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"He had never written a word of that": regret and counterfactuals in Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro".

Analyzes narrative counterfactuals in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" examining these unrealized scenarios in three distinct storytelling modes: the dialogue and focalization representing the narrative present set in Africa, the italicized vignettes representing the main character's thoughts, and the two endings representing a false rescue and the protagonist's death. Argues that counterfactuality unites the disparate elements of the story and that Hemingway employs this theme to dramatize the productive tension between possibility and foreclosure in the creation of narrative. Focuses on readers' interpretation and judgment of counterfactuals and regret in the story.


ERNEST HEMINGWAY IS KNOWN--AT TIMES EVEN PARODIED-FOR SHORT STORIES that rely heavily on dialogue interspersed with clipped narrative reports offering little evaluation or interpretation. This style is prominent in some of his best-known stories, such as "The Killers" "A Clean, WellLighted Place," and "Hills Like White Elephants."(1) How surprising, then, that "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" has joined these others as one of his most anthologized stories, appearing, for example, in The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Longer, divided into several distinct sections, and focalizing the main character's thoughts and judgments quite extensively, "Snows" stands apart from many of Hemingway's other stories. In fact, because it uses so many fragments with varied narrative techniques, "Snows" is an unusual short story not just for Hemingway but for the genre as a whole.

Reading "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" requires integrating all of its fragments into a coherent narrative experience. (2) The fact that several fragments represent not what did happen but what didn't--are counterfactual with respect to the main narrative--further complicates this formidable task. Counterfactuals are mini-narratives describing events that "might have been" realized, but which are viewed as unrealized from the perspective of the characters and/or the narrator. (3) Ontologically, these embedded counterfactual stories are not on the same level as the main narrative (Dannenberg 45-64). But emotionally and thematically, they resonate as much and perhaps more than the main narrative, and certainly contribute to its global meaning.

In this paper, I will argue that the analysis of "counterfactuals" as a thematic element provides a means to identify coherence and unity in a seemingly fragmented text. The central theme of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" I believe, is the exploration of unrealized alternatives and the coincident judgments of these alternatives by characters, narrator, and implied author. The explorations of "what might have been"--which appear in some form in every section of "Snows"--unite the story's fragments and provide the key to its total thematic effect, inviting the reader to participate in the process of judgment.


Examination of the counterfactual as a linguistic form has a long history in the study of language, and the consideration of "counterfactual thinking" has more recently emerged as an important area of research in social and cognitive psychology. The "counterfactual" has traditionally been defined in technical terms as a conditional sentence with a false antecedent (see Lewis). I use the term as it has commonly been used by psychologists, to refer to narratives of unrealized alternatives, or what-might-have-been scenarios (Roese and Olson 1). It is important to keep in mind, though, that a counterfactual scenario has both a linguistic and cognitive dimension, a fact that has been investigated at length by cognitive linguists including Dancygier and Sweetser, Fillmore, Fauconnier and Fauconnier in partnership with Turner.

As described by Gilles Fauconnier in his book Mental Spaces, speakers typically introduce the counterfactual into discourse by using a specific set of grammatical and lexical forms to indicate that a scenario is counterfactual and not actual; these forms include negatives, modal verbs, and conditional sentences (111-116). The counterfactual scenario departs in some specific and meaningful way from events viewed as actual by the speaker. Thus we could describe a counterfactual as a linguistic depiction of two distinct cognitive representations (4)--the representation of what might have been as imagined by the speaker, and the representation of what actually happened. For example, a speaker might claim, "If I had attended Rutgers University, I would have met you sooner" in which the conditional if/then form marks the depicted scenario as unrealized. This statement depicts a counterfactual scenario in which the speaker stipulates that she would have met the listener sooner by attending Rutgers, whereas a contrasting (actual) scenario involves meeting the listener later in life. Although only the counterfactual scenario is described, both cognitive representations are invoked by the expression.

