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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macombe sample essay

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macombe, written by Ernest Hemingway, opens with the Macombers and Robert Wilson enjoying a drink. Francis and Margaret Macomber, a wealthy couple, are on their first safari. Wilson is a professional hunter and their guide for the trip. Just moments before, Francis had been carried into camp by the natives, who mistakenly see him as a hero. They are unaware that Francis has allowed Wilson, his wife, and the gun-bearers to see that he is actually a coward.

Hemingway, using the technique of flashback, allows the reader to relive what happened during the hunt through the memory of Francis. Earlier that day, the Macombers and Wilson had been out in the jungle hunting lions. During that time, Francis had shot a lion, but only wounded rather than killed it. This forced he and Wilson to go into the tall grass in order to kill the lion. However, when the wounded lion charged them, Francis ran away in fear. Thus, in spite of being described as a tall, handsome, physically fit man, Francis’ behavior shows he is nothing more than a coward.

His cowardly behavior earned Francis the contempt of his wife, as well as the disgust of the gun-bearers and Wilson. Hemingway makes it clear that Francis’s wife Margaret had already been disgusted with her husband, and this cowardly act only strengthens her contempt for him. Margaret demonstrates her contempt when, during the ride back to the camp, she boldly kisses Wilson on the mouth while her husband looks on. Later that night, she goes further in showing her dislike of her husband by engaging in a rendezvous with Wilson, then returning to the tent she shares with Francis as though nothing happened.

The next day, while they are out hunting buffalo, Margaret begins to notice change in Francis. He is beginning to demonstrate a courage that was not evident in him the day before when facing off with the lion. Against the buffalo, Francis shows no fear, and this causes Margaret to realize that if he continues to be courageous, he may find the strength to break the psychological hold she has over him.

She watches in fear as the standoff with the buffalo intensifies. Wilson and Francis are right in the path of the charging buffalo, and as he gets closer, they both shoot at it. Margaret, who is sitting in the car, also takes aim with the gun that was left in the car. Rather than aim at the buffalo, she aims at her husband’s head, and shoots him. Thus, she kills him at the most exhilarating moment of his life, the moment when he successfully reclaims his manhood. So end the story of Francis Macomber’s short and happy life.

The Short Happy Life is a story that perfectly showcases the simplicity of Hemingway’s style of writing. Whereas many novels and short stories are filled with numerous characters, this slightly long short story uses only three characters and still manages to provide the reader with a riveting tale.

The first character encountered is Francis Macomber. He is a relatively young man, blessed with wealth and good looks. However, he is a conformist. He follows the rules, choosing to stay on the straight and narrow path rather than venture off onto the unknown. This is evident through the type of sports he likes to engage in: tennis and squash. Both games have set rules, and therefore set boundaries, which if crossed or broken can lead to dire consequences.

At the start of the story, Francis is portrayed as being a coward, which is in stark contrast to the fact that he is supposed to be a strong, virile man. He earns the disgust and contempt of all those who see him run from the lion. However, towards the end of the story, he regains their respect as well as his own when he faces down the buffalo with no fear. Thus, it is through killing the buffalo with courage that Francis finds true happiness in life. He may have started life as a loser, but he ends life as a winner.

The second character encountered is Margaret Macomber. She is the beautiful wife of Francis, and it is for her beauty that he married her. Therefore, she is simply a trophy for her husband, something he can show off to everyone they come in contact with. For her part, Margaret is married to Francis for one thing: his money. Despite hating that she is nothing but a trophy for him, she does enjoy the perks of being a rich man’s wife. Because each has something the other one need, neither Margaret nor Francis will seek a divorce, no matter how unhappy they are in their marriage.

To cope with her unhappiness, Margaret finds ways to exert control over her husband. Therefore, when he runs away from the lion, she uses that act of cowardice to destroy his self-esteem. When she cheats on him with Wilson, as well as other men in the past, she is doing it to maintain her hold over him. Like Francis, it is at the end of the story that Margaret realizes her control over her husband is slipping. When she watches him successfully and courageously face down the buffalo, she knows immediately that this courage may lead to him ending their marriage. To prevent that, she kills him. In this way, she retains her control over Francis, while losing it to Wilson.

The final character encountered is Robert Wilson. He is a professional hunter and safari guide for the Macombers. In contrast to the conformist Francis, Wilson is a rebel who lives by his own rule: the survival of the fittest. He has no problem sleeping with another man’s wife, nor with breaking the rules concerning the hunting of the buffalo. He initially views Francis with contempt after the lion incident, but comes to admire him when Francis reclaims his manhood.

