“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

Ernest Hemingway’s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” seamlessly weaves together a story from the points of view of four different characters:

-Francis and Margot Macomber, a famous married couple – beyond Francis’ money and Margot’s good looks, the reader doesn’t know why they are famous;

-Robert Wilson, a hunting guide hired by the Macombers on an African Safari and

-a lion.

The Macombers are not exactly in the running to win “couple of the year”.  As the story begins, they are dealing with the fact that Francis performed an incredibly cowardly act by running from a charging lion while on safari the previous day.  Both Robert Wilson and Margot regard Francis with utter contempt.  Wilson’s contempt is kept to himself, while Margot’s is pretty much out in the open for all to hear.  The reader gets a retelling of Francis’ moment of cowardice even from the point of view of the wounded lion.  The lion’s thoughts are reminiscent of Jack London’s stories – although this part of the story is kept to a minimum.

The next day, the Macombers and Wilson set out once again, this time to hunt buffalo.  Francis redeems himself to a certain extent in the eyes of Wilson; however, Margot isn’t interested in a redeemed Francis.

I have a suspicion that the word “short” in the title of the story doesn’t just describe Francis lifespan but describes more the part of Francis’ life that is actually happy.

So far, of the short stories I’ve read by Hemingway, this is my favorite, even if the characters are not very likable.  Wilson, though not virtuous, has a certain appeal, but if I had to put my sympathies with anyone, it would be the lion.

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