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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
English 102 Essay #1
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 and
bravery while out hunting buffalo; unfortunately, it is short lived.
Francis Macomber is a man in his mid-thirties, “very tall, very well built?
and considered handsome.” He excelles at court games and has quite a number of
big-game fishing records, yet, this morning he ?has just shown himself to be a
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 (his wife) and their guide Robert Wilson go out
to hunt for this lion. After coming upon the lion, Francis shoots 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.” 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.” Wilson finishes the
lion off with two shots from his rifle. Unfortunately for Francis, his wife has
seen the whole ordeal. Later that night, as Macomber lies on his cot, he knew ?
it was neither all over nor was it the beginning. It was exactly as it
happened?and he was miserably ashamed of it.?
About three o’ clock in the morning, Francis was awoken suddenly, ?
frightened in a dream of the bloody-headed lion standing over him.? 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
begins to question her of her whereabouts. Margot’s only reply is that ?she
went out for a breath of fresh air.? Francis, however, knows that Margot went
over to Wilson’s tent and slept with him. Even with this knowledge, “Margot
was too beautiful for Macomber to divorce her and Macomber had too much money
for Margot to leave him.”
Later that morning, Francis Macomber has extreme hatred towards Wilson,
making his hostilities known in the tone of his voice. It is this hostility
that begins the new life of Francis Macomber. Later that day, the three of
them, along with the gun bearers, go hunting for buffalo, and if is this
hostility that helps Francis in the hunt.
As they get into the car and drive off, Wilson is hoping that Francis ?
doesn’t take a notion to blow the back of his head off.? After driving around
for awhile, not saying a word to each other, they come upon three large
buffaloes. Francis and Wilson both jump from the car and started shooting.
Francis shoots two bulls but the third one is too far ahead. They both jump
back into the car to chase after it. When they come upon the third bull, they
both jump out and shoot. The bullet from Francis’s rifle drops the bull to it’s
knees. Macomber now feels “a drunken elation.” Macomber and Wilson walk to
where they drop the bull to finish it off. Macomber lifts his rifle and “aimed
carefully at the center of the huge, jerking, rage-driven neck and shot.”
Macomber “never felt so good.” As the three of them sit talking and drinking,
one of the gun bearers approaches and tells Wilson that the first bull has
gotten up and gone into the bushes.
Unlike the incident with the lion, Macomber “felt wholly without fear.
Instead of fear he had a feeling of definite elation.” As the men entered into
the bushes, Macomber “felt his heart pounding and his mouth was dry again, but
it was excitement not fear.” As the bull came out charging, the men started
shooting. Macomber, aiming at the nostrils, was hitting the horns. As he took
aim again, ?he felt a sudden white-hot flash explode inside of his head and
that was all he ever felt.” Margot Macomber has shot her husband in the back
of the head, killing him instantly. After covering up Francis’s body, Wilson
walks over to the car where Margot is crying. “That was a pretty thing to do.’
he said in a toneless voice. ‘He would have left you too.’”
Francis Macomber’s short lived, happy life is ended tragically by an
accidental shot to the head by a bullet from the rifle held by his wife.
Perhaps Margot shot her husband, fearing a divorce, because of his new found
bravery. Whatever the answer is, Francis Macomber had a short happy life before
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