary information about character, locale, theme, and situation have been given him. Through the dialogue we have established very rapidly the relationship of the characters, that is, not only that they are man and wife, but that the woman is wealthy, thoughtful or her husband, considerate of his condition, that she loves him and wishes to save him, and, in contrast, that the husband is hard, sarcastic, regretful, ironic at her expense, and angry. Earl Rovit calls Harry the portrait of a "non - ideal" artist, that is, he is presented as a "real" writer, conscious of the problems of the writer, concerned about them. Coming to death, he is angered by it because he cannot write what he wanted to write; nothing else concerns him, not the loss of life per se, nor the pain his wife will suffer from his death. He notes the vultures flying and landing in case he should wish to use them in a story. When his wife, annoyed by him, suggests he give consideration to others (herself) he replies, in anger, that such has been his "trade." Bit by bit the dialogue, so naturally run together that one does not notice until one analyzes, establishes the essential difference between Harry and his wife. She cares about the "normal" things in the situation, the arrival of the truck or the plane, the fact that Harry should not take alcohol because it is bad for his condition, while he cares about none of these things: because he is a writer and because he knows he is dying.
He has been obsessed by the fear of death all his life; now that it is here, he has "little curiosity"; it means "nothing" in itself. The biographical importance of this statement should not be overlooked. From his earliest books Hemingway had shown an obsessive interest in death its multiple forms. The fact that this obsession is made part of Harry's personality points out clearly that Harry can be taken as a self - portrait of the author (within artistically dictated limitations).
Philip Young, indeed, locates Hemingway's characteristic response to life as terrible and brutal as represented in the childhood experience detailed in the story "Indian Camp," which is the initial story of In Our Time (1925). There, Nick, having accompanied his doctor father to an Indian camp where a woman is in painful labor, witnesses the particularly horrible suicide of her Indian husband, who slits his throat with a razor. The fact that certain men find life so insupportable that they do away with themselves impressed him so much that the possibilities of not having sufficient courage to endure what life had to give obsessed him. When he learned of his own father's suicide, the possibilities became even more narrow.
The tendency on the part of the reader, however, to identify author and character should be rigorously controlled. Harry remains a character - not merely an autobiographical projection.
The reader might note now how the conversation, seeming so aimless, leads very naturally to Paris, and how this acts as a bridge to the section of reminiscence or interior monologue (usually printed in italics) which altogether serves for a capsule biography of the dying Harry, explaining him, and offering a rationale for his personality. The sections of interior monologue interspersed regularly in the surface narrative of Harry's death operate to produce a number of effects. First, the very density and complexity of Harry's mind thinking, offered against the spareness of the prose in which he acts out his dying moments, demonstrates the richness of the creative mind and its life against the barrenness of ordinary existence. Second, the reader gets used to identifying Harry's inner life with the italics, the real action with the roman type, so that when Compton arrives and takes Harry in the plane - in roman type - the reader naturally assumes that this is actually happening. But it is not, at least on the actual level of narrative action - or perhaps it is.
The First Interior Monologue
Seven paragraphs of interior monologue, printed as I noted, in italics, follow. They deal with various memories Harry has, all dealing with midwinter, snow, and mountains, and his regret that he has never written about these experiences: all are Hemingway's own experiences.
The reader must remember Harry's situation while reading this first monologue: he is in the plains of Africa, within sight of snowcapped Kilimanjaro, dying of a gangrene infected leg, feverish. It is natural that he should think of cold, of snow and ice, of the places associated in his mind with them, the mountains. Symbolically, of course, Harry is already accepting death, as we already know from his dialogue with his wife. In memory he is seeking out high places. Further, the mountains symbolize the places of truth, of real experience, "the abode of God." Harry has always meant to write about these experiences, but has come down to the lowlands and sold out to them and their easy conventional view. Now, one may ask, what precisely is the relationship between good writing, God, and mountains? In Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway talks of achieving "a fourth and fifth dimension" in writing, through craftsmanship and luck. Craftsmanship may ensure only that you are ready let's say, to catch a fish, luck will bring you the fish; but the further out one goes to catch the fish, the fewer the chances of actually bringing it back intact. For the artist, the writer, the same combination of factors is involved. But with craft and luck, and appropriate circumstances, beyond both of these, the artist can bring back his great prize intact. What is the great prize - we can only say that it is an experience of timelessness, the mystical experience of God, beyond all the flux and confusion of human existence permanently captured in the prose of the writer - it is the "fourth and fifth dimension." Now it becomes apparent why Harry turns, near death and God, to thoughts of the mountains (the abode of God) and regrets that he did not, perhaps could not, "capture" those experiences. He had lost the sharp edge of his talent by succumbing to the temptations of the plains. He had justified this by saying to himself that he was a "spy" in "enemy country," but like Samson, he had been conquered by the enemy, his locks shorn by a woman.
See - The Plains of Africa: Harry is in the plains of Africa, within sight of snowcapped Kilimanjaro, dying of a gangrene infected leg, feverish.