Within fictional narratives, counterfactual scenarios depart from the "actual" world of the narrative, rather than from some set of real-world events. The creative nature of fiction also means that counterfactuals may appear in a variety of narrative forms associated with different speakers, such as dialogue or representations of thought associated with the perspectives of particular characters. Like real people, these characters may imagine or describe how their lives might have been different: Dannenberg calls these "autobiographical counterfactuals" (122-123). Counterfactuals may also appear in short descriptions or longer sub-narratives attributable to a narrator; the narrator may imagine how the story itself might have been different (Dannenberg 124-126; Harding 274-275). In "Evaluative Stance and Counterfactuals in Language and Literature," I describe how speakers may disagree in their understanding or judgments of counterfactual scenarios. Different characters and narrators may express different judgments of counterfactual alternatives, while the construction of the entire text represents the implied author's judgment, quite possibly different from that of characters or the narrator (276-277).

Theorists including Gavins, Herman, Prince, and Ryan have explored the fact that non-actualized or hypothetical elements make significant contributions to literary narratives. In her 2008 book Coincidences and Counterfactuals, Hilary Dannenberg presents the most thorough examination of counterfactuals in literature to date. She considers counterfactuals as a type of plot device in which possibilities diverge, and contrasts this technique with the coincidence plot, in which narrative paths converge. Along with descriptions of the cognitive, ontological, and spatial plotting of counterfactuals in narrative, Dannenberg also describes many types of counterfactual narratives and sub-narratives, and presents an historical overview of counterfactual plots in works of fiction and science fiction. (5)

In adopting a cognitive approach to counterfactuals in literature in this paper, I also place a strong emphasis on the reader's role in understanding the linguistic cues for counterfactuality and imagining counterfactual alternatives. This emphasis allows me to explore the ways that readers can interpret, integrate, and judge the "counterfactual" and "actual" elements of the plot to arrive at a holistic reading.


The key moment profiling counterfactual scenarios in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" occurs early and in dialogue. In this opening section of the story, the main characters Helen and Harry have become stranded while on an African safari. Harry has developed a gangrenous leg, but they are still comfortable thanks to servants and available supplies at their camp. As Helen and Harry sit together, worried and wondering what to do with themselves while they wait for help to arrive, they bicker over whether Harry should drink a whiskeysoda. Helen changes the subject abruptly in the following excerpt:

"I wish we'd never come," the woman said. She was looking at him holding the glass and biting her lip. "You never would have gotten anything like this in Paris. You always said you loved Paris. We could have stayed in Paris or gone anywhere. I'd have gone anywhere. I said I'd go anywhere you wanted. If you wanted to shoot we could have gone shooting in Hungary and been comfortable." ("Snows" 5)

In this stretch of dialogue, Helen's regret, not Harry's, is at issue.6 After her husband takes the whiskey-soda that she believes will contribute to his rapidly advancing infection, Helen shifts the discussion to a consideration of counterfactual alternatives when she states, "I wish we'd never come" In this sentence, the use of the verb "wish," the past perfect verb, and the negative expression "never" work together to introduce a counterfactual scenario in which Harry and Helen did not travel to Africa.

Helen's simple statement compresses her attitude toward her immediate past. As readers, we know that Helen's husband is suffering from gangrene on their African safari. When she makes the statement "I wish we'd never come," she implies that the trip to Africa compares unfavorably to an unrealized possibility in which the trip was not made. Here Helen begins to make clear her negative assessment of the trip to Africa; she wishes mentally to undo the trip and to communicate that wish to her husband.

Helen continues her exploration of what-might-have-been by providing a more specific alternative: "You never would have gotten anything like this in Paris" she declares, "You always said you loved Paris. We could have stayed in Paris...." This new, imagined alternative has more detail than her earlier, more general wish. The scenario includes an alternate location, Paris, and a specific difference when compared to their current predicament: in the Paris scenario, Harry would not contract "anything" like gangrene. Helen clearly prefers this counterfactual alternative to their actual situation.

Helen quickly drops the Paris scenario, though, and she shifts back to the less specific terms with which she began, proclaiming, "I'd have gone anywhere. I said I'd go anywhere you wanted." Rather than developing one alternative, she communicates her feelings by emphasizing that a single scenario is not really the issue. For Helen, it seems, any situation other than the one they are in will do. Her unrealized alternatives are a way to find an imaginative escape from the hell of their current situation, and any number of counterfactuals may serve that purpose.

