Commentary - The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber

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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber


Francis Macomber became the centre of humiliation after displaying his cowardice in front of his wife, Margot, and the Safari hunter, Robert Wilson. The three had gone to hunt down a lion from which Macomber had fled with fright while Wilson had shot it. As a result, Margot even slept with Wilson, whom she considered a better man, that very night. After resolving his actions, in order to demonstrate his bravery, Macomber managed to shoot three buffaloes the next day and stood ground while facing a charging beast. Just as he was enjoying his moment of becoming a man, Margot shot him in his head either because she was trying to protect him or she loathed her husband transforming into a powerful man. That explained why Francis Macomber had a happy but a very short life.


  • Third person omniscient narrator
  • Unbiased view of each character - Their actions and reactions; contrasting and complex emotions, even those of an animal
  • Reveals important facts which cannot be done so with a narrow-minded first person view
  • Alternation of narrative - Further insights into thoughts and personality of the characters

Lion: "...the lion looked huge...his shoulders heavy, his barrel of a body bulking smoothly...he saw a man figure detach itself from it and he turned his heavy head and swung away...felt the slam of a .30-06 220–grain solid bullet that bit his flank and ripped in sudden hot scalding nausea through his stomach."

Wilson: "Hope the silly beggar doesn't take a notion to blow the back of my head off. Women are a nuisance on safari."

  • An initiation (passage of rite) story in which Macomber realizes that manhood cannot be achieved with wealth and possession but only with overcoming dangers and challenging nature sufferings, in this case, hunting; killing threatening wild beasts on the African safari.


African safari - A dangerous area where tourists enjoy hunting in order to display their strength and courage as men; Irony for Francis Macomber. These tourists are mostly white men (Americans) who have come to invade the territory of the African wildlife - racism.

Familiarity of the setting since Hemmingway himself went on a safari around 1935-36.

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An American couple away from the luxuries and conveniences of American life, facing a beautiful foreign landscape full of dangers and threats.


Conflict: Francis Macomber's humiliation for fleeing from the lion - Reader abhors Macomber's cowardice, agreeing with Margot.

Climax: Macomber's recollection of the embarrassing moment, negation of himself and his resolve to change - Reader sympathizes with him while despising Margot.

Resolution: Macomber's accession to manhood interrupted by Margot - Reader admires Macomber but immediately gets shocked by his murder by Margot: Daydreams Vs Shock of reality; the hunter becomes the prey.


Francis Macomber ...

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