Summary and Analysis
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Harry, a writer, and his wife, Helen, are stranded while on safari in Africa. A bearing burned out on their truck, and Harry is talking about the gangrene that has infected his leg when he did not apply iodine after he scratched it. As they wait for a rescue plane from Nairobi that he knows won't arrive on time, Harry spends his time drinking and insulting Helen. Harry reviews his life, realizing that he wasted his talent through procrastination and luxury from a marriage to a wealthy woman that he doesn't love.
In a series of flashbacks, Harry recalls the mountains of Bulgaria and Constantinople, as well as the suddenly hollow, sick feeling of being alone in Paris. Later, there were Turks, and an American poet talking nonsense about the Dada movement, and headaches and quarrels, and watching people whom he would later write about. Uneasily, he recalls a man who'd been frozen, his body half-eaten by dogs, and a wounded officer so entangled in a wire fence that his bowels spilled over it.
As Harry lies on his cot, he is aware that vultures are walking around his makeshift camp, and a hyena lurks in the shadows. Knowing that he will die before he wakes, Harry goes to sleep and dreams that the rescue plane is taking him to a snow covered summit of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Its Western summit is called the Masai "Ngàje Ngài," the House of God, where he sees the legendary leopard.
Helen wakes, and taking a flashlight, walks toward Harry's cot. Seeing that his leg is dangling alongside the cot and that the dressings are pulled down, she calls his name repeatedly. She listens for his breathing and can hear nothing. Outside the tent, the hyena whines — a cry that is strangely human.
Hemingway opens his story with an epigraph, a short, pithy observation about a lone leopard who sought the tip of Kilimanjaro (literally, "The House of God").
The African safari was Harry's attempt to put his life back on track. Harry, the central character, has been living a life of sloth, luxury, and procrastination, so this safari was supposed to bring him back to the virtues of hard work, honesty, and struggle as a step in the right direction. Living off of his wife's wealth has led him down a path of steady, artistic decline and he knows it.
Also interesting to note is that both Harry and Hemingway were of the "Lost Generation" of World War I who had to rebuild their lives after being wounded in combat and seeing the horrors of war. This particular work, some have asserted, seems to reflect both Harry's and Hemingway's concerns about leaving unfinished business behind as a writer and the proper lifestyle for a writer that is conducive to writing on a daily basis. Hemingway was quoted as saying once that "politics, women, drink, money, and ambition" ruin writers.
Concerning the structure of this story, note that Hemingway divides it into six sections and within each of these sections inserts a flashback that appears in italic, continually juxtaposing the hopeless, harrowing present with the past, which often seemed full of promise.
The flashbacks themselves center around concerns about the erosion of values: lost love, loose sex, drinking, revenge, and war. They are a mix of hedonism, sentimentality toward the human condition, and leaving unfinished business. Here, in this story, the symbolism of Kilimanjaro is contrasted with the symbolism of the plains. Harry is dying in the plains from gangrene, a stinking, putrid, and deadly infection, causing his body to rot and turn greenish black. Against Harry's background of dark, smelly horror and hopelessness, Hemingway contrasts Harry's memories of the good times that he had in the mountains. Good things happen in the mountains; bad things happen on the plains. Hemingway ends his story with Harry's spirit triumphant, as when Harry dies, his spirit is released and travels to the summit of the mighty mountain where the square top of Kilimanjaro is "wide as all the world"; it is incredibly white as it shines dazzlingly in the sunlight. The mountain is brilliant, covered with pure white snow; it is incredibly clean — a clean, well-lighted place.
It is important to note here that there were three deeds throughout Harry's life that facilitated his otherworldly trip to Kilimanjaro at the time of this death:
- Giving away his last morphine pills that he saved for himself to his friend Williamson, who is in horrendous pain
- Harry's intention to write (the mental writing of the flashbacks) in his painful stupor
- Sacrificing himself to his wife as opposed to absolving himself
During his otherworldly flight over Kilimanjaro, Harry sees the legendary leopard. The dead, preserved leopard can be seen as a symbol of immortality, a reward for taking the difficult road. Harry himself was a "leopard" at certain times in his life, as were some of his acquaintances in his own stories. Specifically, Harry can be seen as a leopard during
- His youth, when he lived in a poor neighborhood of Paris as a writer
- In the war, when he gave his last morphine pills for himself to the horribly suffering Williamson
- On his deathbed, when he mentally composes flashbacks and uses his intention to write
- When he stays loyal to his wife and does not confess to her that he never really loved her
Some mystic impulse within Harry and within the leopard drove them to seek out God, or the god within themselves, or immortality that resided far from ugly, mundane reality.