As she continues (in the longest single statement Helen makes in the story), she explores a new counterfactual possibility. "If you wanted to shoot" she says, "we could have gone shooting in Hungary and been comfortable." (7) Helen's litany of alternatives has shifted from her wish to have stayed in Paris, to a vague longing to have gone anywhere else, to this final imagined alternative in which they choose a different destination for a shooting vacation. Helen insinuates that the trip to Africa has been the cause of Harry's frightening condition, and presents alternative sites in Europe as preferred destinations for comfortable leisure. She does not develop a detailed counterfactual alternative, but expresses her attitudes using a series of shifting, uncomplicated alternative scenarios. In each scenario, she imagines herself acceding to Harry's wishes, while they also avoid his health problems.

Harry's reply is abrupt and dismissive: "Your bloody money" ("Snows" 5). Because Helen has been speaking about unrealized, not actual, vacations, readers must infer the connection that Harry makes. He seems to imply that Helen's ability to imagine a host of scenarios for leisure is symptomatic of her wealth and privileged lifestyle. Harry is unwilling to agree that imagining a different vacation will provide comfortable escape--instead, he provides a negative assessment of the wealth that would enable these vacations. He doesn't desire escape of the kind that Helen imagines; instead, he lashes out at her.

Harry continues to bicker with Helen by refusing to engage any of her counterfactual possibilities. He rejects the implication that the only bad choice they made was deciding to travel to Africa. First, he challenges her assessment of Africa: "You said you loved it" Later, he challenges the antecedent-the choice to vacation in Africa--that served as the departure point for her imagined alternatives. Instead, he offers an antecedent from the more recent past--"If we would have hired a good mechanic instead of a half baked kikuyu driver" and then another from their personal history "If you hadn't left your own people, your goddamned Old Westbury, Saratoga, Palm Beach people to take me on" ("Snows" 6).

Thus, counterfactual scenarios, as represented in the dialogue, become a way for Helen and Harry to express and negotiate their attitudes toward the past, Helen clearly feels regret about their current predicament, and wishes they had chosen a different vacation that would have allowed them to escape it. Harry also feels regret, but his regret seems less circumscribed and more bitter. His replies suggest that he regrets his dependence on Helen's money, his willingness to take vacations with her, and perhaps even his marriage to her. In his judgments, he is much more willing to blame their driver, Helen's money, and himself, rather than their vacation plans.

This excerpt suggests that it has not been necessary for Helen, or for Harry since his marriage to her, to make exclusive choices among desirable options. For them, whatever has not been done today can still be done tomorrow. This dialogue introduces an interesting question regarding counterfactual alternatives--are the wealthy somehow less bound by exclusive choices? Helen's ability to imagine alternative vacations in either Paris or Hungary--or anywhere-demonstrates that she is accustomed to freedom in pursuing her whims. Harry is now critical of that whimsy. Even in imagining the past, Helen does not make an exclusive choice, but considers a series of possibilities, any one of which would have been "comfortable" relative to their African predicament. And for Harry, that comfort is exactly the problem.

In understanding Harry's perspective, readers have additional information provided by Harry's focalized thoughts. He does not blame Helen so much as Helen's money for his decay as a writer and human being, and he is particularly critical of the notion of "comfort" He has stopped writing partly because "the people he knew now were all much more comfortable when he did not work" ("Snows" 10), a notion echoing Helen's statement that they could have "gone shooting in Hungary and been comfortable." This safari was Harry's attempt to escape the influence of her money by escaping its comforts. Later in this section Harry thinks, "they had made this safari with the minimum of comfort. There was no hardship; but there was no luxury and he had thought he could get back into training that way" (11). Debra Moddelmog points out that "Harry perceives his return to Africa as an attempt to resuscitate that former, more desirable self that he was when he was young, poor, and disciplined" (124).

