“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

The short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” unfolds with Francis Macomber, his wife, Margaret (referred in the short story as Margot), and Robert Wilson; a professional hunter paid to guide them in their adventure in an African safari (tour). They begin where the trio is making lunch at their camp in Africa. The Macomber’s are an affluent American couple; of a high socially class in Africa on a safari. They begin discussing the morning’s hunt. The subject of discussion appears to trigger some discomfort among them, and quickly the source of their uneasiness is exposed. While hunting a lion, Francis Macomber fears and takes to his heals. He appears uncomfortable about it, and Wilson attempts to restore his confidence. Wilson in fact has little admiration for Macomber, but conceals this fact. Margot, on the other hand, makes several ironic references to the occurrence (Ernest, 5)

Francis and Margot’s marriage absolutely crumbles after Francis escapes from a lion instead of killing it. This action of cowardice by Francis sees Margot abandons his side to sleep with Robert Wilson that night. Francis is infuriated by Margot’s unfaithfulness and the following day, he fires at three buffalos and killing one of them. This is in an attempt to impress his wife, whom he views as involved with Wilson (Hemingway, 4).

After the incident, he changes completely and he fells a natural irrational joy that he had never experienced prior. Henceforth, he no longer worries and fears anything. Wilson is flabbergasted but at the same time pleased by his transformation.  Margot, on the other hand, is appalled and dreaded by her loss of control (Josh). When Macomber and Wilson hunt down and try to kill a wounded buffalo, she “unintentionally” kills her spouse with a gun while shooting at the buffalo. Francis matured as a person and Margot could not handle it (Hemingway, 17).


There are various themes that are depicted in this short story. Modernism is reflected in yet another theme of self discovery (Jorg). There are several questions that are asked that related with self-discovery. For instance “What am I in it?”, “What is my function in the universe?”, “What are the limits of Knowledge?” as well as “What s Real?” Besides, modernism is depicted when traditional values are no longer observed. For example, Margot starts a new relationship with Wilson. This also brings about another theme of love and betrayal. (Vogelmann, 3).

Courage and Cowardice; Robert Wilson is reflected as courageous man. He a professional hunter who is hired by Francis to guided him and his wife Margot in an adventure in their tour of Africa.  His courage actually makes him to be attractive to Margot who actually not only flirts with him in the course of their safari in Africa but also leaves her husband to sleep with Wilson.  In addition, Margot also can be argued to be a courageous woman who actually gained the courage to shot to kill a “buffalo” which she thinks endangers her husband’s life.  Notably, Francis is depicted as a coward by the fact that he escapes from a “life threatening” wounded lion. His fear is what actually leads to the trouble hat he faces in his marriage.

Masculinity is a theme that is featured much in this play. Here we see Francis out to prove to his wife that he is actually not a coward as she thinks. He involves himself in hunting an activity which portrays courage which is associated with masculinity. Hemingway asserts that true men are brave and bodily fit, confident and conceal doubts and insecurities to themselves (Grade Saver). Besides, Hemingway’s male ideal in this story is reflected Wilson, who is a hunter who lives, works, fires, and executes wild animals in the wilderness, and is physically courageous.

In addition, coming of age is in fact another theme in the play. According to Strychacz (14) “Macomber enters into his manhood in his thirty-fifth year….” This shows that he is maturing a thus coming of age. Besides, Macomber enters manhood through his attempts to please his wife as a courageous man. He actually competes with Wilson to win her affection. According to George, women are fascinated with courageous men. Further, death is theme that is echoed in the play. Francis escapes from a wounded lion and he is afraid for his dear life, finally he is murdered in a cold blood by his wife maggot; who fear loss of her control over him (Ben).

Conflict is a theme that cannot pass unnoticed. According to Karen , there is conflicts surrounding these three, first there is the conflict between Macomber and Margot, Macomber and Francis and the major between Macomber and himself because he cannot stand up to his wife. In the first two hunting expeditions, Macomber is in fear and has no confidence to kill a lion but later when he points to shoot a buffalo his confidence is seen to have grown. His gained courage makes Margot feels threatened for Macomber could end their marriage and she could end up losing his wealth, hence she kills him.





