Of Francis Macomber Essay, Research Paper
Francis Macomber – From Mouse to Man
One theme present in Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, is that the way a person views his life can change completely in one fulfilling moment, if only for an instant. This is a story of an “unhappy man’s display of cowardice, his wife’s retaliatory love affair, and his ultimate recovery of integrity as he bravely faces a charging buffalo” (Ed. Harris 205). Francis Macomber is a prominent American businessman with a beautiful, dominating wife who holds the control and power in their marriage. At the start of their safari trip to Africa, Francis Macomber is regarded as a coward only the endure the embarrassment from his own cowardliness during the hunt, the disrespect from his wife, as well as a feeling of weakness when compared to Robert Wilson, his safari leader. He regains his integrity and confidence when “he bravely faces a charging bull” only to have his “life cut short when his wife–fearful of her husband’s newfound potency-fires a bullet through the back of his head” (Ed. Harris 205).
At the start of the safari, Francis Macomber must endure the embarrassment of his own cowardliness during the hunt. He is first presented in a “mock triumph”, since he had only “half an hour before, been carried to his tent from the edge of the camp in triumph on the arms and shoulders of the cook, the personal boys, the skinner and the porters. The gun-bearers had taken no part in the demonstration” (Stallman 89) (Hemingway 1395). This is evident that Macomber has withdrawn from his prior hunt for a lion and has already been recognized as a coward in the eyes of the gun-bearers. They do not wish to pretend along with everyone else that Francis deserves praise for a lion that he supposedly shot. Macomber, however, does finally shoot a lion during his second outing with Wilson and his wife. Upon approaching the injured lion hiding in the tall grasses, “Macomber heard the blood-choked coughing grant, and saw the swishing rush in the grass. The next this he knew he was running; running wildly, in panic in the open, running towards the stream” (Hemingway 1406). Macomber does “what most sensible men would do if faced by a lion” and he runs, but his wife promptly criticizes him for what she sees as weakness in her eyes (O’Conner 232).
Another factor contributing to Francis Macomber’s suffering self-esteem is that he must also withstand the constant disrespect from his own wife, Margot. She is the power in their marriage and refuses to let him show any type of influence in their relationship. Margot readily shows everyone around them how humiliated she is of her husband’s actions even at the beginning of the safari when she shuns her husband’s choice of drink. She maintains much control and is open with her affairs with other men. After the incident with lion and she witnesses Francis’s terrified retreat from the lion, she blatantly “leaned forward over the low seat and kissed him on the mouth”, referring to Robert Wilson (Hemingway 1406). She does not consider any of Francis’s feelings. When he asks her where she has been when she finally returns in the middle of the night to their tent, she reply’s “Out to get a breath of air”, to which Francis reply’s “That’s a new name for it. You are a bitch” (Hemingway 1407). This seems to imply that this is not the first time she has been caught in an affair. She states that the reason for her behavior is the result of his cowardice. She turns to other men who demonstrate what she believes to be strength and bravery. She holds absolutely no respect for her husband, and insists on accompanying them on the safari even though even Wilson openly opposes her request and thinks to himself that “women are a nuisance on safari” (Hemingway 1409).
Francis Macomber, although wealthier and more prominent when compared to his safari leader, Robert Wilson, also lacks the strength and self-knowledge that Wilson seems to carry naturally in order to survive in the African wildlife. Wilson represents the brave and courageous man that Francis Macomber wants to become. He is introduced ordering a gimlet and therefore rejecting “Macomber’s kind of drink” (Stallman 89). Macomber feeling ashamed of himself and unsure of his choice changes his mind and orders the same drink. He is aware of his self-consciousness and asks Wilson to not talk about an earlier incident in which he had “bolted like a rabbit” (Hemingway 1398). Wilson, at this point, loses any respect he has at all for Macomber, “so he’s a bloody four-letter man as well as a coward, . . . I rather liked him too until today. But how is one to know about an American?” (Hemingway 1397). It’s clear that Macomber does not make it a secret about his fears. Wilson tries to encourage Macomber during the hunt by praising his shooting abilities. “But when Wilson later defaults on the hunter’s code by chasing in the automobile the buffalo they hunt, he loses face; this reversal is spelled out by Macomber: ‘Now she has something on you’ (Hemingway 1412)” (Stallman 89).
Francis Macomber finally regains his integrity and confidence after he bravely faces a charging bull only to have his life cut short by his wife, who has become fearful of her husband’s newfound identity. “You know I don’t think I’d ever be afraid of anything again. . . I feel absolutely different” is Macomber’s response after he has shot the buffalo (Hemingway 1413). He has “saved his soul at the last minute” (Wilson 217). Margot seeing the change in her husband right before her eye, becomes afraid, “You’ve gotten awfully brave, awfully suddenly” (Hemingway 1414). Contributing factors to this sudden change in Francis’s behavior could be evident upon the constant verbal and mental abuse from those around him, including his wife, Wilson, and even briefly, the gun-bearers and society columnist. There is reason to believe that Margot enjoys the attentions that go along with being Francis’s wife, whether it being good or bad. A final and contributing factor to the ultimate transformation of Macomber, is the growing hatred towards Wilson for the affair he carries on with his wife and a lesser hatred for his wife’s attitudes towards his fears and embarrassments. Macomber is tired of his wife’s indifferences towards him and shooting the buffalo is the first instance he has to prove him manhood to everyone around him.
Francis Macomber is a man who constantly finds himself struggling with his fears and embarrassments. During his first hunt he runs like a coward. However, the second hunt is different as he faces the buffalo he has been hunting when it charges from the thickets and undergrowth straight at him. Francis does not leap to the side this time, but instead calmly fires his gun at the closing bull even to point-blank range before he is killed. The question on whether or not it was accidental on the part of Margot Macomber is not told. This story exemplifies how a person can change by just facing his fears. It begins “with Macomber in the power of Wilson and Mrs. Macomber; it ends with Wilson and Mrs. Macomber in the power of Macomber – as he triumphs morally over them” (Harris 89).