In most civilizations, God or God's promise of immortality resides on the highest mountain top: Mount Olympus for the Greeks, Mount Sinai for the Hebrews, Mount Fuji for the Japanese. If the leopard was searching for some sort of immortality, then it found immortality at the summit of Kilimanjaro, where it lies frozen — preserved for all eternity.
When Harry looks at Kilimanjaro, he sees it as a symbol of truth, idealism, and purity. When he dies, tragic irony exists. The leopard died in a high, clean, well-lighted place; Harry, in contrast, dies rotting and stinking on the plains, lamenting his wasted life and his failure to complete his desired projects.
In his novels and especially in his short stories, Hemingway often uses mountains to symbolize goodness, the purity, and cleanness, and he uses the plains as a symbol of evil and confusion. This contrast has often been commented on by Hemingway scholars.
Not surprisingly, because death is at the core of this story, one of the central themes that occurs again and again in Hemingway's stories and novels is man's direct encounter with death or with approaching death. Whether a man is in war and on the battlefield (as Nick Adams is in several stories; as are Hemingway heroes in his novels A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and parts of The Sun Also Rises) or facing death (as Nick Adams is when he is severely wounded in "A Way You'll Never Be" and "In Another Country"), or on big game hunts, facing charging animals (as Francis Macomber is in "A Short Happy Life"), the theme of man's direct encounter with death is always pivotal to the story. Death is always present as Hemingway examines how man reacts and behaves in the face of death. In this case, as with other of Hemingway's heroes, we have a writer, Harry, who never writes what he has wanted to; now it is too late. Death is so near that it can be smelled, even in the presence of the stinking, smelly hyena.
Hemingway opens this story with a typical Hemingway narrative device: Two people are talking; moreover, they are talking about pain and a horrible odor. Hemingway zeroes in on the immediate problem: Harry's certain death — unless help arrives. Hemingway does not immediately identify the people who are talking; and readers don't yet know the names of the characters, the place, the time, or any other kind of background, expository information about them. Readers know only that something is terribly wrong with the male character, causing a potent stench, and that three big birds squat "obscenely" close by. The woman's first comment — "Don't! Please don't." — indicates that tension exists between her and the man, a tension that will soon erupt into antagonism.
Also, mainly through conversation only, readers learn that the man has some type of injury but that the pain has disappeared; he is lying on a cot under some trees while "obscene" birds (vultures) are circling overhead. A truck that the man and woman were driving has broken down, and they are now waiting for a rescue plane to take them away.
The man mentions for the first time that the big birds — the vultures (or buzzards, as they are often referred to) — are birds of prey, who have ceased circling over Harry and Helen and now have begun to walk around on the ground. They seemingly know that Harry is close to death. During the day, the ugly vultures gather around the camp; the putrid, foul smell of Harry's rotting, gangrenous flesh attracts them. Hemingway uses the symbol of the vulture in its natural setting, Africa, to convey the horror of approaching death and the agony of waiting for death. Ironically, the reader also learns that in happier times, Harry spent time observing the vulture's behavior so that he could use them in his writing.
As spiritual symbols of ascension, these birds represent both what could've been and what now can't be. It is interesting to note that Hemingway chose the vulture to represent Harry's "cycle" of opportunity and termination, as vultures themselves are inherently tied to global life and death on the plain because of their ecological function. Life, because their scavenging enables the plain to stay clean and free of rotten debris that could be harmful to other animals, and death, because they portend when an animal will expire and become carrion. In essence, these "trash men" of the plains are also the trash men of Harry's wasted life. They appeared at a time when Harry could have cleaned up his lifestyle and used his ability when he had his health, and now they appear again as Harry is about to die. These vultures represent Harry's physical death. Vultures have long been a symbol of death and rebirth in American Indian folklore as well.
The woman mentions that she would like to do something for Harry until the rescue plane arrives. The plane, of course, is another symbol. The airplane is airborne — that is, from the heavens — it is a symbol that is filled with hope that Harry and Helen can escape from the plains and from the horrible vultures.
