Essays and Criticism
Nature in Hemingway’s Short Stories: Uncaring and Unyielding
In Hemingway’s short stories, nature is consistently depicted as both uncaring and unyielding. The author eschews any influence from the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” he shows that memories and good intentions are no match for the ruthless onset of disease. “A Natural History of the Dead” sarcastically dismisses the notion of divine providence by documenting the ugly reality of death. And “The Capital of the World” demonstrates that nature can claim the life of a young, innocent man even if he feels no fear. What is important, then, is that men try to live their life according to a code of honor while they remain alive.
Writing in the post-World War I era, Hemingway refused to follow the lead of his literary predecessors of the 18th and 19th centuries when it came to a view of nature. Enlightenment thinker Alexander Pope wrote in his “Essay on Criticism”: “First follow Nature and your judgment frame / By her just standard, which is still the same.” Romantic poet William Wordsworth said in “Tintern Abbey”: “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” But Hemingway's work clearly dismisses any notion that we can either look to nature for guidance or rely on its kindness when confronted with trials.
In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Hemingway’s choice of gangrene as the route to death for his protagonist, a writer...
(The entire section is 1176 words.)
Hemingway’s Styles of Narration in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”
Although it is perhaps the least characteristic of any of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, ‘‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’’ is often considered to be Hemingway’s finest accomplishment in the genre of short fiction. Moreover, most critics agree that Harry, the protagonist of the story, is Hemingway’s self-portrait, and this makes the story doubly interesting for students of this giant of twentieth-century American writing. The story recounts the death of a failed writer and a man who is at least unpleasant, if not actually the ‘‘bad man’’ that many of his critics have accused him of being. In describing Harry’s death, Hemingway confronted many of the demons that haunted him: contempt for what he saw as an ignorant audience, alcohol and its numbing effects, war, and the unfulfilled promise of a vastly talented writer. Hemingway and Harry both arrive at a vision of transcendence that is ironically incongruous with Harry’s decidedly degraded character.
But does this vision actually represent transcendence, or does the ending juxtaposition of the story—Harry flying toward the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro while his wife remains in the humid tent with his rotting leg and a...
(The entire section is 1966 words.)