The Second Part Of The Narrative
The conversation between Harry and his wife becomes more bitter and sarcastic, at least on his part. He debases their love, which offends her. When asked if he must destroy everything and leave nothing behind, she uses the phraseology connected with the death by immolation of many code heroes of the past. Killing horse and wife and burning the hero's saddle was part of the funeral ritual of the hero. Before Harry can be free to meet God, he must destroy these impedimenta that are burdening him down. When she accuses Harry of turning into "a devil," the paradoxical and inverted and even perverted values are laid bare: Harry's "lies" are the truth; as he approaches the condition of "saved" human being, he becomes a "devil" to her. While "the Memsahib" (it is the native boy speaking and Memsahib is Swahili for "Mistress") is off that evening shooting a Tommie (a small gazelle) for meat and broth, Harry, without the interior monologue, reviews his life since he became "corrupted." It becomes apparent that he had made this trip to Africa because he wanted to return to the "truth." The life, the perilous life of the artist, he had traded for security, for "comfort"; the trade has not been worth it. His wife returns with a "ram" she had shot. She is a good shot. A hyena appears, as he has every night for two weeks. Shortly after, he knows, for the first time, with absolute lucidity and conviction, that he is going to die. When his wife leaves to bathe, he thinks again of the past, thinking of his first love who had endured the artist's life with him and whom he'd left.
The purpose of this part of the narrative is to point up the contrast of the woman's approach to life and Harry's. She is a good woman, she loves him, appreciates insofar as she can, the best things in life; but she doesn't know what Harry knows. The hyena, like the vultures, is a sign of the presence of death. She says she doesn't mind his presence even if he's an obnoxious animal, "filthy." This had been her reaction to the presence of the vultures; they're always around, it is just that one doesn't notice them. Since both these animals signify death so explicitly the meaning becomes clearer. Harry is dying, therefore he notes and minds the presence of death; his wife is ignorant and therefore she does not see the importance of these signs. Later on, the hyena and the woman will be related togedher fairly explicitly and it will become apparent that she and all she stands for represent death to the artist.
Note the image by which death is identified - "evil - smelling emptiness" - and the identification of the hyena with it. Note too the way in which the next interior monologue is prepared for by the introduction of Harry's relationship with women. This leads to his thoughts about his first love, whom he had fought with and broken from.
Second Interior Monologue
Again the dying Harry relives in densely compressed form the events of importance in his early life. He recalls the private and public events in which he had become involved, the bitter quarrels which had led to the breakup with his first wife, the days of war and rebellion, Paris in the teens and twenties of the century. Here, some of the more familiar public events of the time are noted, sometimes specifically, sometimes elusively (the Dada movement, Tristan Tzara), the sense of Paris in those chaotic and fervent and fertile times. He recalls too how much he knows about the world and its changes, how things were then, how they are now. But he will never write what he knows now.
The direction of the interior monologues is backwards; the direction of the narrative itself is forward. The mountain episodes of the first interior monologue are posterior to the remembrances of this second monologue. The substance of them comes from Hemingway's own experience as a war correspondent in Greece and Turkey and in Paris during the twenties. The introduction of Dada and Tristan Tzara is not merely decorative, that is, it does not merely serve to establish this milieu. The contempt which Harry makes plain he feels for Dada and Tristan Tzara is meaningful. Dada was an actual artistic movement, Tzara its historical director. It would probably be impossible to invent a movement in art more systematically opposed to what Hemingway was dedicated to doing than Dada, or to be more formal, Dadaism. The fundamental proposition of Dada was that life was a joke, therefore art should be a joke - offensive, chaotic, disorganized, fortuitous and ridiculous. Hemingway insisted that craft was an absolute, insofar as anything can be absolute; the Dadaist said craft was a joke. The weather of despair which set the Dadaists whistling in the dark with adolescent defiance set Hemingway to the much more mature task of lighting a fire in a stormy night. It is curious that times of chaos call out two diametrically opposed tendencies in mankind: one the desire to join the chaos and enjoy the tempest, the other the insistence on control and dignity. Out of the maelstrom of Europe's dark ages came the knights, out of Japan's war torn medieval past the samurai, out of America's violent frontier the dedicated professional gun. If Hemingway felt the same impulse towards psychic belt - tightening in the chaos of our own century it ought not to be surprising.
The Third Narrative Part
This extremely brief section of narrative tells us only that Harry senses the approach of death again. His wife, bringing him broth, says she cannot take dictation, the only important function which would serve him now. He feels that, even in this brief time left to him, he could compress all that he has to say into "a paragraph" if it could be gotten "right."
The narrative drives forward. One way of imagining what a narrative writer of any kind does is to think of a team of acrobats, made up of a father, mother, three children, a cousin or what have you. They come on the stage, balance themselves on the strong man, the father. They are in equilibrium. Then a voice from the wings says: "Hey, you forgot me." Now in order to incorporate this new element, everyone has to shift, the balances to be rearranged. In a narrative the situation is such, at first, that everything is, explicitly or implicitly, in a state of balance or equilibrium; then some element is added or taken away. A story is a slow motion rendering of what happens when an element is added to or subtracted from a human situation. The artist's job is to hunt out and make visible situations following this pattern which will teach us something about life. Along with this he's got to make us believe in the people acting and the situation, the world in which they're located, and the probability that they will do and say what they do and say. What Hemingway has done here is to take a man of a certain character and personality and upset the balance by adding death. The story is the slow motion articulation of his response to this. He and Hemingway are seeking a new equilibrium, a new balance, and between the first motion and the last truth, that is, the meaning of the story or the experience, will be disclosed.
