Hemingway’s “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”
The text “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is a short story written in 1936 by an author called Ernest Hemingway. The story revolves around three people; a man called Francis Macomber, his wife Margot and another man called Robert Wilson. The story isn’t narrated from a fixed point of view, but changes multiple times throughout the story.
The story isn’t chronological, as there is a long flashback in the middle of the story. Francis Macomber is a very wealthy American man.
Although we aren’t told what his profession is, my guess would be that he is some sort of big-name businessman, as we are told that his wealth is only going to grow, and he is regularly featured in magazines together with his wife. Many people will probably describe Francis as a pushover, but I wouldn’t say so. He does strike me as being extremely passive, and never takes action when he feels that something isn’t going the way he wants it to. In spite of this Francis does have a very developed sense of pride, and when he is dishonored it hurts him a great deal.
Margaret Macomber is a very handsome woman, who is married to Francis. She doesn’t seem to have a profession of her own, but we are told she does earn some money off of her beauty. Margaret is a extremely unlikeable character, she is completely stripped of empathy, and seems to care for nothing but her own needs. Robert Wilson is an English professional hunter, who is residing in Africa, earning his money by taking rich foreigners out to realize their dream of killing lions, buffalos, rhinos and other animals that doesn’t live in the western world.
Robert seems to enjoy his job of guiding rich people through Africa, not just because of his love for hunting, but also because of the extra benefits that comes along with guiding around the young wives of older wealthy men “He had hunted for a certain clientele, the international, fast, sporting set, where the women did not feel they were getting their money’s worth unless they had shared that cot with the white hunter. ” All in all Wilson seems as the ultimate free man, and therefore fits perfectly with the demands of a code hero.
He follows rules when he has to, but doesn’t really respect them, and if he sees them to be unjust, he makes up his own, but only to the point where he isn’t discovered. Apart from this he isn’t bound by anything else, Wilson doesn’t seem to be religious, and he sleeps with a lot of women, but doesn’t feel the need to commit himself. When there is something he doesn’t want to do, he simply doesn’t do it. Francis and Margaret Macomber are on a safari in Africa, to hunt for wild animals.
It isn’t long though before we find out that not everything is going exactly as they had planned. “He was dressed in the same sort of safari clothes that Wilson wore except that his were new, he was thirty-five years old, kept himself very fit, was good at court games, had a number of big-game fishing records, and had just shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward. ”. The four people seem to try to ignore it, as they go on with their routines without showing indications of any major events having taken place. This facade isn’t kept for long, as Margaret storms of in tears.
When she leaves the 2 men stay behind, and we get some more info on what has happened earlier on. We are told that Francis had run from something, but we aren’t told exactly why he did so, and from what he ran. As Margaret returns and the three of them eat there are dropped some more subtle hints on what had happened. Maragaret taunts Francis with his cowardice, and also drops some ironic remarks about the lion, which leads us to thinking that it was the lion that Francis ran away from. We are then told the story about the lion.
Francis thinks back on the night before, where the lion’s roars had kept him awake, and they terrified him a great deal. The following morning Margaret can tell that he isn’t feeling well, but being a man, who values his pride he doesn’t want to tell her, although, he eventually does. But after breakfast they go out to hunt for the lion. They find it at the side of a river, and Francis has the lion set up for a pretty good shot, but his nervousness gets the better of him, and he doesn’t get the kill shot in. Because of this the lion is able to escape, and hide in the tall grass.
Wilson tells Francis that the lion is even more dangerous now that it is wounded and desperate, and Francis becomes even more scared and tries to escape the dangerous situation, via some ludicrous suggestions. But there’s no way out of it. And of course the expected happens, once the lion starts moving around Francis gets scared out of his mind, and starts running around like a crazy person. Margaret sees all of this, and is obviously disappointed with her husband; so much even that she turns to Wilson. “While they sat there his wife had reached forward and put her band on Wilson’s shoulder.
He turned and she had leaned forward over the low seat and kissed him on the mouth”. To once again highlight Francis’ passiveness he sits through this without even saying a word. As they return to the camp Francis realizes that his and Margaret’s marriage might as well be over, but he also realizes that it will never end, as Margaret is now too old to get a better man than him, and he isn’t very good with the ladies. “but she was not a great enough beauty any more at home to be able to leave him and better herself and she knew it and he knew it.
She had missed the chance to leave him and he knew it. If he had been better with women she would probably have started to worry about him getting another new, beautiful wife but she knew too much about him to worry about him either”. This confirms, once and for all, that there is absolutely nothing passionate about their marriage. The very same night Francis wakes up in the middle of the night, and finds that Margaret isn’t laying by his side, and she doesn’t come back for another two hours.
And as if that isn’t enough Margaret again shows her complete lack of empathy, as she doesn’t even apologize to her husband, but just goes to sleep, as if nothing has happened. The next morning at breakfast Francis develops a great deal of animosity towards Wilson, and he ultimately throws quite a fit. Even so, Francis goes on to hunt for buffalos, and this goes a lot better than expected. Something happens with Francis and he is set free from the prison that is his own restraints. However, this newfound freedom doesn’t last for long, as Margaret shoots because one of the buffalos were charging for him.