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Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber

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Professor Victor

English 1B MW (7:30-8:50)

25 November 2007

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber: Conquering Fear

"Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive." Yet death is something that is inevitable, and for some shortcoming. In Ernest Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Francis Macomber deals with the humiliation of being a coward and the constant battle for a "little boy" to come of age. Hemingway explores the theme of death through metaphors and influential symbols, ironically portraying the struggle to live with fear and the hunt for a "happy" life.

Francis Macomber has to deal with fear of death through his experiences on an African safari with the "white hunter," Robert Wilson. Margot, Macomber's sneering but beautiful wife, makes fun of poor Macomber for earlier acts of cowardice with a lion. Ironically a lion symbolizes the epitome of masculinity and power and Francis merely resembles the courage of a "rabbit". Francis fears the thought of death and shudders at the sound of the lion's roar. In David Sexton's "Desire for Oblivion," he comments that " . . . people more commonly protest against the brevity of life than welcome it, more usually fear death rather than worry that it may never come." Francis, a rich and young sportsman, is afraid to confront death and take on a lion. Ernest Hemingway describes fear through his talented hunter with a sense of ruthless abandon in "A Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Wilson states simply and plain: "Worst one can do is kill you" (32).

Hemingway uses symbols to portray the battle within Francis to become fearless and discover the "wealth" it can bring. Hemingway repeats the world boulder frequently to describe the surroundings of the safari. It is a symbol for the road to which Macomber must take, as there are things you need to either step over, walk around, and fight the constant battle full of hurdles placed in your path. In order to overcome something as substantial as the fear of death, Macomber needs to confront it and conquer it. In "Ernest Hemingway," Edmund Wilson perfectly realizes, " . . . the male must save his soul even at the last possible moment." Even in death, there is an opportunity to live and to salvage something that nobody can take from you.

Even after the miserable start to the trip, Macomber still is dealing with the restlessness and the shame from the lion. Hemingway describes "but more than shame he felt cold, hollow fear in him" (11). Hemingway uses metaphor to compare fear to the coldness of a "hollow." Ironically the name Francis is known to be a weak and cowardly name, which seems to be a perfect fit for Macomber. In Short Story Criticism, they comment sarcastically about the manner Margot is perceiving her husband: "As we all know, good wives admire nothing in a husband except his capacity to deal with lions, so we can sympathize with the poor women in her trouble." Francis knows with certainty that as long as he possesses this fear his wife possesses a controlling power over him.

Immediately upon returning to the vehicle Margot kisses the "beautiful red faced Mr. Wilson" on the mouth in front of her husband. This is a way of displaying her disappointment in her husband's cowardice and her approval and respect for Mr. Wilson's bravery.

Hemingway uses prominent images to describe the relationship between Francis and Margot. She says, "Lets not talk about the lion," (5). Which is a direct reference to her husband, whom she virtually ignores the rest of the trip. Later that night, after a punch in the face kiss right in front of Francis earlier in the day, in pure spite sleeps with the "white hunter." Although you find that Wilson is far from innocent, and causally courts women in his convient "double sized cot." Macomber displays his hate while talking to his wife, "Did you ever eat such filthy food?" (24) He is referring to the night Margot and Wilson had together, and insulting Wilson as a dirty, rotten man. However, they still go out on the hunt for buffalo, the last chance for Macomber to face and overcome death.

After they take down the buffalo with an emphatic "carawonging" sound, 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,



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