Tying Literary Structure to a Scientific Concept: “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Hemingway & “The Death of a Salesman” by Miller

Tying Literary Structure to a Scientific Concept: The use of flashbacks in the narrative structure as the tool of explanation of motives, decisions and actions of characters

Earnest Hemingway and Arthur Miller use flashbacks widely in their literary works. At this point, it is possible to refer to The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Earnest Hemingway and The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. They use flashbacks to reveal the past of the main characters and to explain their actions and decisions. The authors also uncover traits of character of Harry and Willy, the main characters of The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Death of a Salesman. Flashbacks uncover the inner world of the main characters and their past which determine their present life. Hence, flashbacks help the audience to understand the main characters better. The authors use flashbacks to reveal the nature and essence of relationships between the main characters, the inner world and the personal philosophy of the main characters, and help to understand what the main characters actually are.

The narrative structure of The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Death of a Salesman is similar in terms of the wide use of flashbacks, although Hemingway narrates the story from the perspective of the main character, Harry, whereas Miller narrates the story from different perspectives. Nevertheless, both authors use flashbacks to recall the past of the main characters and how they came up to the last moment in their life (Sarkar 131). In this regard flashbacks steadily lead the audience to the better understanding of the life of the main characters. At first, the audience cannot understand immediately what is going on to the main characters, but flashbacks highlight the key moments in their life and the audience understand what has already happened to the main characters and what sort of people they actually are.

At this point, it is possible to refer to the story of Harry, the main character of The Snows of Kilimanjaro, who is trapped on the top of the snowy mountain and is about to die. After a series of flashbacks words of the main character of The Snows of Kilimanjaro “I don’t like to leave things behind” (Hemingway 45) sound quite reasonable and give insight into the true meaning of these words. The narrator just confesses that he has lived his life in vain and he left nothing worthy respect or attention of people, who survive him. The main character turns out to be disappointed because he had the whole life ahead of him but he grows aware that he will never accomplish what he would like to. What is more important flashbacks uncover that all the main character has done so far is virtually useless. He pursued wealth and glory, but now, on the top of the mountain, he has nothing to do with the public approval and his social standing. Moreover, he recalls how he climbed the social ladder and realizes that he has chosen the wrong way to live his life. He has done nothing people could really respect him for. His social standing and wealth do not worth anything. It is only now that he realizes that he had to do something for others. He could have contributed to the community, where he lived. He could have helped many people using his talent and position. But he has done nothing and there is no one to really mourn on him now.

Flashbacks reveal the fact that the main character is a sheer liar. For example, Harry repeatedly lied to Helen that he loved her. This is why, when he realizes that the end of his life is close and inevitable he says “If he lived by a lie he should try to die by it” (Hemingway 49). In such a way, the author attempts to reveal the inner world of the main character and his traits of character. Flashbacks reveal ambitions of the main character and his failure to do anything in his life that would make his life really meaningful and purposeful.

In addition, the author uses flashbacks to explain problems in relationships between the main characters, Harry and Helen. Harry married Helen because the marriage opened the way for the better social standing. Helen’s position and social ties helped him to make his own career and to establish important relationships with influential people. The more he recalls it through flashbacks used by the author, the more pointless his life becomes for him. The similar effect have flashbacks in The Death of a Salesman, where the main character’s life is recalled through flashbacks and the audience understands that his life was useless and he spent his life for nothing, while he always had great aspirations and expectations.

The Death of a Salesman uses flashbacks to debunk myths the main character of the book have at the beginning. For example, Willy coins his firm belief the American dream as he refers to the example of his brother: “Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff— he’s not lazy” (Miller 39). However, by the end of the play it comes obvious that naïve aspirations of Willy.

The firm belief of Willy in the American dream determined his lifestyle, which the author reveals through flashbacks. In contrast to his faith in the American dream, Willy is not a hard working man. Instead, he would rather be an adventurist rather than a hard working salesman just like his brother, but he is just not so skilled in this regard to become successful as his brother did. The fortune of his brother is a sheer luck (Sandage 124). These trends become obvious through flashbacks as family members recall Willy’s brother, who always stays in a shadow of the mainstream narrative of the play because Will envies the luck of his brother and his success which does not simply challenge his American dream but literally contradicts to and ruins it.

Similarly to Hemingway, who used flashbacks to show roots of problems between Harry and Helen, Miller uses flashbacks to reveal the cause of the tension and alienation between Willy and Biff. The flashback that depicts the scene in the hotel room, where Biff sees Willy with a woman, explains why Biff alienated from his father. In such a way, as Hemingway reveals the nature of pragmatic relationships between Harry and Helen, so Miller reveals the tensed relationships between Biff and Willy (Meserve 114). Without flashbacks, the audience can hardly get the point why Biff is so hostile and estranged in regard to Willy, while Willy has so many hopes in regard to Biff. The flashback to the hotel room accident explains the nature of relationships between the main characters clearly.

Ironically, Willy cannot get the reason for his failure and he remains idealist till the end of his life. He believes in the American dream and as his dream never comes true, while the time passes by, he just postpones the moment he will become rich: “Certain men just don’t get started till later in life. Like Thomas Edison, I think. Or B.F. Goodrich. One of them was deaf” (Miller 143). Flashbacks to the past idealism of Willy help to understand the full extent to which the decision to commit a suicide was hard for him to take and this decision meant that he finally admitted for himself that his American dream was just a dream that would have never come true.

In such a way, both Hemingway and Miller use flashbacks to ultimately lead their main character to the realization of the inevitability of their death. The only difference is that Harry just cannot change anything and accepts his death as the unexpected and early end of his incomplete life, while Willy takes his death for granted and does his best to approach it because he has realized that he has lived his life in vain (Bloom 75). The authors show that both characters lived useless lives. From one flashback to another, they depict vain and pointless hopes and aspirations of the main characters and how they influenced their life.

Thus, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Death of a Salesman have numerous flashbacks which tell the story of the main characters and reveal their worldview, relationships with other characters and the essence of their life. In such a way, Hemingway and Miller use flashbacks as an effective narrative tool to make their stories engaging and interesting for the audience and, at the same time, easy to understand. What seems to be unexplainable at the beginning of both stories becomes absolutely clearly by their end due to flashbacks which highlight the most important points in the life of the main characters.

Works Cited:

Bloom, Harold. The American Dream. New York Infobase Publishing, 2009.

Hemingway, Earnest. The Snows of Kilimanjaro. In E. Hemingway. Selected Short Stories. New York: Penguin Classics, 2012, p. 34-51.

Meserve, Walter. Studies in Death of Salesman. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 2014.

Miller, Arthur. The Death of a Salesman. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Sandage, Scott A. Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Sarkar, Saurav. The American Dream in Context of Death of A Salesman. New York: Academia, 2015.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]
close
Haven't found the right essay?
Get an expert to write you the one you need!
print

Professional writers and researchers

quotes

Sources and citation are provided

clock

3 hour delivery

person