Compton flies the plane that is meant to take Harry back to the city to save his life. He is confident and tries to make Harry feel better about his predicament. However, he exists only in Harry’s dream.
Harry is the protagonist of the story. He is a writer and has had many experiences in Europe. He also very much enjoys big-game hunting. When the story begins, Harry is suffering from gangrene in his leg and he is dying in the African backcountry while waiting for a plane to take him to the city.
Harry’s wife Helen, also known as The Wife, remains unnamed until the end of the story, when a delirious Harry finally refers to her by name as he dies. After Harry reaches the summit of Kilimanjaro, the previous narrative voice resumes and again calls her simply ‘‘the woman.’’ Harry does not seem to love her, but he respects her to a certain degree for her skill with a gun. She comes from a wealthy family and Harry has contempt for that. She, on the other hand, cares for him greatly and tries to ease his suffering.
Molo is the African servant who serves Helen and Harry. He does very little in the story apart from bringing Harry whiskey and sodas.
Themes and Characters
Harry, the protagonist of the story, is a writer. As he lies near death on a cot in the African wilds, his thoughts go back to his life experiences. Hemingway skillfully develops Harry's character by use of his cutting words to his wife, his memories of other women and other times, his attitude towards death, and his ceaseless drinking even when he knows it is harmful.
Since Hemingway based this character on himself, he made Harry very realistic, drawing on his own professional resume to establish a journalistic background for Harry. The main character's wife was loosely based on Hemingway's second wife, Pauline. In the story, Harry feels that he has been bought by his wife's money, and it is a feeling he can barely tolerate.
Harry never calls Helen by her name, and it is only near the end of the story, during the plane trip episode in his mind, when she is named. Otherwise, he refers only to her as "she."
Helen is one of Hemingway's more developed women characters; he gave her a rounded background. She had been devoted to her first husband who died just as their two children had grown and left home, leaving her quite alone and needing to build a new life. She turned to drink, horses, and books. Then she took lovers. When one of her children was killed in a plane crash, she was devastated and scared. She no longer wanted lovers; she wanted a solid relationship, and she found Harry. She admired his books and thought his life exciting. She had started a new life with him, and in turn, he had lost his old life.
There are many minor characters in this story. At the African camp are the servants, and one is mentioned by name; Molo is called...
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