The Snows of Kilimanjaro


Ernest Hemingway

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The Snows of Kilimanjaro Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ernest Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ernest Hemingway

In addition to his critically-acclaimed writing, Nobel-prize winning novelist, short story author, and journalist Ernest Hemingway is also famed for his adventurous lifestyle that took him across continents, cultures, and conflicts. He was an ambulance driver in Italy in World War I and a journalist covering the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. He witnessed the Allies landing on the beaches on D-Day and the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation during WWII as a foreign correspondent. He moved to Paris in the 1920s with his first of four wives, Hadley Richardson. There he became part of a group dubbed “The Lost Generation,” which included the likes of artist Pablo Picasso and writer James Joyce. He divorced Richardson for Pauline Pfeiffer in 1927, whom he later left for Martha Gellhorn in 1940. He met his last wife, Mary Welsh, during WWII in London. Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for his celebrated novel The Old Man and the Sea. After sustaining various injuries, including from surviving several plane crashes in Africa, Hemingway retired to Ketchum, Idaho, where he shot himself on July 2, 1961.
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Historical Context of The Snows of Kilimanjaro

At its height in the early 20th century, Literary Modernism was a reaction and response to the traditional viewpoints and aesthetic of the Victorian period. The writers of this era had recently lived through the chaos of World War I, and the horrors and suffering of trench warfare radically changed their perspectives on society, humanity, and artistic expression. Hemingway became a key figure of the movement when he met the expatriate community known as “The Lost Generation” in Paris in the 1920s. Later, the effects of the Great Depression reverberated globally throughout the 1930s after the Wall Street Crash in 1929. Crippling poverty hit across many levels of society, a stark contrast to the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, exposing the failings of the contemporary social and economic system. The violence of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s also had a profound ideological impact on many influential artists and writers of the time and their work, including Hemingway and his fellow Lost Generation member, Pablo Picasso.

Other Books Related to The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Influential writer Ezra Pound summed up the Literary Modernist period succinctly: “Make it new.” Thus, experimentation was a guiding principle of the literary works of the time. This brought about untrustworthy narrators, an indistinct concept of “truth,” and a fascination with consciousness, leading to the stream of consciousness style Hemingway employs through much of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” James Joyce’s Ulysses is noted as a leading example of the storytelling style, where the events of the novel take place largely within the mind of protagonist Leopold Bloom over the course of a routine day. A fellow member of “The Lost Generation,” Joyce was an acquaintance of Hemingway’s in Paris. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway also uses stream of consciousness techniques and flashbacks, although dissimilarly to Hemingway’s story, the narrative moves back and forth between the eponymous upper-class Clarissa Dalloway and WWI veteran Septimus Warren Smith. However, the contrast between the anxieties of the ultra-rich socialites and the suffering of the shell-shocked veteran draw on social tensions similar to those explored in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
Key Facts about The Snows of Kilimanjaro
  • Full Title: The Snows of Kilimanjaro
  • When Written: 1935
  • Where Written: USA
  • When Published: 1936
  • Literary Period: Literary Modernism
  • Genre: Short story, modernist fiction
  • Setting: African plains
  • Climax: Harry’s plane flies toward Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Antagonist: Death
  • Point of View: Third person

Extra Credit for The Snows of Kilimanjaro

An offer Hemingway could refuse. On his return to America after being on safari in East Africa in 1935, Hemingway was quoted in the New York Times as saying he was only back in the country to earn more money for another trip. Reading this, an incredibly wealthy lady invited him to tea to offer to pay for the trip, on the condition she could join him and his wife. Hemingway politely declined, and later told a friend that he wrote “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” “as a study of what would or could have happened” to him had he accepted the tempting offer.

F. Scott Fitzgerald. In an earlier draft of the short story, Hemingway named F. Scott Fitzgerald as the writer mocked for his “romantic awe” of the very wealthy in his work. Hemingway later changed the name to Julian, although the reference remains clear.