The story opens with a paragraph about Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, which is also called the “House of God.” There is, we are told, the frozen carcass of a leopard near the summit. No one knows why it is there.
Then we are introduced to Harry, a writer dying of gangrene, and his rich wifeHelen, who are on safari in Africa. Harry’s situation makes him irritable, and he speaks about his own death in a matter-of-fact way that upsets his wife, predicting that a rescue plane will never come. He quarrels with her over everything, from whether he should drink a whiskey-and-soda to whether she should read to him. Helen is obviously concerned for his welfare, but self-pity and frustration make him …show more content…
This story focuses on the self-critical ruminations and memories of a writer dying of a preventable case of gangrene on safari. Its main themes are death and regret, and Harry’s morbid thoughts epitomize a classic case of taking things for granted. Harry takes his blessings, including his caring wife, his full life, and his writing talent, for granted, and on his deathbed muses on how he could have appreciated each more. His main regret, of course, is that he has not reached his full potential as a writer because he has chosen to make a living by marrying wealthy women rather than memorializing his many and varied life experiences in writing. The progression of his gangrene symbolizes his rotting sense of self-worth.
This last regret is made so bitter to Harry because, as he admits, it is his own fault he has not adequately exercised his great talent: “He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in.” In a strange parallel, it is also Harry’s fault that he developed gangrene; by not using iodine on his scratch, he allowed it to become septic and is therefore to blame for his impending death.
Viewed in this light, Harry’s predicament is self-inflicted, and is therefore a fitting punishment for his repeated acts of self-betrayal over the years. The lingering question of the story is how Harry’s