The Third Interior Monologue
Harry continues to dwell on the past, recalling early memories of his grandfather, and memories of the Black Forest, Paris in earliest days of poverty and his great love for it and the inhabitants of his neighborhood.
Again it is Hemingway's actual past which is here being recalled. In fact Hemingway was to write about these times in the posthumously published A Moveable Feast. Here, the effect of the reminiscences is to add believability and density to the dying Harry's character and personality.
Fourth Narrative Part
Harry and his wife exchange some comments concerning drink. She has liked to drink, in fact gets slowly drunk every night. But now Harry is dying and he knows that when she leaves he will have all that's left.
Like the preceding narrative part this section serves to insist on the separateness of Harry's point of view and his wife's.
Fourth Interior Monologue
There are other things that Harry has never written about besides Paris. There is the ranch and the half - wit chore boy with whom he had driven to town the dog - torn carcass of an intruder shot by the boy; the boy, unaware, is arrested for doing what he conceives to have been his duty.
This horrible vignette is perhaps the most important in the story. The half - wit boy has, in shooting the intruder, done his duty. But he is brought in to be incarcerated for murder. His callousness towards the dead body lying frozen in the barn for a week, half - eaten by the hungry dogs, recalls the callousness of the Swiss farmer in "An Alpine Idyll" whose wife, dying in midwinter in inaccessible regions, had simply been hung up, frozen, in the barn, to wait for the spring thaw. But the reader should be aware of that frozen carcass of the leopard on Kilimanjaro, and the fact that Harry's leg is half eaten by gangrene. This story, which Harry had never written (why?) is, in effect, one of those entrances on the fourth and fifth dimension, which indicates a confrontation with the deity, or with total experience, or with art itself. The code heroes, to those who don't believe in the code, are always half - wits and must be done away with. One is reminded of Faulkner's location of the point of view in the mentality of Benjy, a half - wit, in As I Lay Dying, and the long odyssey in which he brings the dead body of the mother to rest.
Fifth Part Of Narrative
This part of the narrative is made up of three short exchanges which serve to link with the interior dialogue and an analysis of the rich, using Julian, a writer (F. Scott Fitzgerald), as an example of those destroyed by them.
A famous exchange is said to have taken place between F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of The Great Gatsby) and Hemingway. Fitzgerald is said to have stated "The rich are different from us," and Hemingway is said to have replied "Yes, they have more money." This is recalled here. It is difficult to say what effect rich people are going to have on a poor American boy of genius; in America, hereditary wealth (in the absence of intelligence, or traditional good manners, or those barriers against vulgarity which are established in older societies), tends to produce obnoxious types who believe they have inherited the earth. Fitzgerald's idea that this sense of security, which he did not have, made them different may be balanced against Hemingway's, for what it is worth. The point here is that Hemingway hated, not those with money, but those who because they had money, destroyed talent. He felt, perhaps erroneously, that Fitzgerald was symbolic of those artists whose talents lave been forever destroyed and corrupted by an alliance with "the enemy."
Fifth Interior Monologue
Another vignette recalls the death of one Williamson, who had been caught in barbed wire with his bowels spilled out. He had begged for death, brave as he was, and his bravery had not saved him for dignity in the face of death.
This vignette has the tightness and brilliance of the vignettes of war and destruction and bravery and horror in Hemingway's book in our time. In a sense it brings us back chronologically to Hemingway's first writings; and it is appropriate that Harry should take this early form to record his reminiscences.
Sixth "Interior Monologue"
For Harry death has not been so horrible as for Williamson. He wishes he were in better company (the company of those who, like Williamson, have faced death and have developed their responses to it) but he has only hJs wife. The real people are all gone. The party is over. The woman knows nothing. Death has rested on the foot of the cot. From the woman's view, the outside view, Harry appears to sleep, but death is squatting on his chest. It appears to be morning and everything right; the plane lands and the professional hunter Compton lands and takes him off to safety. There is no room in the plane for Harry's wife. In the plane they change direction towards the level summit of Kilimanjaro's southern peak. Only then does Harry realize where he is going.
One thing to be noted about this section, since it is all in roman type, is that the section leading from the conversation between Harry and his wife to the lift off and flight of the plane is not distinguished or separated. By now the reader has gotten used to believing the factuality of those events which are reported in roman type and he assumes that Harry has been lifted off. He suspects nothing until Harry's cryptic last comment as they approach the summit of the snowcapped mountain; Harry had died and, led by the code hero Compton, is going to his reward. He has, in spite of everything, remained a writer, a true writer, and has earned his frozen, fixed, unending, timeless destiny with art, with eternity, with God.
The Sixth Narrative Episode
The scene picks up in camp, a hyena whimpers in the night, humanly crying. The woman stirs. When Harry's wife wakes she finds him dead. The hyena, just outside the tent, whimpers again, but for the beating of her heart, she does not hear him.
