Essay, Research Paper: Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Death Of Ivan Illych

Literature: Ernest Hemingway

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"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway and "The Death of
Ivan Ilych" by Leo Tolstoy are both excellent literary works that both
deserve equal praise. Hemingway's story is about a regretful, wasted author
named Harry who is lying on an African plain dying of gangrene. Ivan, the main
character in Tolstoy's story, is dying of a incurable illness and reminiscing of
his life and grieving over everything he did not do right. Both stories have
equally effective points of view told in third person narrative. "The Death
of Ivan Ilych" has more realistic conflicts than does "The Snows of
Kilimanjaro" which has extremely powerful symbols. Both Hemingway and
Tolstoy are successful in coupling these three elements with various themes to
make each of the stories equally enjoyable. The point of view used in "The
Death of Ivan Ilych" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is a third
person narrative, and has been used effectively in both stories. Each of the
authors use a shifting form of narration that efficiently helps to depict both
Harry's and Ivan's situation. In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," Ernest
Hemingway's narrative changes from viewing the couple to inside Harry's mind
through a series of italicized flashbacks and since the two perspectives are
differentiated in the text the plot is relatively easy to follow. The narrative
in "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is more complicated than "The Snows
of Kilimanjaro." Tolstoy directs attention to Robbins - 2 various
perspectives: from Ivan's mind looking out, from the point of view of other
characters, and from the outside focusing in on various characters. Hemingway
uses a narrative that is direct, most of which is dialogue, and through this the
story unfolds: "I've been writing," he said. "But I just got
tired." "Do you think you will be able to sleep?" "Pretty
sure. Why don't you turn in?" "I like to sit here with you."
"Do you feel anything strange?" he asked her. "No. Just a little
sleepy." "I do," he said. (Hemingway, 452) Tolstoy, on he other
hand, comments throughout the narration, interpreting each incidence: He reached
home and began to tell his wife about it. She listened, but in the middle of his
account his daughter came in with her hat on, ready to go out with her mother.
She sat down reluctantly to listen to this tedious story, but could not stand it
long, and her mother too did not hear him to the end. (Tolstoy,156) Both points
of view have aspects that simplify them, as well as aspects that create
confusion. Hemingway effectively uses italicized sections to separate Harry's
flashbacks from reality while Tolstoy's narration is not as easy to comply with
considering that there is no device to contrast the different perspectives.
Tolstoy's writing is an interpretation of the occurrences in Ivan's life where
as Hemingway's is more dialogue making it more challenging to interpret.
Considering both stories have complicated narration with styles of writing that
can be confusing as well as both using different literary devices to aid in
easing any confusion, the point of view in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"
is no more effective that in "The death of Ivan Ilych." The conflicts
in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and in "The Death of Ivan Ilych"
are Robbins - 3 extremely similar and are both supported by a theme of coming to
terms with a wasted life. The core of all conflicts is the external strife
between both Harry and Ivan and the terminal illnesses that they battle. Since
neither are in a position to overcome these diseases, various internal struggles
arise. Hemingway and Tolstoy both describe various failure and regret issues the
main characters must examine: Now he would never write the things that he had
saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would never
fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that
was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well he would never know,
now. (Hemingway, 438) Harry's struggle concerns things he failed to complete
while Ivan's is about all that he had accomplished through methods that were not
morally right: "‘Yes, it was all not the right thing,' he said to
himself, ‘but that's no matter. It can be done. But what is the right
thing?'" (Tolstoy,180). Tolstoy also explores an aspect of denial within
Ivan making the use of conflict more effective than that used in "The Snows
of Kilimanjaro." "The pain did not grow less, but Ivan Ilych made
efforts to force himself to think that he was better" (Tolstoy, 156). The
denial Ivan experiences about his death is more realistic than Harry's
acceptance of it. "‘I'm going to die tonight,' he said. ‘I don't need
my strength up'" (Hemingway,447). Ivan struggles with death and pain, and
attempts to battle it away after realizing that he has not lived his life as he
should of. Harry, on the other hand, is numb; he feels no pain and realizes he
is dying but he does not struggle with death, he accepts it. This makes the
story very fictitious and creates no pathos for Harry. They each regret not
living to their potential and Ivan's pain and suffering creates a great deal of
sympathy for him. Although the conflicts and use of theme are closely Robbins -
4 related in both stories, Tolstoy creates pathos towards Ivan through a more
realistic situation rendering the conflicts in "The Death of Ivan Ilych"
better than those in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." The symbols in
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" are stronger and more meaningful that those
in "The Death of Ivan Ilych." The dominant symbols in both stories
represent death; Hemingway uses a hyena and Tolstoy a black sack: "For
three whole days, during which time did not exist for him, he struggled in that
black sack into which he was being thrust..."(Tolstoy,180). Both are
excellent symbols, when the hyena appears so does the rush of death and the sac
represents the darkness of death. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" also uses
the hyena to symbolize Harry because he posses all the qualities of the hyena,
he is a lazy scavenger that takes the easy road in life. He lives by rich women
and has been too lazy to follow his dream of being a writer: He had destroyed
his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in, by
Drinking so much that he blunted the edge of his perceptions, by laziness, by
sloth and by snobbery, by pride and by prejudice, by hook and by crook.
(Hemingway,442) This symbol also demonstrates a theme in the story of living
without passion. Hemingway uses the leopard in the epigram at the beginning of
the story to represent what Harry would like to be, someone with strength,
courage and passion. The leopard is found at the top of the mountain and why it
went there is a mystery. In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" the mountain
represents the afterlife, a place of inspiration that Harry can go to achieve
the characteristics of the leopard. In "The Death of Ivan Ilych" the
narrator states that "In place of death there was light" (Tolstoy,
181). Tolstoy uses the light to represent Ivan's afterlife. There is also
symbolism in the way Robbins - 5 both Harry and Ivan die. Ivan slowly fades and
withers away to nothing in the same way his marriage, family and career did and
Harry's leg is rotting away just as his life as a writer decayed due to his
laziness. The hyena, leopard, mountain and rot are very strong symbols
especially since their significance can account for more than one thing.
Tolstoy's symbols are effective but only have single representations. The
symbols used in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" are more effective than
those in the "The Death of Ivan Ilych." because of their numerous
portrayals. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Death of Ivan
Ilych" are equally excellent works of art. The point of view in both
stories is slightly confusing but each author uses an original literary device
to simplify the story. "The Death of Ivan Ilych" uses conflicts that
are more realistic and that create pathos for the main character, making Tolstoy
more effective than Hemingway in this aspect. Both stories use symbols that are
strong and very meaningful but Hemingway's use of them is more effective in
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" because they are multi representative.
Considering these factors, and that both Hemingway and Tolstoy effectively weave
themes of wasted lives and lack of passion into their plots, neither story is
better than the other.
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