Since the days of his youth, Harry has become someone who both loves and despises comfort. He admits that he lies to Helen to "be comfortable" ("Snows" 10) even though he associates comfort with a neglect of his craft. He denigrates Helen for desiring a more "comfortable" option than their illfated African safari, yet as Moddelmog observes, the African vacation Harry had planned to take "with a minimum of comfort" actually includes plenty to eat and drink, and a staff of natives to serve him (123). Even his death by gangrene, as we learn from Harry at the opening of the story, is "marvellous" because it's "painless" ("Snows" 3). Harry may have recognized that comfort is incompatible with writing, but his attempt to live without comfort has been a dismal failure, both because he has not really relinquished comfort at all, and because his attempt at discomfort has ended his life. This may explain why, after he denigrates her money and their vacations, Harry is hardly consoled by Helen's reply "That's not fair ... It was always yours as much as mine. I left and went everywhere you wanted to go and I've done everything you wanted to do. But I wish we'd never come here" ("Snows" 5-6). She reminds him that his desire has driven their pursuit of leisure as much as her money.

Perhaps the most destructive effect that money and comfort have had on Harry is his tendency to approach writing with the same sense of limitless opportunity reflected in Helen's counterfactuals. He "delayed the starting" ("Snows" 5), even as he saved the things he meant to write "until he knew enough to write them well" (5). At times, he had considered writing about Helen's friends (10); he had even considered writing about the "big birds" which encircle their African camp (3). Harry has been saving stories, saving them while he lived his comfortable life, saving them until he can muster the discipline to write them down. But as long as the opportunities of each tomorrow provide him with the option to shift from one experience to the next, the stories will never be committed to paper. As Harry puts it, "it was never what he had done, but always what he could do" (11).

Imminent death, of course, has changed all that. As psychologist Janet Landman notes, "Perhaps [regret] all boils down to death: for if we weren't mortal, we could always re-do the unhappy things in some future" (34). As he lies on a cot dying, Harry repeatedly thinks and talks about the things he will never do. If he once was fooled into thinking that wealth exempted him from making hard choices between desirable options, he now seems to realize that it was all an illusion. While it might have been possible to take vacation after vacation, and while it is still possible for Helen to envision fixing their situation by imaginatively changing their vacation destination, Harry realizes that the possibility of writing his masterpieces has now been all but foreclosed.

Harry's self-contempt and disappointment are evident. As the protagonist, Harry naturally garners our sympathy. While his words are sometimes abrasive and downright misogynistic, his feelings and perspectives are supported and illuminated by his thoughts, which help to explain his feelings and exonerate him. Through this inside view, we discover that while he has not always been a commendable man, he has always meant to attend to, and has always cared about, his writing.

It is more difficult to discern the attitudes of the narrator and implied author towards Harry, Helen, and their predicament. The narrative style seems to align the narrator's attitudes with the implied author's judgments, and in most respects with Harry's judgments. Both the narrator (and the implied author) clearly value writing; the narrator seems to agree with Harry that he should have been writing, rather than living a comfortable existence, and that this neglect of his craft represents an unfortunate mistake. The narrator seems neutral about Harry's harshness toward Helen, although we do learn from Harry's focalized thoughts that Helen has experienced tragedies of her own that should garner some sympathy (Harry softens his behavior toward her after he remembers this himself). But we don't know yet whether Harry really has any talent--and whether his death will really rob the world of that talent. The narrator's position on these issues becomes clearer in the vignettes.


Interspersed in the sections of dialogue that represent the narrative present in Africa, Hemingway includes vignettes similar to the interchapters of the story collection In Our Time. Always distinctively printed in italics, these vignettes consist of graphic but extremely short scenes and stories. They describe events and settings far removed from the African safari camp, and clearly represent Harry's thoughts and memories, introduced with tags such as "now in his mind" ("Snows" 6), "he thought" (15), and "he remembered" (23). In every case, as readers are immersed in Harry's thoughts and memories, all references to the physical surroundings of the African safari camp disappear until his thoughts eventually shift back to the narrative present, indicated by a line space, a change back to regular font, and a continuation of his dialogue with Helen. The story mores in and out of these representation of Harry's mental world five times.

