Francis Macomber Essay, Research Paper
Intentional as Opposed to Accidental Killings Ernest Hemingway has created a masterpiece of mystery in his story The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” The mystery does not reveal itself to the reader until the end. During the final stages, Margaret Macomber kills her spouse on a safari in Africa, in order to save him from being mauled by a large buffalo. The mystery is whether or not this killing was truly accidental. If intentionally, evidence as well as a clear motive would certainly be needed to prove the made assumptions. Hemingway provides numerous instances that direct the reader to devise an acceptable supposition. From a purely objective analysis of the story, the reader sees far more evidence supporting the theory of an intentional killing rather than an accidental one. The evidence supporting the idea that Margaret killed Francis intentionally can best be seen when observing and studying the background information on both Francis Macomber, and Margaret herself. The marriage between the two is summarized in the statement, Margot was too beautiful for Macomber to divorce her and Macomber had too much money for Margot to ever leave him. (Hemingway 52). Both were dependent on each other, which concluded a strong relationship. Also importantly, Margot and Francis have very difficult personalities. Margot is a very controlling person. Her marriage and relationship with Francis Macomber are dependent on her ability to control. She must have complete authority over her husband in order to keep the relationship at an equilibrium. Francis needs Margot because, as she accurately observed, he could not find -1- Naami 2another wife if Margot were to leave him. This is clearly comprehended when the narrator states, 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. (Hemingway 52). In simpler terms, Francis presently cannot live without her. The true motive for Margot s intentional killing can be discovered through the above background information. As Margot witnesses the elevation, bravery, and sudden independence that Francis Macomber derives from his valiant pursuit and killing of the buffalo, she witnesses the loss of control over her husband that is so essential to her relationship. This can clearly be seen in the conversation amongst Francis Macomber and Robert Wilson after killing the buffalo when he remarks, You know 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 damn bursting. It was pure excitement. (Hemingway 58). If Francis lost all fears, as he supposedly does after killing the buffalo, then there s a greater chance that he could afford to lose Margot. His newfound bravery could be put to use in finding another wife. This was very disagreeable to Margot, and can be clearly discerned from her remarks when she replies to Francis about his performance with the buffalo. Francis asks her, Wasn t it marvelous, Margot? She replies, I hated it,…I loathed it. (Hemingway 58). It was at this point in which Margot saw her control over her husband, control that had lasted for so many years and was so essential to the relationship, begin to vanish. She clearly realizes that her relationship was coming to an end, and that the equilibrium had been destroyed. Naami 3 Margot s initial reaction to this was very predictable; she tried to play down the event by stating, You re both talking rot…Just because you ve chased some helpless animals in a motor car you talk like heroes. (Hemingway 59-60). Robert Wilson, the guide on the hunt, gives the reader an outside perspective into this complex and troubled relationship. In response to the quotation above Wilson states, Sorry…I have been gassing too much. And following it, She s worried about it already, he thought. (Hemingway 60). Wilson has accurately interpreted the status of the relationship and by the end of the story, gives the reader more evidence as to the true motive for Margot killing Francis. Robert Wilson seems to be precise in his description of the couple, and their relationship throughout the story. If this is true, and none of his presumptions concerning the couple are false, then he gains more credibility towards the end of the story. Wilson becomes the advocate of Margot s actions, despite the fact that they were intentional. He gives the reader the best description of the relationship between Francis and his wife. It is his insight into Margot, however, that is the most detailed, and which seems to suggest that she might be capable of such an act. Wilson gives the reader a lucid account of his impression of Margot s reaction to Francis s cowardice by stating:
So, Robert Wilson thought to himself, she is giving him a ride, isn t she? Or do you suppose that s her idea of putting up a good show? How should a woman act when she discovers her husband is a bloody coward? She s damned cruel but Naami 4 they re all cruel. They govern, of course, and to govern one has to be cruel sometimes. Still, I ve seen enough of their damn terrorism. (Hemingway 44)From this discerning analysis of the two, Wilson shows the reader several very significant points. One is the fact, although somewhat machiavellian (a term used to describe the principles of power politics, and the type of person who uses those principles in political or personal life), that Margot had the capability to be cruel as she governed over her husband. Another important observation is the fact that she has solid control over Francis after he cowers from the lion. Although his cowardice is embarrassing to Margot, it still allows her to control her marital companion by claiming authority and belittling his actions. This is the cruelty that Wilson recognizes in the passage above. When Francis confronts the same situation in hunting the buffalo as with hunting the lion, Margot regains the hope that the new valor of her spouse would fade away. Her elation can be seen when Wilson proclaims that the buffalo is in the bush and they will have to flush out just as the lion. Margot pronounces, Then it s going to be just like the lion, said Margot, full of anticipation. (Hemingway 57). The key word in this excerpt is anticipation. She fills with excitement in the anticipation that her spouse would make a repeat performance, consequently losing all of his new courage and placing her back in control of the relationship. This, as she would soon see, was not the case. One of the most significant passages in the story occurs in the moments just before Francis and Robert Wilson go into the bush after the buffalo. The passage shows exactly how Francis felt just prior to his death. In it she states: Naami 5 You ve gotten awfully brave, awfully suddenly, his wife said contemptuously but her contempt was not secure. She was very afraid of something. Macomber laughed, a very natural hearty laugh. You know I have, he said. I really have. Isn t it sort of late? Margot said bitterly. Because she had done the best she could for many years back and the way they were together now was no one person s fault. Not for me, said Macomber. (Hemingway 60) From this quotation, the reader can clearly see that Margot has lost her edge in the relationship. She is no longer in charge or needed by Francis. Margot is and knew she was expendable to him for many years. Fearless, she knew that Francis would never be able to replace her on his own. He was incapable of the independence needed to find a new wife. This had all changed, however, by the end of the story. It had become clear to Margot that the relationship was over, or at least from her perspective. After Margot fires the fatal shot, further evidence given by Robert Wilson supports the assertion that the killing was intentional. He remarks, That was a pretty thing to do…He would have left you too (Hemingway 62). Wilson, who seems to be accurate in his assessment of the relationship, appears as a credible witness to the killing. Due to these facts, his opinion as to the motive of the killing is also believable. Also importantly, is the fact that after the demise Margot never denies that it was intentional. Ironically, Wilson has the most control at the end of the story. This can be seen in the last few lines when Margot practically has to beg him to stop tormenting her about killing Francis. When she finally says please, Wilson agrees to stop. Naami 6 From all the evidence given in the story, and from an objective analysis of the conversation and narration, it is safe to assume that the killing was indeed intentional. There is simply not enough tangible evidence given in the conversation or narration that would suggest otherwise. There is a clear motive, as well as a credible witness to the event who feels from his knowledge of the couple, which is far greater than the limited knowledge of the relationship the reader is given, that the killing was intentional. By law this assertion would not have a chance of being proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but for the purposes of analyzing this story it is a safe affirmation.