Gift and Curse of Freedom: A Study of the Snows of Kilimanjaro from Sartre's Philosophy of Existentialism

By Chang, Zheng | Canadian Social Science, November 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Gift and Curse of Freedom: A Study of the Snows of Kilimanjaro from Sartre's Philosophy of Existentialism


Chang, Zheng, Canadian Social Science


Abstract

This article has a study of the Snow of Kilimanjaro, one of Ernest Hemingway's most successful short stories. It explores this short story from Sartre's philosophy of Existentialism, mainly from Jean-Paul Sartre's view about freedom and responsibility. The hero Harry's most important turning points and the final struggle and reflection at the end of his life serve a best example to illustrate Sartre's idea of gift and curse of freedom. Because freedom is a double-edged sword, everyone should take responsibility for himself or herself, therefore, freedom is indispensably linked with responsibility. To ponder about why freedom can be both gift and curse, this article gives an explanation from how the tremendous changes of social structure in World War I and after it had a profound influence on people's psych, which led them have different views of freedom. The post-traumatic feeling of nothingness and nonsense from the changes of social structure pervades the story, and it is the source of people's anguish, the curse of freedom.

Key words: Existentialism; Sartre; Freedom; Gift; Curse

INTRODUCTION

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is one of Hemingway's most successful short stories. His style succeeds because it is so inextricably wedded to the tragic vision of human existence it was created to express. His best stories remain enduringly original and disturbingly profound, and a reflection of the existentialist philosophy ( Dana & Gwynn, 2006, p.372). Existentialism is one of the most influential philosophical trends in the 20th century, which has covered a wide range of intellectual fields, so it can be considered as a way of life quite closely related to our life. This article selects only one theme from the five thematic ideas in Existentialism, discussing especially Sartre's views on freedom. For Sartre, freedom is an individual-based choice, which provides bless to everyone, but also has its own limitations. Freedom is not totally free. This article will have a study of the existence of the hero Harry in Hemingway's short story the Snows of Kilimanjaro in the theoretical framework of Sartre, and we can see how Harry's whole life echoes to Sartre's view of freedom.

1. LITERATURE REVIEW

Eddins (2001) discusses the idea of Existentialism between Camus's myth of Sisyphus and Hemingway's the Old Man and the Sea. Among the various existentialist philosophers adduced to illuminate Hemingway's ethic and metaphysics, Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus is uniquely apropos. Camus analyzes the heroic but doomed struggle against cosmic absurdity with a physical and emotional immediacy and a starkly lucid perspective on the value problems that this struggle entails.

Similar to this, Stoltzfus (2003) discusses Hemingway's relationship with Camus and Sartre: Ernest Hemingway's writing had a profound influence on the new generation of French writers in the 1930s, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and, in a 1946 essay in the Atlantic Monthly, Sartre said that L'Etranger would not be what it is if Camus had not read The Sun Also Rises. Although there is rebellion of sorts in both works, neither novel displays much solidarity. Sun narrates the erratic behavior of "the lost generation," the term Gertrude Stein used to describe American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s. Killinger (1960) wrote a book about Hemingway's existentialist philosophy. The book entitled Hemingway and the dead gods; a study in existentialism discusses the fictional world of Ernest Hemingway as it is related to the world view of Existentialism.

To make the term Existentialism more specific, fears and anxieties are frequent issues in the discussion. Japanese scholar Shiromaru, Toyomi explores (1996) Hemingway's fears and anxieties as presented in his works In Our Time, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell To Arms, Man Without Women and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Emphasis is on the works themselves. Patterns of anxiety seem to be associated with three broad areas in his writings: the farther-son relationship, the mother-son relationship, and the experience of war. …

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