Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

Historically, critics have been divided on the merits of Hemingway’s work. While contemporary critics praised Hemingway’s mastery of form and narration, later critics took Hemingway to task for the limitations of his themes, for his perceived sexism, and for his extremely negative views of human life. Recent critical opinion has come to see Hemingway primarily as a stylist who has nothing profound or deeply original to say about the human condition, and although his influence on today’s short story writers is difficult to overstate, many critics today believe that Hemingway is simply not a great writer.

‘‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’’ was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936, and first appeared in book form in his collection The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories of 1938. At that time, critics had their first opportunity to express their opinions on the story, and most were enthusiastic. Alfred Kazin, in the Books supplement to the New York Herald Tribune, wrote that the story was simply ‘‘terrific,’’ and Edmund Wilson felt that the ending was ‘‘a wonderful piece of writing.’’ Malcolm Cowley, in the New Republic, noted that the story was ‘‘the only story in which [Hemingway] has allowed himself to be conventionally poetic.’’

Later critics used the story to discuss larger themes that recur throughout Hemingway’s writing. Mark Schorer wrote in 1941 that ‘‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’’ marked a turning-point in Hemingway’s career, when his ‘‘subject matter began to change—from violent experience itself to the expressed evaluation of violence.’’ Schorer felt that with this shift, Hemingway’s powers had reached their limitations. Granville Hicks, writing in the New Republic in 1944, also noted a decrease of the quality of Hemingway’s writing, but puts the date earlier. Such stories as ‘‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro,’’ though, ‘‘permit Hemingway . . . to...

(The entire section is 821 words.)