The narrative is complete. The identification between the hyena and the woman is complete. At Harry's death the hyena whimpers humanly. Harry has been translated to Heaven, the "abode of God," leaving the hyena, and the woman, and all the world to cry and whimper for the death of that which they feed on and need but still regret. So we can see that Harry, the artist on whom humanity depends for its existence, is both killed by humanity and regretted by it. No better narration of the paradoxical relationships between the artist and the audience for whom he lives and dies has ever been written.
Harry is a typical Hemingway creation. Like many of the author's heroes, he is sensitive, intelligent, and self - conscious, concerned especially with confronting the most that existence has to offer with dignity. Now facing death, he is forced to re - evaluate his life and what he has made of it, painfully conscious all the while that he has wasted his great talent as a writer by compromises with the "enemy" - money, rich women, and soft living all interchangeably symbolizing the forces of corruption. However, in the very act of facing death he performs his particular task, which is to write. Like the bullfighter or the heavyweight, he executes to the best of his ability the craft to which his life is dedicated. It is this ultimate dedication to the execution of his craft - even in the face of death - which earns him his place on the summit of Kilimanjaro. In one sense then, Harry represents Hemingway's successful identification of the task of the creative writer with the task of all those who put their lives, structured by a particular code of behavior, face to face with death. This teaches the audience how to live, if you will, and Harry, in this respect, is a model of how men should conduct themselves.
A good looking, middle - aged woman who has been married before and now has, as the phrase has it, found happiness with Harry. She is wealthy, well - nurtured, has had bad times, has suffered a great deal, comes from a fine, substantial, and moneyed background. She's educated and reads a great deal. As far as she is concerned, she had now dedicated her life, and happily, to Harry and his welfare. She is not at all conscious that Harry explicitly identifies her as the "corruption" of his talent. She is a gentle, kindly, thoughtful "caretaker," but he must reject her; he must leave her behind if he is to be "saved." She is, on the face of it, an excellent wife to a man of Harry's temperament; she likes what he likes, she takes the dangers and difficulties of African travel well. She is not hysterical now that Harry is ill. But she does not know what is going on in Harry's mind, nor in fact what he is. She is not a professional, she doesn't see the demand for absolute fidelity to one's craft. Perhaps no woman in Hemingway ever could, and remain a woman. And so in spite of everything which she can offer, and everything that she wills to understand, she can never accompany Harry on the plane to Kilimanjaro. She is the good, kindly, intelligent woman who, in spite of her best desires, becomes identified in the artist's mind with what he must leave behind. In Hemingway's world, hers can only be a frustrating role.
A professional white hunter. He pits himself against the major animals utilizing only his skill for self - protection and is, therefore, ready to accept possible death in any confrontation. As such he lives according to the code and is therefore a proper guide to conduct Harry to the place of the code heroes (here the summit of Kilimanjaro). Arriving in a plane, he might also be identified as a modern day angel who brings Harry's soul to paradise.
The native servant whose only function seems to be to serve drinks to Harry, who ought not to drink in his condition, and his wife, who drinks a great deal habitually.
A character in Harry's reminiscences. He has been identified as F. Scott Fitzgerald. He represents the writer corrupted by riches, the very type of man Harry did not wish to become but has, in fact, by various rationalizations and compromises, become. Most critics agree that the portrait of Fitzgerald is accurate enough, but the make - up of the forces which corrupted him (if he was in fact corrupted) is not as simple as Hemingway here makes it.
Critical Commentary to Snows of Kilimanjaro
The gauge of a writer's importance may be crudely measured by the fact that more is written about him than he has written himself. In the case of Hemingway this has long been the case. Even a checklist of books and articles devoted to his work in its multiple aspects would make a small book. Necessarily then, this overview of the criticism will be selective, even arbitrarily selective. From the beginning (with the publication of Three Stories and Ten Poems followed shortly by in our time, reviewed first by Edmund Wilson under the article title "Hemingway's Drypoints"), Hemingway has received tremendous critical attention, sometimes negative, for the most part full of praise and commendation. The majority of the best critical intelligences of the last four decades have felt impelled to confront his work and make pronouncements of one degree of worth or another about it. It is obvious that it is sometimes Hemingway the public figure who is scrutinized and analyzed and not the work, but because of the all but unique continuity and interrelationship between the author and his work, this criticism, positive or negative, is not to be ignored.