During his reveries represented in the italicized vignettes, Harry accepts the inevitability of his death, q-his acceptance allows him to access and dwell on distinct memories from his life--memories that might have been written down and converted into his masterpieces. Within the vignettes, he states that "he had never written any of that.... But he had always thought that he would write it finally" ("Snows" 17). He concludes that "now he never would" (17). By accepting the inevitability of his death, Harry is able to turn his attention to the stories he has saved to write, while also realizing that the possibility of writing them is now foreclosed.

These vignettes are both spatially and temporally distinct from the rest of the text. The five italicized sections represent Harry's memories of his pastas a soldier, a husband, an expatriate, and a grandson. Completely representative of Harry's internalized point-of-view, the vignettes mix loosely connected scenes and stories. The short final vignette is the only one which focuses on a single coherent episode. Separate from the rest of the text, the vignettes nevertheless pick up language and topics such as Paris, pain, death, quarrels, love, and marriage.

Just as counterfactuals in the dialogue are introduced by specific linguistic forms such as modal verbs and negatives, the vignettes are peppered with linguistic markers that guide the reader in interpreting them as stories that "might have been" In thinking about the scenes, Harry dwells on the fact that "he had never written a line of that" ("Snows" 7), "he had never written a word of that" (8), "he had never written any of that" (17), "he had never written about Paris" (22), "he knew at least twenty good stories from out there and he had never written one" (23). The counterfactual reading is reinforced when he notes: "Now he remembered coming down through the timber in the dark holding the horse's tail when you could not see and all the stories that he meant to write" (22, my emphasis). Scott MacDonald has called these italicized sections the "experiences Harry had put off writing and which, indeed, were worth writing about. The italicized sections, in other words, portray those experiences which should have been used in the creation of fiction" (71, emphasis in original). The italics separating the vignettes visually from the rest of the story reinforce the linguistic markers of counter factuality.

The mini-narratives that Harry remembers are detailed, sensuous, and concrete--the beginnings of the masterpieces that "might have been." These stories seem to represent true writing, the type of writing Harry realizes he should have been producing. The foreclosure that comes with impending death, Harry's recognition that these stories have been irrevocably lost, ironically provides the only clarity that has enabled him to focus on them. In his reveries, Harry is forced to confront all that could have been and therefore all that he has lost. The vignettes provide a window into his deeply poignant personal regret.

The narrator, however, has another purpose for relating these mini-narratives within the context of the story-telling act.8 For the reader, they provide proof of Harry's promise. The inclusion of these vignettes, in all their concrete detail, allows the reader a glimpse into a non-existent world--we can appreciate the counterfactual stories that exist for Harry only as thoughts and memories, but that exist for us as actual vignettes in an actual short story. Because his would-be stories are so artistic, we understand that Harry does indeed possess real talent. The vignettes contain several plots that might have formed whole stories, as well as details and settings that could have graced the fiction he might have written. But the stories are communicated to us not by Harry, but by a narrator who shares the credit for bringing them into existence.

By including these vignettes in the telling of the story, granting them considerable space despite the fact that they are at times jumbled and esoteric, and making them stand out in a distinct italicized font, the narrator seems to be endorsing these stories as Harry's "masterpieces that might have been." This point is crucial in understanding the narrator's opinion of Harry. For readers to feel Harry's loss of potential, we must believe that he truly had the potential to be a great writer. In the vignettes, the narrator provides the evidence needed to demonstrate that Harry's potential was vast. While clearly representing the vignettes as counterfactual stories, the narrator judges them quite positively as the kernels of what could have been truly great writing.


Finally, the story contains not one but two concluding scenes--first a "false rescue" ending, and then a second ending describing Harry's death at the safari camp. The false ending is the story's clearest reference to its title "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," as well as to its epigraph about a frozen leopard found near the mountain's summit. Both endings are printed in regular font, like other scenes from the narrative present that take place in Africa, and unlike the italicized representations of Harry's thoughts. Harry focalizes the penultimate "rescue" ending, while the final ending is focalized by Helen.

