The theme at the very heart of Hemingway's African pilgrimage centers on matters of religion. Religious motifs and images are so pervasive that the subject should be allotted much more than the brief space allowed here for such analysis. Statistical survey of key passages and allusions dealing with religion reveals at least 85 such occurrences. Likewise, references to the marijuana- effect Christmas Tree that Miss Mary quests for so assiduously amount to more than 30. And there are many references to the "Birthday of the Baby Jesus" and other formulations, some serious, some hilarious, involving the words "Baby Jesus"—e.g., when they go to dig up the magic Christmas Tree, Hemingway says they are "working for the Forestry Department of Our Lord, the Baby Jesus." There are dozens of such "Baby Jesus" references; and there are dozens of citations of the Mountain-God Kilimanjaro. As Sports Illustrated noted long ago, when it published portions of this manuscript in 1971-72, religion comes up "repeatedly, often in a humorous connotation; but at heart it [is] no laughing matter." Some Hemingway commentators have found that the weakest part of the book is Hemingway's new religious mythology, and dismissed it as humor, as comic play, that diminishes the effect of the work. But they have missed the point; as is always the case with Hemingway, religion is a serious matter. Hemingway did not go to Africa, and Pilgrims do not make pilgrimages, just for laughs....
(The entire section is 2157 words.)
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