In a famous profile of Hemingway written for the New Yorker Magazine, Lillian Ross - in spite of herself for she denies that she intended anything controversial and Hemingway himself approved the article - printed what many took to be a devastating portrait of Hemingway in all his primitivism and weakness. She observed the writer for a few days on a stopover in New York on his way to Europe from Finca Vigia, his estate just outside of Havana. In late 1949 he had just finished Across the River and into the Trees, his first novel in ten years: the purpose of the stopover seems to have been the signing of a contract for it with Scribner's, his publisher. At the airport, where Ross met him, he talked in a dialect, which she recorded, but which comes out sounding pretty silly for a great man. He drank and delivered himself of philosophic and artistic comments couched in the technical language, or patois, of the ring. He was, he said, defending his title, as he had in the twenties, thirties and forties. At the Sherry Netherland he had Marlene Dietrich ("the Kraut") in for champagne and caviar. At Abercrombie and Fitch he bought an off - the - rack belted raincoat. He bear - hugged friends and growled at critics. Every once in a while he'd say "How do you like it now, gentlemen?" which became the title of Ross's article. What offended some (those who, without writing creative literature themselves, have a high opinion of it and its producers), was Hemingway's sweaty simplicity and the mask he had assumed, adapting the dimensions and characteristics, it would seem, that negative critics had always said he had. The negative critics were delighted because in the article, he appeared as what they had always said he was: simple, primitive, unsophisticated, unworthy. Wyndham Lewis, the English writer, critic, and painter, has summed up this approach in an article published in 1934, and called "The Dumb Ox: A Study of Ernest Hemingway." The Hemingway hero (rapidly identified with Hemingway himself) was described there as "a dull - witted, bovine, monosyllabic simpleton," who is contrasted with "those who have executive will and intelligence" (as found, perhaps, in the creaky treatises cast in novelistic shape by C. P. Snow). D. S. Savage, in the book published in 1950 called The Withered Branch, describes the Hemingway character (again made synonymous with the author) as "a creature without religion, morality, politics, culture, or history - without any of those aspects, that is to say, of the distinctively human existence." In the Ross article the author seems to have become the epitome of his own heroes as above described. Hemingway himself, it appears, was just having fun. But in the last analysis, what emerges from sympathetic reading of the article is the feeling that Hemingway was full of anxiety about the acceptance for his new book; he displays the same anxiety, covered with playfulness and erratic bravado, which characterizes anyone who is deeply anxious that the best he has is not going to found worthy. In spite of its obvious limitations, it's a good piece to get to know Hemingway with.
Symbolism And Irony In Hemingway
Most serious critics very early began to realize that Hemingway was not merely a naturalistic transcriber of phenomena, but that his narratives had the tendency to deliver themselves of more meaning than what, on first reading, they appeared to contain. Malcolm Cowley in the Introduction to The Portable Hemingway (1945, Viking Press) established that out of his personal "nightmares" Hemingway has created rituals of protection identical with those found by cultural anthropologists in primitive societies, and documented by others in ancient societies as, for instance, Jessie Weston in From Ritual to Romance, Jane Harrison in Themis, and Frazer in The Golden Bough. He puts him in the same company with Poe, Hawthorne and Melville, that is, those who have been forced by their particular personalities to face the world in naked confrontation and relive the ancient experience of fear and horror unaided by society and its established conventions for ignoring that fear and horror. Carlos Baker, who is at work on the authorized biography of Hemingway, has given us the most thoroughly documented study of Hemingway according to this symbolic interpretation, in Hemingway: The Writer as Artist (1952). In it he says of all Hemingway's writing that beneath its "brilliant surface" there is the symbolic underpainting which gives so remarkable a sense of depth and vitality to what otherwise might be flat two - dimensional portraiture." E. M. Halliday in an essay called "Hemingway's Ambiguity: Symbolism and Irony" says that "in virtually all of Hemingway, anything that can possibly be construed to operate symbolically does no violence whatsoever to the naturalism (or realism) of the story on the primary level." What Hemingway does is follow natural human associations between certain objects or situations and people's feelings. He does not arbitrarily impose symbolic structure on his narrative. Halliday opts for irony as being the all - pervasive technique and device in Hemingway's work. "The ironic gap between expectation and fulfillment, pretense and fact, intention and action, the message sent and the message received, the way things are thought or ought to be and the way things are . . .": this is Hemingway's "great theme" from beginning to end. Any reader or critic who does not realize Hemingway's immense powers of irony, which allow him to maintain a double focus on human existence, is never going to understand or appreciate Hemingway's abilities or craftsmanship. Certainly Hemingway has used many devices of craftsmanship. The fact of the matter is that (for Halliday) ironic disparities yield symbolic meanings. Symbolism "depends on likeness and irony on difference; and as artistic tools both are m'tns of interpreting imaginatively, and with the flexibility of implication, a complex reality. Symbolism signifies through a harmony, irony through a discord; symbolism consolidates, irony complicates; symbolism synthesizes, irony analyzes." If, however, we must classify Hemingway, he "remains the great realist of twentieth - century American fiction."
Style In Hemingway
Robert Penn Warren compared Hemingway's cleansing of language of all its superfluities and excesses to Wordsworth's similar tendencies in the Lyrical Ballads. Harry Levin, in his essay "Observations on the Style of Ernest Hemingway," says that "the effectiveness of Hemingway's method depends very largely upon his keen ear for speech" and goes on to demonstrate that "Hemingway's diction is thin," his "syntax weak." Hemingway puts his emphasis on nouns because they "come closest to things": "Stringing them along by means of conjunctions, he approximates the actual flow of experience." In his insistence on the nowness of existence, Hemingway is the younger contemporary of Proust and Joyce. Hemingway has attempted to restore "some decent degree of correspondence between words and things." Because of him "a few more aspects of life have been captured for literature." But we must view Hemingway (says Levin), not as a novelist (with an interest in manners and morals), but as a poet who is primarily interested in his own reactions and responses to the universe. What Levin means is not a poet, but a Romantic poet of the order of Shelley. In a sense, however, Hemingway is a poet on the order of Homer and Dante who saw that their essential task was to make out of their responses to the universe a way of life which other men would find valuable. Manners and morals are local responses to the condition of things; poets are not concerned about these as primary materials for observation; they use them for verisimilitude only.