This is the beginning of the jarring realization that Harry has run out of time and that all of the writing he planned to do will never get done. Camping on the hot, sweltering plain at the foot of Kilimanjaro, Harry vents his anger and frustration at himself onto his wife. It is on this low, hot plain with land-bound animals that Harry is at his most frustrated, baser, unrealized self as death, symbolized by the vultures, creeps nearer and his unused talent slips further away from him.
Harry's impending death causes him to evaluate his life. He knows now that he will never "write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well." Now it is too late, and he will never know "if he could have written them." His day-by-day closing in on death makes him realize how often and how much he frittered away his life, avoiding writing the things that he wanted to. Thus, Hemingway combines two themes: man's confrontation with death and man as a failed artist.
All of the five flashbacks (some literary critics refer to them as "interior monologues") deal with brief scenes, or vignettes, about the things that Harry experienced in the past; he had meant to write about them but never did.
In this first flashback, snow is a central element in each of his recollections. He remembers the railway station in Karagatch, Turkey, and leaving on the famous Orient Express and riding through northern Greece, where he recalled fighting between the Greeks and Turks (during the Greco-Turko war that Hemingway, when he was a reporter, covered).
He remembers Bulgaria: the mountains covered with snow; the exchange of populations and people walking in the snow until they died in it. There, he also protected a deserter. While snowed in at the Madlener-haus for a week, the owner of the gasthaus lost everything while gambling. There in the cold, bright mountains someone named Barker bombed Austrian officers' leave train and strafed those who escaped and then came into the Austrian mess hall and bragged about it.
He remembers Vorarlberg and Arlberg, winter ski resorts with many activities, including skiing on the snow like a bird in the air (Hemingway skied often in these places); Harry never wrote about any of these adventures.
Throughout this section, there is an overwhelming sense of loss. Loss of lives from war, and loss of life due to despair and adverse financial circumstances. Throughout the flashback, the snow sets the stage for spiritual ascension and release. Spiritual ascension in terms of being released during death, although through unpleasant means, from the earthly plane, and release in terms of finding joy and peace in skiing free and unfettered in the wind.
A second level of loss is also the loss of opportunity. All of these experiences in this flashback are ripe opportunities for artistic expression, as they are events that Harry experienced himself and knew. Harry went many places and saw many things, but never wrote about any of them.
Here, the narrative is divided into two sections, separated by three asterisks (* * *). The first section of this narrative resumes the conversation between Harry and his wife, but now it becomes more bitter and hateful. When she reminds him that in Paris he loved a place where they stayed, he angrily responds that "Love is a dunghill," which debases their love. She asks him if he must destroy everything by killing his horse and wife and burning his saddle and armor. She alludes to a warrior's trophies that were set afire after the death of a warrior. Harry blames her "bloody money" for his predicament; then he repents and lies to her about his love for her. Lastly, he admits that his abuse stems from frustration about leaving things behind that he never did. It is here that the reader gets the most vivid glance into Harry's bitterness, rage, and frustration at himself and at his wife for what she represents in his life.
In the second section, he later wakens and discovers that Helen is away, hoping to shoot a Tommie (a small gazelle) for meat and broth. The sun has gone down, and although the vultures are no longer walking on the ground around the camp, they are roosting for the night in a nearby tree in greater numbers. Even the stillness and cover of the night and the comfort of sleep do not rid Harry of the feathered reminders of his impending death; even while roosting to sleep, the vultures are ever vigilant of his continuing decline. The small animals scurrying on the ground are another yet minor symbol to note, as they indicate that life still goes on, business as usual, all around Harry despite his life-threatening situation.
Harry considers his procrastination — not writing, and writing becoming daily more and more difficult. Finally, he did no work at all. Almost without knowing it, he traded his artistic talents for money and comfort, and the exchange was not worth it. He acknowledges, however, that it was not his wife's fault. If it had not been Helen, there would have been another rich woman. Also, he realizes that he destroyed his talent for writing by drinking so much that his perceptions were finally blunted.
