Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 467
In Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway writes about a hunting expedition and related events in East Africa in 1933-1934. Although he says the book is “absolutely true,” he also acknowledges that the book is partly fictional, including both events and characters who are often composites of actual people. Along with his “pursuit” of the animals he intends to kill, the author also pursues insights into literature and creativity. Contemporary readers may struggle with Hemingway’s attitudes and behavior, including hyper-hetero-masculinist bravado, big-game hunting, attitudes toward women, and treatment of Africans.
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Hemingway mixes long, involved descriptions of the countryside with his ideas about life and, especially, about love.
Now, looking out the tunnel of trees over the ravine at the sky with white clouds moving across in the wind, I loved the country so that I was happy as you are after you have been with a woman that you really love, when, empty, you feel it welling up again and there it is and you can never have it all and yet what there is, now, you can have, and you want more and more, to have, and be, and live in, to possess now again for always, for that long, sudden-ended always; making time stand still, sometimes so very still that afterwards you wait to hear it move, and it is slow in starting. But you are not alone, because if you have ever really loved her happy and untragic, she loves you always; no matter whom she loves nor where she goes she loves you more.
Wrapped into supposed conversations with other Europeans he meets, Hemingway gives his criticism of other American writers and a cynical assessment of how both success and financial concerns harm writers, perhaps referring to himself.
At present we have two good writers who cannot write because they have lost confidence through reading critics. If they wrote, sometimes it would be good and sometimes not so good and sometimes it would be quite bad, but the good would get out. But they have read the critics and they must write masterpieces. The masterpieces the critics said they wrote. They weren’t masterpieces, of course. They were just quite good books. So now they cannot write at all. The critics have made them impotent.
During the time Hemingway was writing, concern for endangered species and limits on hunting were not yet standard. He writes often of hunting as a "joy," and includes long descriptions of the hunts, including unsuccessful ones, and the killing and slaughtering of the animals. He presents his involvement in killing wild animals as a minor factor and part of natural cycles.
They [the animals] all had to die and my interference with the nightly and the seasonal killing that went on all the time was very minute.