In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Hemingway, how does the relationship between Harry and Helen start and what drives them apart?
Harry and Helen are the main characters in Hemingway's short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." The story is highly autobiographical and, according James R. Mellow in Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences, the author began the story after returning from an African safari with his second wife Pauline. Helen is a rich woman whose first husband has died, leaving her lonely and susceptible to alcoholism. She attempts a series of affairs with men but admits they "bored her very much." Thus, she looks for a man whom she can respect and soon meets Harry, a celebrated writer:
It had begun very simply. She liked what he wrote and she had always envied the life he led. She thought he did exactly what he wanted to.
For his part Harry admits that he very much liked Helen, not only for her money, but because she was "a damned nice woman" and he "would as soon be in bed with her as anyone." He can't, however, really claim that he loved her. Moreover, he suspects that she is the cause of his decreasing ability to write about the things "he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well." This realization drives a wedge in their relationship. Because she has provided everything he needs he has become lethargic and lazy in his work:
But he would never do it, because each day of not writing, of comfort, of being that which he despised, dulled his ability and softened his will to work so that, finally, he did no work at all.
In his bitterness about his life and impending death Harry tortures Helen. He suggests that he has never loved her and condemns her for her wealth and what it's done to him. His belligerent and hurtful attitude toward her finally prompts her to question why, at this point, as he suffers from an affliction which may kill him, he wants to belittle her and everything they've shared together:
"If you have to go away," she said, "is it absolutely necessary to kill off everything you leave behind? I mean do you have to take away everything? Do you have to kill your horse, and your wife and burn your saddle and your armour?"
While it may be the best example of Hemingway's analysis of a dysfunctional marital relationship, it certainly isn't the only one, as he presents similar situations in the short stories "The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "Hills Like White Elephants," and in the novel Islands in the Stream. Hemingway was most certainly involved in conversations and arguments (he was married three times and committed suicide with a shotgun, leaving the mess for his fourth wife Mary to discover in their Ketchum, Idaho home) which mirror his fictional creations.