The existence of two mutually incompatible endings provides the reader with a third experience of counterfactuals in the story. In the first ending, Harry is rescued and flown toward Mount Kilimanjaro, a rescue which ultimately proves to be a fantasy or hallucination. Despite the nature of its symbolism and imagery, this ending can nonetheless be mistaken for the "actual ending" on first reading. As Dannenberg has said about narratives in general, "While the reader is immersed in the ongoing narrative, the story has not yet crystallized but is still in a state of ontological flux in which the authoritative version is one of many competing possibilities" (46).

There are several reasons why a reader may believe in the actuality of the first ending as he or she begins reading it. For one thing, it is printed in regular font, not in the italics font that have been used to represent Harry's counterfactual stories. Nor is the "false rescue" introduced with the expected linguistic markers for "what-might-have-been." And finally, it includes the kind of details the reader has come to associate with the narrative present set in Africa--details about the plane, the pilot, and the flight that seem perfectly in accord with the rest of the "actual" story. As the reader begins this section of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" the rescue seems to represent the narrator's conclusion to the story, a conclusion in which the talented writer Harry is given another chance to achieve glory. As the scene closes, though, the narrative details become surreal, as in Harry's dream-like vision of flying toward a mountain "unbelievably white in the sun" ("Snows" 27). The statement ending this section, "and then he knew that there was where he was going" (27), recalls the symbolic epigraph describing a leopard who froze near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (3).

The reader's suspicions that the rescue ending may not have "actually happened" ate confirmed by a second ending that follows immediately. Helen wakes up to find Harry with his gangrenous leg exposed and discovers that he is not breathing. Because Harry is dead and still in the camp, this second ending forecloses the first ending's possible reality. In the "actual" plot of the story, Harry dies, and Helen survives to discover his body. Her terror is evident, and the story ends with the statement that Helen could not hear the crying of a hyena (used throughout the story to symbolize death) because of "the beating of her heart." The ending forces us to recognize what Harry has lost--the chance to write the stories narrated in the vignettes--as well as what Helen has lost--her husband.

When we realize that the second ending is the "actual ending" the first ending becomes another type of counterfactual, a scenario presented to us by the narrator and viewed as unrealized. This second ending, which cancels the credibility of the first ending, may inspire readers to re-examine the false rescue's significance. We may wonder why the narrator included two endings, and feel driven to find a symbolic meaning in the rescue ending, as we assume the narrator had a reason for including it. Not surprisingly, the false ending has garnered much attention from critics who consider it the most crucial part of the story, although interpretations of its meaning have been divided? Very little information hints at the narrator's attitude towards the two different endings, leaving readers free to arrive at their own judgments of characters, meaning, and presentation.


An examination of counterfactuals clearly shows that what-might-havebeen scenarios function at different narrative levels to unify "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." In the dialogue between Helen and Harry, counterfactuals take the form of imagined alternatives in the characters' lives that help to elucidate their relationship and their regrets. In the italicized vignettes, counterfactuals take the form of vivid short scenes that could have been turned into stories and published, demonstrating Harry's potential as a writer. And in the story's conclusion, a counterfactual takes the form of an ending suggesting that Harry has been rescued, a possibility later cancelled by his death.

By the end of the story, readers have not only learned what Helen and Harry regret, but have also been supplied with an opportunity to judge Harry's talent through the memories and thoughts conveyed in the italicized vignettes. The story ultimately privileges the counterfactual past, endorsing the notion that Harry should have written his stories. Harry, the narrator, and the implied author all seem to agree on this point, and readers are led to share this evaluation as well. The false rescue ending encourages readers not only to understand Harry and Helen's regrets, but to experience a sense of disappointment for themselves. If we hoped for Harry's survival or redemption, our hopes are dashed when Harry dies in his cot, his gangrenous leg exposed. The final ending forces Harry, Helen, and the reader into the same position--every alternative is finally and irrevocably foreclosed by Harry's death. Helen and Harry will never return to Paris, Harry will never write his masterpieces, and this will never be a story in which the protagonist is rescued.