Helen returns with game — a male Tommie that she successfully shot. As Helen and Harry are having drinks, a hyena appears in the early evening, just it has been doing for two weeks. Hemingway uses the hyena as the second important, prominent symbol of Harry's deterioration. The hyena is another carrion eater that is probably the most despised of all African animals because of its filth and aggressive team efforts to destroy and to steal other animals wounded and suffering on the plain. In this sense, the hyena can represent Harry's loveless marriage and the moral sloth of choosing material comfort over true love, because it is these two elements intermingled in his marriage that are the most destructive to him as a writer. Hence, although the hyena is a symbol of death, it is a spiritual death as opposed to a physical one.
Seeing the hyena, knowing about the vultures, and realizing that his wife and her money all symbolize the death of an artist, Harry suddenly knows for certain that he is actually going to die here on the plains of Africa.
However, even at this point, he realizes that Helen does really love him whether he really loves her, and he sees that she is a good, honest woman. He likes her pleasantness and appreciation and admires her shooting. Instead of having an honest conversation about his real feelings for her, he sacrifices himself to her to avoid hurting her, and chooses not to make any deathbed confessions that would cause her emotional pain. Because he doesn't break with her and stays true to her in the end, he reestablishes his higher self. This is the second one of the three important deeds of his life that facilitates his flight over Kilimanjaro at the end of the story.
Helen is improved by her association with Harry, as he makes her life complete. She has selfless love and respect for him, and is considered to be one of Hemingway's heroic women. Conversely, Harry has declined because he has lived hypocritically with a woman he doesn't love.
Harry remembers quarreling in Paris and going to Constantinople and spending his time having sex with all kinds of women and finally getting into fights. After one fight, he decided to leave for Anatolia, the great plains of Turkey, where poppies are grown for opium. He recalls what strange things opium did for him: He seemed to see men wearing white ballet skirts and upturned shoes with pom-poms on their toes. He saw such horrors that when he returned to Paris, he couldn't talk about it or write about it.
In Paris, Harry met Tristian Tzara, a Romanian poet who founded the Dada movement (Dadaism) and who represented everything that Harry (and Hemingway) opposed. Harry "had never written any of this," but he'd like to write about it.
This particular flashback focuses on escapism, futility, and what doesn't come to fruition, particularly in Harry's relationships with women. The empty, one-night sexual encounters with women, winning a fight with a man for a woman he has for one evening, and the sentimental relapse for a past love that ruins his present marriage all are in response to a quarrel that happened and then passed.
Another level of futility can also be seen in the war. Harry and the British observer run as fast as they can, only to see the Turks coming upon them as they hide.
Rather than facing his feelings, Harry escapes into the world of booze, one-night stands, as well as opium for altered states of consciousness that enable him to forget the quarrel with his wife and the war.
Harry feels as if he's going to die tonight; he wants to sleep outside. Helen brings him broth to keep up his strength, but he doesn't need any "strength" to die. He wants to write and wonders if Helen can take dictation so that he could record his last thoughts. If he were able to write one perfect paragraph, one last time, he could "get it right." Despite his physical deterioration, Harry still yearns for one last chance and entertains hope that maybe his wife could do the physical aspect of the writing for him.
Here, this third flashback deals with two themes: destruction and a lingering loss despite recovery and rebuilding; and productivity and happiness in the midst of poverty.
Harry recalls his grandfather's log house that burned and destroyed all of his grandfather's guns, and how even though it was rebuilt, his grandfather never bothered to get more guns and never hunted again. Even though the log house was rebuilt, the remnants of the destroyed guns lay in the ashes of the fire like a coffin in its crypt, with his grandfather and everyone else giving the remnants of the guns the same respect and berth due a gravesite.
He then remembers Germany's Black Forest, where he went after the war and fished; he remembers the hotel where, because of inflation, the proprietor lost all his money and because he didn't have enough money from the previous year to buy supplies and open the hotel, he hanged himself. Although the hotel may have lingered after the inflation, the proprietor was lost forever.
Harry recalls all of the little neighborhoods in Paris where he lived when he was poor, including the drunkards and the sportifs; he remembers the inexpensive hotel where he rented the top room to live in and write. He could see the rooftops of Paris from his window and observe the various things that were happening in the streets below.
Here, these poor little neighborhoods in Paris were full of vivid characters and vital people, productive in some way and happy despite their poverty. It was here that Harry was penniless yet productive, enjoying the people-watching opportunities and quaint beauty that these neighborhoods offered. It was his favorite part of Paris, and it represents his youth, happiness, and potential.
