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The protagonist of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is a lot like Ernest Hemingway himself, so this story is somewhat like a confession. The protagonist has a love for nature, which was also one of Hemingway's outstanding characteristics. From various biographies we learn that Hemingway must have been especially sensitive to visual sensations. The protagonist is fond of adventure. He likes taking risks. He is not squeamish about killing wild animals. He has little sympathy for weakness, including his own. His philosophy would probably include a strong dose of social Darwinism, a belief in survival of the fittest. He likes variety. He gets bored with being in the same place and doing the same things.
"It's a bore," he said out loud.
"What is, my dear?"
"Anything you do too bloody long."
The protagonist has an artistic temperament, in striking contrast to his macho athleticism. The most important thing in his life is his writing. He wants to write even when he is dying. His artistic temperament plus his masculine strength and aggressiveness make him attractive to women. But he is difficult for women to relate to because he needs a lot of time to be alone with his thoughts and his creative writing. (Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Art is a jealous mistress, and if a man has a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.”) Besides that, the protagonist seems to dislike and fear closeness and sentimentality. Hemingway himself was married four times. He needed women but couldn’t get along with them. The protagonist, like Hemingway himself, appears to be a heavy drinker.
Harry is a writer who lies dying on the African plain of an infected leg. He is insecure and bitter. He feels that he has not made the best of himself as a writer because he did not take the time to write about things that really mattered to him. He does not like women, especially his wife, and during the story he tries to decide why he married her. He also hates the rich and upper class and unfortunately, his wife was a member of that class. As he takes off in the plane, he realizes he " was going.’’ So he has the plane fly to the summit of Mr. Kilimanjaro in one last attempt at being at the top.
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