The short happy life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemmingway is a short story taking place in Africa savannah, where Mr and Mrs Macomber have come on a hunting trip, led by a man named Robert Wilson. The hunting trip ends in a tragedy, where Mr Macomber finally mans up before shooting a buffalo, he himself is shot by his wife. The short story was published in the September 1936 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, Later it was among the collection of stories in Hemmingway’s The Fifth Column and the first Forty-Nine stories.
Ernest Hemmingway is one of the most famous American writers in the twentieth century. His lifestyle and short, powerful prose has inspired many.
The short story opens with Francis Macomber, his wife, Margaret and Robert Wilson preparing for lunch at their camp in Africa “pretending that nothing had happened”. (P. 1 L. 2) This opening scene creates a sense of mystery and uncertainty, as to what happened, why they are pretending it had not happened and that his life might not be has happy as the title suggest.
This is also making the readers want to read more. We also think in the beginning, that Francis Macomber is some sort of hero when he had “been carried to his tent from the edge of camp in triumph”, (P. 1 L.15) but reading on there is a lot of things showing that there is more to it, like when his wife did not speak to him when she enters the tent, the fact that “the gun-bearers had taken no part in the demonstration”, (P. 1. L. 17) and that he “had just shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward” (P. 2. L. 25) shows that something isn’t right and the heroic picture of Francis Macomber crumbles.
By starting the story out of chronological order, it gives the readers a better idea of all the character’s responses to the shooting, and this helps us understand their reaction later on. It also shows the characters’ feelings, and why they are feeling, exactly what they are feeling, so a picture of them is created in the readers minds before getting to the action. In the beginning Margot seems rather immature and bitchy as she tries to pick a fight in any situation, so she can continue her power-game with Francis, but later on she is the one scared one who is afraid of being left by him and never finding a new rich husband to take care of her, because “She was not a great enough beauty any more at home to be able to leave him and better herself and she knew it”. (P. 21 L. 26) In Francis case it is the opposite, he goes from being a poor little rich boy, who scared of everything; the lion and even standing up to his wife, to being a man in the end when he finds courage while hunting buffalos and he says “I don’t think I’d ever be afraid of anything again, something happened in me after we saw the buff and started after him. Like a dam bursting.
It was pure excitement”, (P. 33 L. 13) this makes Francis Macomber a sympathetic character in the story, because he leaves his fears and immaturity behind and conquer his first psychical challenge in his whole life. By reading about the lunch and his high-class social standing, there is more insight into Macombers life, like how miserable he is before the buffalo hunting and how he experience true happiness in the short period from the buffalo kill and to his death, which gives the title much more meaning, that would have been missed if we where presented to the part where they out hunting the lion first. By starting the story with all this insight it makes his actions seem much worse then they really are, and that would have been lost if the story was chronological because then we would not have a background on any of the characters, which is essential for the story’s development and the titles meaning.
This short story raised a lot of questions, and by analysing the text; all of the questions are answered. The short happy life of Francis Macomber is a story about a man, who overcomes his fears and finally becomes a man. He goes from being a scared coward, in a loveless marriage, to a confident and brave man when he achieves his manhood. In the end it says that the only true way to live is to overcome fears instead of hiding, only then you will find true happiness. So Francis Macomber only truly lived and was happy in the short period of time between the buffalo hunt and his death as the title says “The short happy life of Francis Macomber “
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