Hemingway Prolonged Adolescent
Leslie Fiedler's thesis is that American men don't want anything to do with women. Using this as a crowbar he has lifted the rocks of American literature and disclosed beneath them a remarkably similar species of worms. In his remarkable book Love and Death in the American Novel he has certainly written the illuminating book on American literature. For Fiedler, Hemingway is only comfortable with "men without women," or, if you will, with "code heroes." The inability of Hemingway to imagine the responsibilities of marriage and home life is a measure of his irresponsibility and adolescence. All this, he says, is merely a "desire for death." For this reason Hemingway's female characters remain either mindless objects, or they become witches who seem, all but magically, to deprive men of their power. We may cite on the one hand the Indian girl of the early story, "Cross Country Snow," Maria of For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Renata of Across the River and into the Trees; on the other hand Brett Ashley of The Sun Also Rises. Fiedler, limited by Freud, and apparently his own religious psychological barricades, never understands that Hemingway is not functioning merely as a Protestant American, but as a whole human personality. Yet Fiedler is very profound; if he could forget what the limitations of time and space, and the accidents of circumstances have made him, he would be our best guide through the complexities of the American mind, which is, after all, a type of all men's minds.
Nick Adams As A Persona Of Hemingway
Philip Young in an essay "The Adventures of Nick Adams," traces the development of Hemingway in the character of Nick Adams. Nick's experiences are identical with, or similar to, Hemingway's. For Nick - Hemingway the essential and radical experience was the great wound suffered in the Italian campaign. Taking all the Nick Adams stories together the lineaments of his character may be traced: he is "sensitive, humorless, honest, . . . passive. . . . He is the outdoor male, who revels in the life of the senses, loves to hunt and fish and takes pride in his knowledge of how to do such things. . . . Once grown, he is a man who knows his way around, but he is superstitious too, and is developing a complex ritual whereby thinking can be stopped, the evil spirits placated and warded off." This is the world - known figure; in essence, the "Hemingway hero." The experiences "of childhood, adolescence, and young manhood which shape Nick Adams have shaped as well Lt. Henry, Jake Barnes, Colonel Cantwell and several other heroes." He is not "the simple primitive"; his primitivism is a "defense" against "a terror which he cannot face head on." He is the "wounded man" who will die a "thousand times before his death." Philip Young's articles and book on Hemingway are inevitably sound and clarifying; he is not committed (as were so many critics in the past) to preconceptions about Hemingway, or what was to be found in his fictions before they were even read.
Sean O'Faolin On Hemingway
The famous Irish short story writer has written a number of critical works on fiction: in two of them, The Vanishing Hero and Short Stories: A Study in Pleasure, he has devoted considerable attention to Hemingway. In the chapter in The Vanishing Hero which is given to an analysis of the "Hemingway hero" he says, Hemingway's "Hero is always as near as makes no matter to being brainless, has no past, no traditions, and no memories." There is an "exclusive glorification of brute courage, strength, skill and grace . . . ." It is difficult to see how anyone could say of Hemingway's main heroes, most of whom are believable intellectuals, that they are "brainless," or of characters whose major concern is to suppress them that they have no "memories," or of men committed so devotedly to a code of honor, ancient and world - wide, that they have no "traditions." But O'Faolin, when he uses the words "brainless," "past," "tradition" and "memory" means something different by them than the meanings I have assigned. He is measuring them against culture as defined by Western European standards and, of course, finds them wanting. Henry James, in a famous paragraph of critical perceptivity, said much the same thing in speaking of Hawthorne. A creative person in America has two choices: to join, insofar as a colonial can, the European tradition in its British formulation, or strike out on his own. The choice which Melville, Twain, Poe, Hemingway and Faulkner made was the latter. So did, for the most part, Hawthorne make this same choice, and Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman and Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens and Robert Lowell. If these names, with some few additions, form the body of what we now call "American" literature it is precisely because they made that choice. So O'Faolin's condemnation of Hemingway must be seen for what it is essentially, that is, grounded on a misconception. However, O'Faolin's sensitivity to the art of fiction allowed e m to say very good things about Hemingway. In Short Stories: A Study in Pleasure, O'Faolin is much more trustworthy in his reading of Hemingway, analyzing "A Clean, Well - Lighted Place" brilliantly. The story inspires "pity and awe" and Hemingway "is one of the kindest and most tender of writers." The story, so deceptively simple, is an experience of the fundamental fear of "Nothingness." How does Hemingway do this, produce this effect of "pity and awe" on the reader? By "one of the most self - conscious, original, and personal styles ever invented."
Cleanth Brooks And Robert Penn Warren On Hemingway
Although the movement of critics away from an interpretation of Hemingway as a "dumb ox" who knew, for some peculiar reason, how to write, towards one which began to see that he was an artist and craftsman of an extraordinary rareness began some decades ago, much of the credit for the new approach is given to Brooks and Warren, especially in the chapter from Understanding Fiction called "The Discovery of Evil: An Analysis of 'The Killers'" (1959). Analyzing the story they demonstrate from the technique and narrative themselves that the story does not concern the gangsters, or the victim (Ole), but Nick. The story is about "the discovery of evil." In it Nick discovers that the "unreal" world of the movies, of violence transmuted by entertainment values, is in fact "real." What they have to say about the story is rich and intelligent but they do not exhaust its possibilities. Nick has discovered evil but he has also discovered death and the various human responses to it.
