Dionysian Africa as an Antithesis of the Apollonian West
Abstract: On his deathbed, the protagonist Harry in the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” examines his past life. He concludes that he lived an empty life and that none but he is to blame for it. The narrative is structured in a diegetic frame, telling the past events of the protagonist by separating them off from the present events. The narrative, consequently, swings back and forth from interjected flashbacks to flashforward scenes, suggesting a triumph of the Apollonian virtue over the Dionysian vice, as the yardstick to measure a man. In setting his locales and depiction of places, Hemingway employs Manichean dialectics, indicative of his internalizing an Orientalist perspective that places Africa as opposed to the West. The bipartite representation reflects the author’s subscription to the high Victorian values that he had absorbed while growing up. This paper contends that “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” embodies a dialectical struggle between the Apollonian virtue and the Dionysian vice in the human soul, presented as thesis and as antithesis. It attempts to decode the embedded binary symbols, illustrating that the usage of the imageries of the snow-capped mountains and the peaks, as opposed to the dusty plane of Africa infested with beasts, alludes to representation of life and death. Further, it asserts that the idea of Africa is feminized when Hemingway equates the continent with the image of Helen, making the latter a synecdoche of the former; and that this blending of hegemony and misogyny reinforces a politics of aesthetics that obliterates, distorts, and dehumanizes the image of Africa.
Keywords: Orientalism, Manicheanism, Dialectics, Eurocentrism, Synecdoche
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Published in September 2020