The Snows of Kilimanjaro | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Snows of Kilimanjaro | Quotes


No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.


The story begins on a note of mystery with the epigraph. A leopard scaled the highest mountaintop in Africa in search of something unknown and died near the peak's summit. The author hypothesizes that the leopard died striving for immortality and—by dying where it did—achieved its goal since at that altitude its body will permanently endure. Harry dreams of a flight to immortality on the mountaintop. In reality he dies in his tent as his body deteriorates.


Love is a dunghill ... and I'm the cock that gets on it to crow.


Harry's sarcasm and visceral metaphors show his attempts to dismiss the people and places important to him as a "dunghill" and portray his own impotent role as an animal making ineffectual noises on top of the hill. In fact lovelust does play an important role in his life—he thinks of his love for his first wife, his love for Paris, and his appreciation for Helen. But Harry, like many Hemingway characters, doesn't say exactly what he means because he cannot.


I don't like to leave things behind.


Harry explains to Helen why he's turning into "a devil" and speaking bitterly, perhaps truthfully for the first time, to her. As he nears death, he realizes how much he will leave behind—he'll leave his life unfinished and imperfect.


It was not so much that he lied as ... there was no truth to tell.


Harry realizes he's spoken more often "from habit and to be comfortable" than from a desire to be honest. As someone who's spent his life telling the stories of others, he wonders what his story and his "truth" are. He feels universal moral values are absent after the chaos of the war, and he has to find truth for himself.


He ... work[ed] ... fat off his soul the way a fighter ... burn[ed] it [from] his body.


Hemingway's male code heroes are often fighters, both physically and intellectually. Hemingway and Harry associate Africa with work, strength, and masculinity. After being made complacent by wealth, Harry hopes to improve his work ethic in Africa, where he will be deprived of the creature comforts of Europe, and to go on a hero's journey of self-discovery. This quote expresses his desires in a succinct metaphor. In a twist of situational irony, his journey is cut short just when he begins to recover "strength of will to work."


If he lived by a lie he should try to die by it.


This quote shows Harry's moral compass as a Hemingway code hero. He knows he's lied to Helen by telling her he loves her and building a life with her—and to himself by failing to write the stories within him. But he wants to die following the same code he's followed in life.


She shot very well ... this rich bitch, this kindly caretaker and destroyer of his talent.


Harry observes Helen shooting, an act of destruction, and considers how she's helped destroy the life he planned to live even as she idolizes his talent. Harry, like Hemingway, partially blames women for any lapse in his writing ambitions. Like most relationships, Harry and Helen's has involved conflict and compromise. He traded his personal struggle for "security" and "comfort" when he married her, and this comfort has weakened his resolve to write. His life before Helen was a time of great discomfort and pain, but it is also full of stories Harry feels are worth telling.


However you make your living is where your talent lies.


Harry connects his personal worth to his career success. He's tried to be emotionally detached from his work so he can give "better value for the money," but he can't achieve complete detachment—he's obsessed with the idea of success and the responsibility of "talent." This reflects Hemingway's philosophy that one must use talent, however imperfect it is, to create and live an active and committed life.


He had seen the world change ... could remember how the people were at different times.


Harry's seen the way people he knows from different countries have changed their outlooks and their behavior before and after the war. He's observed treachery, fear, cowardice, apathy, hatred, and violence but also neighborliness and love. His memories run the gamut of human behavior and provide an encapsulated version of some of the changes Europe went through during and after World War I.


I'll have all I want. Not all I want but all there is.


Harry's longing to have "all there is" parallels his unfulfilled desire to write about all his experiences. Does he view death as another adventure or as a long stretch of boredom? The narrative explores both possibilities. The promise in "all there is" foreshadows Harry's imagined journey to Kilimanjaro, where he will observe Africa from overhead and see the continent like he's never seen it before.


So this was how you died, in whispers that you did not hear.


Harry has an insight about the nature of death. It's unpredictable and slow; every day of his life has brought him closer to death, though he didn't realize it. The "whispers that you did not hear" resemble the many events Harry neglected to write about, not realizing their importance until it was too late. He feels he's ignored warnings and "whispers" throughout his life but now he cannot.


He could beat anything ... because no thing could hurt him if he did not care.


Members of the lost generation tried to cultivate apathy in response to the moral decline of their culture. This apathy has made Harry feel invincible. He hasn't been "wrecked" like others in his generation because he never cared about anything—like wealth or love—enough to let it ruin him. Despite the nonchalance Harry tries to portray, the story shows Harry did care a great deal for life. He feels his failures keenly. Hemingway questions whether Harry's caring inevitably hurts him in the end by connecting him too much with the life he will have to leave.

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