Essay, Research Paper: Short Happy Life Of Frances Macomber

Literature: Ernest Hemingway

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In Ernest Hemingway’s story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,”
Francis Macomber, according to Hemingway, is a very unhappy man because of his
cowardly display after facing a wounded lion and because of his inability to
stand up to his wife. However, Francis Macomber regains his happiness,
contentment, self-control and bravery while out hunting buffalo. At this point
in time Macomber put his insecurities and shortcomings behind him.
Unfortunately, his wife did the very same with his life with one short white
flash. This story takes place in Africa. Francis Macomber, a wealthy man in his
mid-thirties “very tall, very well built…and considered handsome” and his
pretty wife Margot hire a guide named Mr. Wilson to take them on a hunting
safari. (6) The Macomber marriage is one of codependence, based on wealth,
beauty, control and leverage. (18) Early on the very first day of the safari
Macomber displays himself as a coward. The ordeal started the night before when
Francis was awakened by the sound of a lion roaring, which frightened him for
the rest of he night. In the early morning Francis, Margot and their guide
Robert Wilson go out to hunt for this lion. After coming upon the lion, Francis
shoots at the lion three times, hitting it twice and only wounding it. The
wounded lion went trotting off into the tall grass, hiding and waiting for the
hunters to come after him. Before the men go in after the lion, Macomber sat,
“sweating under his arms, his mouth dry, his stomach hollow feeling, wanting
to find the courage to tell Wilson to go on and finish off the lion without
him.” (16) As the men enter the tall grass, the lion came charging at them.
The next thing he knows, Macomber is “running wildly, in panic in the open,
running towards the stream.” (17) Wilson finishes the lion off with two shots
from his rifle. Unfortunately for Francis, his wife has seen the whole ordeal.
All Francis could think about was facing the torment of his wife. Francis knows
with certainty that as long as he posses this fear his wife posses a controlling
power over him. Immediately upon returning to the vehicle Mrs. Macomber kissed
the “beautiful red faced Mr. Wilson” on the mouth in front of her husband.
This was Mrs. Macomber’s way of displaying her disappointment in her husbands
cowardice and her approval and respect for Mr. Wilsons bravery. (17) Mr.
Macomber excels at court games and has quite a number of big-game fishing
records, yet, this morning he has just shown himself to be a coward. Later that
night, as Macomber lies on his cot, he knew that it was neither all over, nor
was it the beginning. It was exactly as it happened and he was miserably ashamed
of it. Mr. Macomber also feared that the Swahilli gun totters would carry this
lion story to the Mathaiga Hunt Club. About three o’ clock in the morning,
Francis was awoken suddenly, “frightened in a dream of the bloody-headed lion
standing over him.” (19) As Francis looks over at his wife’s cot, he notices
that it is empty and stays awake until she returns. A couple of hours later,
Margot returns to the tent and Francis confronts her with the accusation of
committing adultery with Mr. Wilson. Mrs. Macomber responds with laughter and
Francis reminds her of the promise she made of no indiscretions prior to the
safari. Obviously frustrated, Francis calls Margot a “bitch” and she
responds with “you’re a coward”. (19) The next morning Mr. Macomber
continues expressing his disgust of his wife’s indiscretion as they eat
breakfast, and prepare for departure. Mr. Wilson thinks “God only knows
what’s in that woman’s heart” as they depart to look for the next creature
to be hunted, the buffalo.(21) Shortly after departing Mr. Wilson spotted three
huge buffalo moving like tank cars across the open prairie. He suggested they
cut them off with the truck before the buffalo can make it to the swamp. Mrs.
Macomber indicates that such a maneuver is illegal and asks “Mr. Wilson what
would happen if he were caught?” (24) Mr. Wilson replies the loss of his
hunting license would be possible and Mr. Macomber states “now she has
something on you.” (24). The driver maneuvers the truck to cut the buffalo off
and Mr. Wilson and Mccomber exit the truck with rifles raised in the firing
stance. Macomber fires into a buffalo, reloads the rifle and fires again into
the second buffalo. The third and last buffalo is attempting to escape as
Macomber takes careful aim and shoots it also. At this time Mr. Wilson fires
into the creature as it stumbles to the ground. Mr. Wilson turns to Mr. Macomber
and states “that does it.” Mr. Macomber feels as if he is on fire with
elation and relief. He knows he will never fear anything again and his wife will
no longer have power, control and leverage over him. He is a new, free,
complete, and secure man, finally in control of his own life. Margot completed
one glance at her husband and she knew her control was gone as her eyes widened
and her skin paled. Margot said “you’ve gotten awfully brave awfully
suddenly”, Macomber replied with a very natural hearty laugh “you know I
have, I really have”. "Isn’t it sort of late?" Margot said
bitterly. (26) Mr. Wilson and Macomber exit the truck to track the last wounded
buffalo on foot. As they approach some bush the buffalo charges with his head
down straight at Macomber and Wilson. As the bull continues to charge, Macomber
fires at the creature and is uncertain where his bullets strike. Mr. Wilson also
fires striking the bull between the ears. The buffalo continues his aggressive
charge towards Mr. Macomber. As the gap becomes very short, Mrs. Macomber raises
the rifle in the truck, fires, and strikes Mr. Macomber in the back of the head.
Margot had realized that her husband had changed. She is no longer in charge.
Francis no longer needs her. Margot is, in effect, expendable to Francis. Margot
knew that she had been expendable for many years, but it had never been a great
fear because she knew that Francis would never be able to replace her on his
own. It had become clear to Margot that the relationship was over, or it was
from her perspective and so was his life. The happiest part of Francis Macombers
life was indeed very short! After Margot fires the fatal shot, in response to
the killing Mr. Wilson states, "That was a pretty thing to do, he would
have left you too" (28). Wilson, who seems to be accurate in his assessment
of the relationship throughout the story, seems a credible witness to the
shooting and due to these facts, his opinion as to the motive seems credible as
well. What is also notable after the shooting is the fact that Margot never
denies that it was intentional. Also ironic is that Wilson has the most control
in the end of the story. This can be seen in the last few lines when Margot
literally has to beg him to stop tormenting her about killing Francis. When she
finally says please, Wilson agrees to stop.
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