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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

he died.

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