The purple dye that the flower sellers use to dye the flowers could be an interesting metaphor for writing itself. The purple dye could represent the creative license, liberty, and literary devices that writers use to color real life events with to create their fiction.
Important here also is the mention of the famous writer Paul Verlain dying in a cheap hotel in the neighborhood. This talented writer's demise in this neighborhood parallels Harry's potential for talent and demise as well, as Harry's demise started when he left this neighborhood and abandoned this lifestyle.
Harry's wife wants him to drink some broth; instead, he asks for whiskey. He waits; after Helen leaves, he'll drink all he wants. He considers sleep, but death seems to have gone down a different street, on a bicycle. Harry is hallucinating, rapidly approaching his death.
Harry realizes that he never wrote about many things: a ranch and a "half-wit chore boy" who was given the task of protecting the farm in the absence of the owner. When another farmer, a mean-spirited, sadistic man, tried to get himself some feed from the barn and threatened to beat the chore boy if he tried to stop him, the chore boy was loyal to the owner. That was when the chore boy got a rifle, shot the man, and left him for the dogs to eat. Harry remembers taking the carcass into town with the chore boy's help, who thought he was going to be rewarded for protecting his master's property, but to his amazement, was arrested and handcuffed. Then he turned to Harry and began to cry.
That was one story that Harry had "saved to write." He's sure that he has at least twenty good stories inside him, stories that he would never write.
This particular flashback deals with misguided loyalty. Although the chore boy protected the hay and was loyal to the owner as he was told to do, his misguided sense of how to be loyal and protect his owner results in a grisly crime and desecration of a corpse.
Looking at his rich wife, Harry gives us his view of the rich and of the very rich. Harry recalls talking about this subject with Julian. Actually, this same conversation occurred between Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some biographers have placed the conversation in a cafe in Paris, when Fitzgerald told Hemingway, "The very rich are different from you and me." And Hemingway replied, "Yes, they have more money."
Harry is also fighting intense, prolonged pain and is trying to overcome it by not caring about it. Just when he thinks he can't bear it, it goes away.
Harry remembers the death of a soldier named Williamson, who had been hit by a bomb and, while he was trying to move, realized that he was snagged and caught in a wire fence with his bowels spilling out onto the wire. He begged Harry to kill him. This is the only flashback in this short story where Harry doesn't mention that he failed to write about a certain memory or memories.
This particular flashback was one Harry probably didn't want to write about, as it deals with a man who "couldn't stand things." Readers aren't told whether Williamson could've survived. However, the fact that he was brought from the battlefield alive and conscious for some time even after being given a fatal dose of morphine pills that Harry saved for himself indicated to Harry that Williamson was a very strong man. Despite his strength, he didn't wait to find out whether the Lord gave him more than he could bear. He simply didn't try to beat the pain.
This is the first deed of the three in Harry's life that facilitates his flight to Kilimanjaro. Because Harry sacrifices the morphine pills to ease Williamson's pain, this episode is parallel to the one in Part 2 where Harry sacrifices himself to his wife and stays loyal to her as opposed to absolving himself and admitting that he never loved her.
For Harry, death has been easy compared to the soldier who was impaled on the wire fence; in fact, death has become boring for Harry — he's as bored with it as he is with everything else.
Also, he tells his wife that "I've been writing." At this point in the story, Harry's intention is as good as his deed. In his current situation, Harry feels that he has done everything he can (in intention) to redeem himself and be worthy of Heaven before he dies. This is the final of the three deeds that facilitates Harry's eventual flight over Kilimanjaro.
At that moment, he feels "death come by again" — a hyena — resting its head on the foot of his cot.
Harry tells his wife, Helen: "Never believe any of that about a scythe and a skull." These traditional Western-world medieval symbols of death are not valid in Africa. Here, the vulture and the hyena dominate Harry's sure knowledge of his inevitable death. Indeed, the hyena becomes the more dominant symbol when it sits, "pressing," on Harry's chest.
At this point, readers should realize that Harry has died. At the point of death, ideas and dreams are reality for Harry, so the trip to Kilimanjaro (Heaven) is not in italic. For Harry, the reality is that the rescue plane has come and he has been saved and rewarded. There are two images of Harry ascending — one, when he is lifted from the cot to take him inside, and the other, when the plane lifts off and heads toward Mount Kilimanjaro. For some readers, there are more endings than simply this one. One occurs when the hyena presses on Harry's chest, signifying his death. The other ending occurs when the plane flies Harry toward the square top of Kilimanjaro.
