The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber


English 102
Essay #1
“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

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 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 (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