The Snows of Kilimanjaro (short story)

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Hemingway hunting on safari, 1934

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. It was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936. It was republished in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories in 1938, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories in 1961, and is included in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition (1987).


The story centers on the memories of a writer named Harry who is on safari in Africa. He has developed an infected wound from a thorn puncture, and lies awaiting his slow death. This loss of physical capability causes him to look inside himself—at his memories of the past years, and how little he has actually accomplished in his writing. He realizes that although he has seen and experienced many wonderful and astonishing things during his life, he had never made a record of the events; his status as a writer is contradicted by his reluctance to actually write.

He also quarrels with Helen, the woman with him, blaming her for his living decadently and forgetting his failure to write of what really matters to him, namely his experiences among poor and "interesting" people, not the predictable upper class crowd he has fallen in with lately. Thus he dies, having lived through so much and yet having lived only for the moment, with no regard to the future. In a dream he sees a plane coming to get him and take him to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro as a hyena is heard from the distance.

Reception and adaptation[edit]

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is regarded as one of Hemingway's greatest works, holding its own alongside The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. Although this work is quite long for a short-story, in no way can it compare in plot-line or complexity with his novels.

A film adaptation of the short story, directed by Henry King, written by Casey Robinson, and starring Gregory Peck as Harry, Susan Hayward as Helen, and Ava Gardner as Cynthia Green (a character invented for the film) appeared in 1952. The film's ending does not mirror the book's ending.