How would you describe the protagonist of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The protagonist of this story, Harry, is a classic example of Hemingway's ability to produce an anti-hero, or a character that appears to be detached from the world and very disconnected. Notice how he says to his wife, quite openly and honestly that he has never loved her, saying that now he is dying he doesn't want "to leave anything behind." He deliberately hurts his wife, using his talents and intelligence to squabble with her rather than to focus on writing. Note how he insults her in the following quote:

"You bitch," he said, "You rich bitch. That's poetry. I'm full of poetry now. Rot and poetry. Rotten poetry."

Note how he both attacks her but also equates his artistic talent with the gangrene that is slowly killing him, linking the two to suggest a connection. After insulting her and telling her that he does not love her, he then lies to reassure her that he does love her when in fact he does not.

As we read the story, we also discover that Harry is characterised by his desire to be a writer but also by the way that he is struggling to put pen to paper, because of the luxury in which he lives. Note what Harry concludes about how he destroyed his talent:

He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in, by drinking so much that he blunted the edge of his perceptions, by laziness, by sloth, and by snobbery, by pride and by prejudice, by hook and by crook.

Thus what defines Harry as a character more than anything is his sense of frustration at not being able to write when he has dedicated his life to this purpose. It is thus highly ironic that the short story ends with Harry achieving his goal of artistic transcendence in his death reveries.

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The Snows of Kilimanjaro

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