Essay, Research Paper
That Which was Happy was Very Short in Duration
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.