When reading The Short Happy Life, it becomes quite clear that the character Hemingway seems to identify with most is Robert Wilson. While Francis is viewed as a victim and Margaret is viewed as a predator, Wilson is portrayed as something of a maverick. The Macombers are used to represent those who adhere to the rules, while Wilson is portrayed as a rebel. He makes his own rules and this is seen throughout the story. For example, he has sex with Margaret and feels no remorse for doing so, because he sees it as one of the perks of being a safari guide.

Another example of him following his own rules is seen during the buffalo hunt. Although it is illegal to shoot the buffalo from a car, he and Francis do it anyway. In stark contrast, Francis has no personal moral code. Instead, he reacts to whatever situation he is in. For example, rather than take control of his relationship with his wife, he allows her to bully him. He tolerates her disrespectful behavior towards him, particularly her blatant cheating with other men.

Despite Hemingway’s appreciation for the rebellious side of Wilson, he makes it clear that Wilson has one major flaw: his inability to understand the state of mind of his clients. All he concerns himself with is doing his job as a professional hunter. In contrast to this aspect of Wilson, it is overwhelmingly clear that Francis is very upset about his cowardly behavior during the lion hunt. This is evident when Francis awakens during the night in fear after hearing the lion roar, and is then unable to go back to sleep: “There was no one to tell he was afraid, nor to be afraid with him…” It is seen again the morning of the lion hunt itself. Margaret can see her husband is upset, but he tells her it is just a simple case of nerves.

During the actual lion hunt, Wilson fails to see how nervous Francis is. It is not until they are confronting the wounded lion that Wilson notices the fear in Francis, who tries to come up with every possible solution other than facing the lion. When Wilson is adamant that the lion must be faced, Francis bolts. This one act of cowardly behavior is what drives the rest of the events in the story. Margaret kissing and sleeping with Wilson; Wilson and the gun-bearers viewing Francis with contempt; Francis deciding to take back his power as a man – all these events stem from one act of cowardly act.

Hemingway provides an interesting insight into the complicated marriage of Francis and Margaret Macomber. They are married for superficial reasons. Francis chose Margaret for his wife because of her beauty. Therefore, she is nothing more than a trophy wife for him. Margaret married Francis because of his wealth. She is so certain that he will never leave her, and this certainty stems from the fact that she is aware of how much Francis values her beauty. However, her certainty is shaken towards the end of the story.

When the three go out to hunt buffalo, the fear that Francis felt when facing the lion is gone. Instead, he stands his ground against the buffalo, shooting one with no qualms whatsoever. Francis’ emerging confidence is noticed by Wilson, who until now saw Francis as nothing but a coward with no control over his wife, and Margaret, who now realizes her control over Francis is disappearing quite rapidly. Even Francis is surprised by his lack of fear, realizing this is the first time in his life that he has actually done something without worrying about what could go wrong.

In his last standoff with the buffalo, during which the animal is charging towards him and Wilson, Francis is truly a man. He does not run away as he did with lion. Watching the scene unfold from the car, Margaret now knows that her husband has finally embraced his manhood. Rather than lose her psychological hold over him, she shoots him in the head. Even though he is cut down at the most important moment in his life, Francis Macomber dies as a whole man, fully in control of his fate for the first time in his life.

The Short Happy Life is considered to be one of Hemingway’s best short stories. It is an excellent example of his ability to fuse together two different aspects, in this case the excitement of big game hunting and death, to create a complex, action-filled story.

It presents to the reader the classic tale of a young boy’s initiation into manhood, although in this case, it is a grown man who is embracing his manhood for the first time in his life. It also presents to the reader the complexities of the human nature. In each character, there is a personality trait that all who read this story can identify with. Using simple dialogue and brilliant narration, this story demonstrates why Hemingway is considered to be one of the most famous writers in American literature.

As previously stated, Hemingway’s style of writing is quite simple in nature. However, it is that very simplicity that allows him to express the basic, yet very deep, emotions that people feel every day of their lives. It is the realistic nature of his novels and short stories that resonate with readers, because his characters are people that have the same joys and fears that his readers do. Like the youth of every generation, Hemingway’s characters are full of life, energy, and have the same penchant for rebellion. In short, they enjoy life wholeheartedly and with very little regret.

The importance of including the works of Ernest Hemingway into courses on American Literature cannot be overestimated. His style, his subject matter – they are the prototype for American writing. Hemingway’s genius as a writer was obvious long before he published the novels that are now considered staples of American literature. It was with his short stories that he made a name for himself, and it is these stories that led everyone to realize that real American literature, not literature emulated after the style of British literature, could actually exist.

It was Hemingway who set the standard for American literature, and those who followed after him did all they could to honor his achievements in writing. He continues to be a source of inspiration for writers today, and will continue to be a source of inspiration for future writers. Without his brilliant works, there would most likely be no genre of writing known as American literature.

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