Carlos Baker On Hemingway
Professor Baker is charged with writing the official life of Hemingway. In an earlier book, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist, he systematically analyzes the symbolic structure of the writer's work. One chapter, dealing as it does with "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," is of peculiar interest to us. In "The Two African Stories" from that book, he analyzes "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Both stories, he finds, deal with the "corrupt power of women and money, two of the forces . . . mentioned in Green Hills of Africa as impediments to American writing men." For Harry, what "harrows him" is "the consciousness of all the literary riches, none of them committed to paper, which will go with him underground." "Harry's death by gangrene symbolizes all spiritual suicides among American writers" who are "destroyed" in numerous ways - by being paid too well, by raising their standard of living which, to keep up, causes them to write "slop." "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" which was finished April 7, 1936, was regarded by Hemingway as "about as good as any" of his short stories. It is a story dealing with "the psychology of a dying man"; like Across the River and into the Trees it contains little "overt action," though much is implied. It is "a triumphal piece of writing." Hemingway's own grave illness on a similar big game hunt may have occasioned the speculation on the topic "the death of a writer before his wors is done." Hemingway's position in the story is much like Henry James' in "The Lesson of the Master," which deals also with "a sold - out novelist": "Don't," he warns a younger writer, "become in your old age what I have in mine - the depressing, the deplorable illustration of the worship of false gods . . . the idols of the market; money and luxury . . . everything that drives one to the short and easy way." Harry has followed this route, "his creeping gangrene is the mark he bears." The "lesson of the master" is "Thou shalt not worship the graven images of false gods, or acquiesce in 'the life of pleasant surrender'." The story is a "face - to - face confrontation of an ego by an alter - ego." The symbols are non - literary (as has been pointed out) and "carefully selected . . . to be in complete psychological conformity with the locale and the dramatic situation." Harry rejects "the scythe and skull" imagery of death because his situation dictates other symbols - the hyena and the vultures. Even the image of "immortality" (the summit of Kilimanjaro) arises naturally out of the context. This story demonstrates that "the highest art must take liberties, not with the truth but with the modes by which the truth is projected."
Hemingway As A Recorder Of Sterility
The First World War visited the European consciousness in multiple shapes of devastation. Mark Spilka, in "The Death of Love in The Sun also Rises," sets the book in the context of this record. Many were concerned with the death of love "but only Hemingway seems to have caught it whole and delivered it in lasting fictional form." In The Sun Also Rises his characters are set "as allegorical figures." Cohn in the book is "the last chivalric hero, the last defender of an outworn faith. . . ." It is for Jake Barnes to develop a new code which will serve for contemporary times. Much of the book is devoted to a development of this code and an explication of the reasons for it. Ray B. West, Jr., sees in A Farewell to Arms that the subject is "the search for truth - for ethical standards to replace those which seemed impossible under the wartime conditions which it depicts." It is "religious" in this sense. "Frederic is the modern hero, lost between two worlds, the world of tradition and certainty which he cannot wholly relinquish, and the exciting but uncertain world of the twentieth century, where you only occasionally find something substantial to look at to make everything stop whirling, where you live for the moment, giving yourself up to sensations, for it is through the senses that you discover truth. . . ." The title of the book A Farewell to Arms is ironic, for you cannot sign a separate peace. "You can only learn to live with life, to tolerate it as 'the initiated' learn to tolerate it."
D'Agostino On Hemingway
In spite of his "absurd Byronic pose" Hemingway emerges "as the upholder of the only humanism which seemed possible at the time." His rebellion sprang from a "vivid consciousness of a moral order in a precise historical time . . . ." But Hemingway in his later years was driven to a "renunciation of culture" and its consequent condemnation of the "blood instinct." His philosophy is "an abdication from maturity." "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is "spoiled by rhetoric." In fact, as one moves from In Our Time to The Old Man and the Sea, one moves from freshness to staleness. Hemingway has become his own style, not its master. His true genius "tended to express itself in an elementary form, in the limpidity of a lyrical and subjective imagism, which apparently simplifies the context of life, but in effect contrives to include, in the sort of essential emotion it presents, a wide range of connotations." His early work is best.
The Code As A Religion
Joseph Waldmeir, tracing the religious (especially Christian) analogues in Hemingway's fiction, says that "Hemingway has formulated as rigid a spt of rules for living and the attainment of manhood as can be found in any religion," and "the difference between Hemingway's religion of man and formal religion is simply - yet profoundly - that in the former the elevation does not extend beyond the limits of this world, and in the latter, Christianity for example, the ultimate elevation is totally otherworldly." Hemingway's work is, almost completely, devoted to an examination of the "abstractions, the rules, the ritual, the sacrifice" of the "religion of manhood."
Essay Questions And Answers
Question: Why is "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" an important work of Hemingway?
