To analyze and compare, one, firstly, needs to know the basic meanings of the significance of the symbols. Lions have been a symbol of great power and strength since long ago. In Africa, the Mali Empire is known as the “Lion of Mali” (McCall, 1973/1974, p. 131). Lions are dignified, and in certain African societies, it is thought that a lion is a king, and a king is a lion therefore making the two beings one entity (McCall, 1973/1974, p. 134). North American cave paintings portray lions as deities. In the east, lions are depicted as aggressive and powerful because they are spiritual guards. The mane of the lion, as well as the color of its coat, symbolizes the rays of the sun (McCall, 1973/1974, p. 133). Many societies believe that lions are more majestic than leopards. They are equated with kings and gods; they possess great power and strength. Additionally, some societies, such as the Mali Empire, deem the lion less conspicuous than other felines, specifically the leopard. Lions are dignified creatures that do not need such ostentatious spots to be seen and are more modest and humble (McCall, 1973/1974, p. 132).
However, while lions are powerful and strong, leopards are valiant and courageous. In Akan society, the leopard is well-respected because it is not aggressive like the lion. Leopards are perceived as more pure and human-like than lions because they have flaws and morals. The leopard will “never strike with its right paw” (Appiah, 1979, p. 66). Its intentions are pure, and it will never instigate a fight. The flaws of the leopard are its spots. While the Mali Empire believes that lions are parallel to gods and perfect beings and thinks the leopard’s spots make it gaudy, the Akan society believes it to be the feature that makes leopards closer to humans because they are flaws on an otherwise perfect coat. In the Akan society, there is a sword called Mponponsuo. It is a sword that means responsibility and is encased by leopard skin decorated with gold. The leopard skin symbolizes bravery and power. Mponponsuo is passed down from a father to a son as a reminder that the leopard, a valiant creature, is like humans in some aspects (Appiah, 1979, p. 64). Both felines are used to emphasize the main characters’ strengths and weaknesses in Hemingway’s short stories.
Francis Macomber, from Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” possesses none of the lion’s aforementioned traits. He is weak, passive, and non-aggressive. Macomber’s wife Margot controls him by putting him down and abusing Macomber with words. Margot tells Macomber that she is embarrassed of him because he acted like a coward. Her face turns red, but not red from drunkenness like the men; it turns red due to embarrassment (Hemingway, 1987, p. 6). Due to his fear, Francis Macomber could not finish killing the lion and ran away “running wildly in panic toward the stream” (Hemingway, 1987, p. 17). His anxiety made him sick and nauseous. Macomber feels inadequate because of his apprehensions and fearfulness. As a result, Margot commits adultery frequently knowing he would never leave her because of his insecurities.
Macomber’s shy and insecure demeanor is the complete opposite of the strong lion in the story. When Macomber neared it with a gun, the lion stood its ground and was not afraid. It stayed fearless and roared loudly at Macomber, causing Macomber to feel taken aback and frightened. The lion amplified Macomber’s weaknesses. The lion stared at Macomber “majestically and coolly” (Hemingway, 1987, p. 13). It paid Macomber no mind, but when Macomber shot the lion, it ran away. Only fools would charge back and die in vain. The lion also did not drop on the first shot. It kept on running until Macomber could not see him anymore (Hemingway, 1987, p. 13). However, the lion died in the end, but it died with the dignity of withstanding man’s amusement.
After the lion died, Francis Macomber was inspired by it and wanted to become as strong and powerful as it. In the end, Macomber attained his goal. He gained power over Margot because he had renewed confidence after having killed a buffalo successfully. Wilson congratulated Macomber, but Margot felt bitter and insecure about her power over her husband. She saw the change in Macomber and was unsettled by it (Hemingway, 1987, p. 26). She was worried that the tables would turn between them, and soon, Macomber would be the one controlling her. Margot figured the best solution would be to kill Macomber. Although Macomber died, he did not die a coward. Macomber rejected his cowardliness and became capable of standing his ground, physically and morally, which led to his happy life (Stolzfus, 2005, p. 213). He had transformed into the lion and became stronger with more power, and although it only lasted a short while, he achieved happiness and power and died with dignity after shooting the buffalo and redeeming himself.
While Macomber lacked power, Harry lacked courage in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” He is disgusted with himself because he is unable to achieve greater goals in life, like the stories he never got to write. “Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well he would never know, now” (Hemingway, 1987, p. 41). Now that he is dying of gangrene, he decides to finally start working towards his ambitions. He had been hiding behind his wife’s money for all these years and regretted never doing anything that would leave a lasting impression of himself. Harry wanted to become like the leopard who tried to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. He wanted the courage to reach the apex of the mountain because he believed that by reaching the summit, he would be rid of his sins and regrets.
However, Harry only relished the thought of reaching the top; he did not attempt to complete the task in any way. The leopard had attempted to make it to the top of the mountain, but it never reached it. It froze to death near the western summit of the mountain (Hemingway, 1987, p. 39). It was so close, but so far away. Unlike Harry, the leopard at least tried to reach its objective. Its body is preserved because it had froze to death, and it serves as an eternal remembrance of its courage. The leopard also symbolizes “life-in-death,” whereas Harry symbolizes “death-in-life” (Evans, 1961, p. 604). Harry was just quietly waiting for death to come. He was tired and angry and could no longer feel the pain of his illness (Hemingway, 1987, p. 41). The leopard could also symbolize Harry’s morality. The leopard’s spots can be called its flaws, and Harry’s morality was flawed (Evans, 1961, p. 604). Harry gave up before he even tried to achieve anything. He would blame his inability on his sickness or his wife, all the while avoiding the blame being put on him.
Harry wanted to make up for his inabilities, so he ventures out into the harsher region of the world, a cold, isolated place, where he attempts to achieve greatness. Harry is no longer hiding behind his wife’s money, which was like his armour (Hemingway, 1987, p. 43). On his journey, he ‘writes’ the stories he has always wanted to write in his head (Hemingway, 1987, p. 42, 48, 50, 52, 53). The italicized excerpts throughout “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” are his writings. Although, they will never be written down or last forever, it gives Harry a sense of accomplishment for completing one of his ambitions. Compie, the pilot, flies Harry to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, so Harry could reach the top as he had aspired (Hemingway, 1987, p. 56). Harry surpasses the leopard and dies finally attaining courage and free of his regrets.
On the whole, Francis Macomber’s cowardliness is amplified by the presence of the powerful lion in the story. Harry’s inadequacy towards reaching his goals is amplified by the presence of the aspiring leopard in the story. Macomber lacks power, which the lion symbolizes; Harry lacks courage, which the leopard symbolizes. Nevertheless, at the end of each story, both protagonists gain what they had wanted most. For Macomber, it was the power and strength he never had, especially over his wife. He gains the confidence to be imperious and that leads to his happiness. For Harry, it was the bravery to achieve his ambitions. All his life, he had felt laughable and cowardly, but he starts taking on his objectives and reaches the top of Mount Kilimanjaro as he had aspired. The lion and the leopard are used to enhance specific traits and to reveal how these traits transform in the main characters of Hemingway’s short stories “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
Word Count: 1, 666
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