Characters and their character traits.

The main characters in the play “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” are Francis Macomber, his wife, Margaret referred in the short story as Margot, and Robert Wilson who is a tour guide.

Francis Macomber

The affluent central character of “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” who engages Robert Wilson to take him and his wife on an expedition and then proceeds to disgrace himself by running away from a wounded lion in the bush. He is subjugated by his wife Margot for the majority of the narrative and is infuriated but helpless when he finds out she has slept with Wilson; in vengeance for his own display of cowardice. Subsequent triumphant buffalo hunting; Macomber becomes the hunted when he is gunned down by his wife. He is depicted as coward, an adventurer, powerless, rich, childish although he become of age after killing a lion.


Margot Macomber

She in Francis’s wife in the short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” She is the major antagonist of the narrative; she controls Macomber before he disgraces himself with the lion, disgraces her husband by flirting and consequently sleeping with Wilson, and shoots him just as he displays signs of taking control of their marriage. It is uncertain, nonetheless, whether she planned to execute him at the end of the short story. She is depicted as cruel, hard, powerful, courageous, unfaithful, and a “murderer”.




Robert Wilson

Is a professional hunter who is hired by Francis Macomber to take him and his wife Margot on safari in the story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” He is at first scornful to Macomber and fascinated by the wife of Francis, but he observes Macomber’s “coming of age” during the hunting the buffalo. He blames Margot of knowingly shooting to slay her husband, but it is undecided if he is truly convinced she is a murderess or if he is just trying to provoke her.


The short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”  was published in the September, 1936, by Ernest Hemingway.  The setting of the short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is in African savanna (Kuhne,  22). The story is founded upon a real disgrace that had taken place in Kenya concerning Francis and his wife Margot were in love affair and the wife’s implication in his death which was suppressed in the media and covered up by the British government during the colonial period.



“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is set in the African savanna, to which Macomber  and his wife Margot have come on a hunting mission, guide  by Robert Wilson. The hunting outing ends in catastrophe when Mr. Macomber stands his ground before an alleged buffalo and he is shot by his wife and left to die.





A great deal of symbolism contributes to the meaning of this story. The dichotomy of campsite and savanna provides a symbolic meaning of the disparities that exist between Macomber and Robert Wilson. To depart from the site is to disappear from the world of comfort and luxury that the Macomber usually likes. The savanna represents Wilson’s world, the natural, savage strength of nature. The lion and the buffalo are symbolic images of natural world itself and its brutality besides its force, also draw closer to symbolize the differences in courage.





Works Cited

C., George. The short happy life of Francis Macomber. Literature and language. 1 January 2008.

29 April 2011.

Ernest, Hemingway. The complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Simon and

Schuster, 1998.

G., Ben. Analysis of the short happy life of Francis Macomber. Crime of opportunity. 1 January

  1. 29 April 2011 <http://searchwarp.com/Author32881.htm>.

Grade, Saver. Grade Saver. 28 April 2011. 28 April 2011


Hemingway, E. The Short happy life of Francis Macomber. 01 January 1963. 28 April 2011

<, 5>.

Kuhne, Dave. African settings in contemporary American novels. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]:

Greenwood Press, 1999.

S, Josh. Hemmingway, Ernest. The short happy life of Francis Macomber. Meaning of short

happy life of Francis Macomber. 1 January 2004. 29 April 2011.

Smith, James. Analysis of “The Short Happy Life of Francis Makomber”. 28 April 2011. 28

April 2011 <http://jsmyth.wordpress.com/2001/10/26/analysis-of-the-short-happy-life-of-francis-macomber/>.

Strychacz, Thomas F. Hemingway’s theaters of masculinity. Baton Rouge : LSU Press, 2003.

Vogelmann, Jörg. Ernest Hemingway: “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”:

Incidentsand Constellations that Lead to the Self-discovery of Francis Macomber. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag, 2008.

Vogelmann, Jorg. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber: Incidents and constellations that

lead to the self-discovery of Francis Macomber. 1 January 2004. 29 April 2011 <http://www.grin.com/e-book/114501/ernest-hemingway-the-short-happy-life-of-francis-macomber>.


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