Thus the narrator flaunts the fact that the story could have been told differently. The storyteller reminds readers of the tantalizing lure of possibility, while making it clear that there is really only one final outcome for this story, one that forecloses possibility and denies satisfaction to anyone foolish enough to believe in it. In this profligate employment of counterfactuals there is something--I can only call it smugness--that seems to be communicated by the story's implied author. Hemingway wants us to know that he is not Harry. He has not squandered his talent and failed to write his stories. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in fact, is bursting at the seams. There are a dozen or more stories just in the vignettes. There is enough material for two endings. And here, we return to the point with which I began. This is a very unusual story for the usually minimalist Hemingway. What is the point of so much "excess" (counterfactual) material?

This story, I argue, depicts the regrets of a couple who believed too much in possibility and limitless opportunity, with devastating effects on Harry's body and body of work. At the same time, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" flaunts the creative presence of an implied author who has made no such mistake--an author who has flirted with multiple narrative possibilities while maintaining a tight grip on the story's ultimate trajectory. In order for readers to interpret, appreciate, and experience the regret associated with these counterfactuals, Hemingway chooses to include them, despite the fact that their inclusion creates a long, messy, and fragmented story. The result is an unusual vision of Harry's unfortunate excesses and lack of control--a vision ironically demonstrating and celebrating Hemingway's own final control of the text.


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Washington and Jefferson College


(1.) For examples of narrative analysis of Hemingway's more "typical" style, see Abbott (68, 83-84, 86-90) or Phelan (Experiencing 151-165).

(2.) Some early critics of the story cited its fragmentation as a major artistic flaw. In their commentary, Caroline Gordon and Allen Tate admired the story, but ultimately felt it exhibited "both the virtues and the limitations" of Hemingway's method. Finding the story lacking in "tonal and symbolic unity," they lamented especially that the controlling symbol, the mountain of Kilimanjaro, appears only at the end and does not integrate the various "planes" of the story. They found the story to be a "magnificent failure" (143-144). Marion Montgomery attempted to provide a framework for the story's major symbols, which he identified as the hyena of the plain and the leopard of the mountain (145-149). He too found the story lacking in artistic unity, however, identifying the two endings as the point where the story falls apart (149).

(3.) The definition of counterfactuals used here is consistent with the definition I used in "Evaluative Stance and Counterfactuals in Language and Literature" Dannenberg defines a narrative counterfactual as, "a hypothetical alteration in a past sequence of events that changes the events in a factual sequence in order to create a different, counterfactual outcome" (119, emphasis in original).

(4.) Gilles Fauconnier calls these representations "mental spaces."

(5.) Dannenberg examines the prevalence of counterfactuals in literary texts, and presents many other relevant examples, but does not discuss "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

(6.) Critics have often read Harry as a semi-autobiographical stand-in for Hemingway himself, perhaps contributing to an inclination to make the author the center of attention and to view the story as Hemingway's "professional manifesto" (Dussinger 54). Gennaro Santangelo notes "Almost all critics agree that the story is among Hemingway's most autobiographical with its clearly veiled allusions to personal events in his own life" (252). According to Carlos Baker, Hemingway claimed that "The dying writer in the story was an image of himself as he might have been. Might have been, that is, ff the temptation to lead the aimless life of the very rich had overcome his integrity as an artist" (emphasis my own, qtd. in Petry 7, footnote 2). Although I don't attempt a full feminist re-evaluation of Helen's character, my brief reconsideration was influenced by Nina Baym's "Actually, I Felt Sorry for the Lion," which re-examines the wife in Hemingway's other African story, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"

(7.) This is not a traditional counterfactual conditional. "If you wanted to shoot" implies that Harry did want to shoot--thus the antecedent is true, not false as in most counterfactual conditionals. Instead, "could have gone shooting" introduces the counterfactual alternative.

(8.)This analysis of narrative communication applies the rhetorical approach first outlined by Wayne Booth, and more recently developed by Phelan (2005, 2007). For examples of this line of argument, see Dussinger, Evans, and/or Fleming.
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Author:Harding, Jennifer Riddle
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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Next Article:The names of rivers and the names of birds: Ezra Pound, Louis Agassiz, and the "luminous detail" in Hemingway's early fiction.

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