Metaphorically, a few things happen here to indicate that the flight to Kilimanjaro isn't a worldy trip:
- Compton refuses the cup of tea before he and Harry leave
- There is no room in the plane for any passengers except for Harry
- The plane doesn't go to Arusha to refuel
The plane veers toward the white, shining, square top of Kilimanjaro, for, at that moment, Harry knows "where he [is] going."
To summarize, the deeds that Harry does that secure his flight to Kilimanjaro are:
- He gives his morphine pills to Williamson
- Harry's intention to write (the mentally composed flashbacks) in a painful stupor
- He sacrifices himself to his wife by not telling her that he never really loved her to absolve himself
For Harry's wife, the reality is that Harry is dead and she is alone again.
odor Gangrene is literally a putrefaction, emitting a horrible, rotten stench.
big birds here, vultures, carrion eaters attracted to Harry's rotting flesh.
Tommies The reference is to the Thompson's gazelle, a small antelope.
Black's a home remedy medical book.
Bwana Mister, or master; a term of respect.
Kikuyu a member of a Kenya tribe.
Karagach a town in Turkey.
Simplon-Orient Also known as the Orient Express, it was, in its heyday, the most famous and elegant train on any continent.
Thrace A section of Greece, it was the scene of fighting between the Greeks and the Turks in 1922.
Nansen Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1938), Norwegian Arctic explorer, scientist, statesman, and humanitarian. During the period that Hemingway was writing this story, Nansen was high commissioner of refugees for the League of Nations.
weinstube German for a tavern that specializes in various wines.
skischule German for a skiing school.
sans voir French for the concept of "not seeing."
Kaiser Jagers Alpine troops.
Vorarlberg, Arlberg winter resorts in the Austrian Tirol country.
Kirsch a cherry-flavored liquor.
Crillon a well-known Paris hotel, used frequently in Hemingway's works.
Memsahib a Hindustani word meaning "lady."
jodpurs A type of trousers, named after the Indian state of Jodhpur, they end right below the knee and flare around the hips.
Klim trade name for a kind of powdered milk (spell it backward).
mosquito boots loose boots into which trousers are tucked.
boric boric acid, a mild disinfectant.
Constantinople the former name for what is now Istanbul.
Bosphorus the strait that separates Asia from Europe, made famous by Romantic poets who would try to swim across.
Anatolia the great plains area of Turkey.
Constantine officers At the time, these royal officers bore the name of the king of Greece, King Constantine.
ballet skirts During the time that Hemingway wrote the story, Greek troops in the mountains wore uniforms exactly like Hemingway describes.
saucers In various cities in Europe, drinks are served on saucers; when refills are ordered, saucers are placed atop one another; when one pays the bill, the waiter counts the number of saucers.
Spur and Town and Country Two "high society" magazines.
Schwarzwald The Black Forest of Bavaria, in the southern part of Germany.
inflation Germany suffered a terrible inflation in the middle 1920s and was eventually helped economically to recover by the United States and its so-called Dodge Plan.
marc a kind of brandy.
bal musette a public dance hall.
concierge the manager of an apartment house in Europe.
Garde Republicaine resplendently uniformed troops that guarded the French Parliament.
locataire a tenant.
L'Auto a Paris newspaper devoted to sports news.
sportifs the sporting kind.
Communards After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1871), a communal government, in opposition to the national one, was set up in Paris. There followed a brief civil war; afterward, 17,000 Parisian followers of the Communards were executed, including women and children. Hemingway is referring to the descendants of these people.
boucherie chevaline a horse butcher; in many parts of Europe, horse meat is eaten quite commonly.
Paul Verlaine French poet (1844-96); considered one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century.
femme de ménage a housekeeper.
stick bomb German hand grenades had handles; during World War II, the Allies often referred to them as "potato mashers."
lorry British for truck.
wildebeeste Dutch for wild beast, a form of gnu or antelope that is found in Africa.
daughter's debut a monied coming-out party for a young lady, to formally introduce her to high society.
Nairobi the capital of Kenya.
Kilimanjaro the highest peak in Africa, approximately 19,317 feet.