Answer: One reason is that Hemingway himself considered it one of the finest things he'd done. A more important reason is that its main character Harry is a writer who makes comments about and gives analysis of the writer's relationship to the world. Anything Hemingway says about the task of the writer, or has his characters say, is important for an understanding of him. A third reason, more compelling, is that this story brings together most of the motifs and themes which Hemingway has been obsessed with in his life and his fictions. Here we may see the place of the "code" in Hemingway's work, the contrast between those who live by it and those who do not, the forces (money and women) which can keep one from living by the code - entering moral and psychological manhood - and the reward that comes to those who do live by the code. None of this is couched in expository form, all of it emerges from the narrative itself - the characters, their situation, the confrontation between them, and the lucid array of the material in a psychologically valid sequence. It might be said that to know the full meaning of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is to know Hemingway.
Question: What are the symbols in the story?
Answer: The vultures which descend upon and fly above the camp and the hyena who visits the camp signify naturally, in the context of the situation, the prpsence of death. The gangrenous leg of the dying writer is another symbol, of course, of death. But in the larger context, since Harry is a writer, they symbolize his moral corruption and artistic decay. Beyond this Harry's wife being a rich woman symbolizes the very forces which have brought about the destruction of his integrity. She is precisely identical with the gangrenous leg, and hence with the vultures and hyena. All of these are the forces of death in all its forms: moral death, artistic death, physical death. The hunter Compton is symbolic of the initiated, of the code leroes. It is he who leads Harry to "immortality," the high snow - covered top of Kilimanjaro "the abode of God." This last symbol, like all the others, is a natural element of the locale and condition of the writer. The snow, the mountains, the high places, are representative, symbolic, of his lost integrity. The frozen leopard of the epigraph is a symbol of Harry "immortalized" as a reward for his courage in the face of death, for his aspiration and "belief" (in spite of his lack of practice) in the code, or what Waldmeir calls the "Religion of Man." These are the main symbols in the story.
Question: Why are certain portions of the text italicized?
Answer: The italicized portion of the text signals to the reader that he is listening to Harry's memories. More explicitly he is listening to Harry "writing" his memories, or transmuting them into the very forms he regrets not having attempted. During his dying days he is writing, and writing the things he regrets not having written. It is this activity on his part which justifies his going to Kilimanjaro. Like Francis Macomber, his life (writing life) is "short" and "happy," but it is sufficiently valid that he is to be entered into the company of the code heroes. The author makes interesting artistic use of the italics (or the lack of them) when he allows the reader to follow Harry and Compton in the plane to Kilimanjaro as if this section were part of the "real" narrative. The reader has been "trained" to regard what is printed in italics as taking place in Harry's mind; when the journey to Kilimanjaro begins it ought to be given in italics. The fact that it isn't not only "tricks" the reader (an easy task), but serves to add greater dimension to the narrative by demonstrating that Harry's "story" culminates not in death but in salvation.
Question: How is Harry similar to and different from the usual Hemingway "hero"?
Answer: Harry is similar to the usual Hemingway hero in that he is a professional or, if you want, an intellectual, who is committed, for one reason or another, to the life of action. Also, he has painful memories which he has tried to repress, and which can only be warded off by containment in artistic (or ritual) form. His manhood (physical, moral, intellectual) has been damaged or corrupted or destroyed by women and/or money or fear. He is saved by an initiation into the world of "men without women." Jake Barnes of The Sun Also Rises learns to survive without illusion; Lt. Henry of A Farewell to Arms learns that war is only one of the prominent forms of the game of death and that one cannot make "a separate peace" with it; Morgan of To Have and Have Not learns that no man can go it alone; Jordan of For Whom the Bell Tolls hopes that in death he will have transcended personal defeat, and so on. All of these, like Harry, are sensitive, open, available to pain, obsessed by annihilation, and plucky; they all live, with a greater or lesser degree of conformity, according to a code. The code in effect says, a man should act like a man. Harry is one who has fallen away from the code, but in his dying moments comes back to it. He is different in that his particular commitment to the code operation does not take the form of deep sea fishing or war or bullfighting but of writing. He is also different in that he is rewarded "in the other world." All the other Hemingway heroes must be and are "rewarded" here in whatever private or public form the reward may take.
Question: What is Hemingway's importance as a writer?
Answer: As Stewart Sanderson says, in his book Ernest Hemingway: "His influence on other writers, in every country where his books are read, is incalculable. The Hemingway style of narration, crisp, staccato, with its cinematic eye focused clearly on the object and its action, is that of an inspired reporter: the selection of relevant details is that of a skilled artist." His subject matter is not wide "but he has explored it honestly and thoroughly, taking for his theme, some of the central experiences of his own and the succeeding generation, bred in an age of devastating war and violence, where even to survive is something of a miracle, and in which for many people the traditional values are disrupted and the meaning of existence obscured." In the words of the Nobel Prize citation, he achieved for our time "a powerful style - forming mastery of the art of modern narration." Lesser writers have imitated the more obvious aspects of the style and the stance. But, again in the words of the citation, "He is one of the great writers of our time, one of those who, honestly and undauntedly, reproduces the genuine features of the hard countenance of the age." Aside from this, it may, I think, be truly said that no other author (perhaps O'Hara was right) of the critical importance Hemingway has demanded, and gotten, has enjoyed so wide and varied an audience of common ordinary readers. Perhaps that fact measures most exactly both his strengths and his weaknesses.