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Analysis of the Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

  • Date Submitted: 03/22/2013 07:26 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 45.4 
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ANALYSIS of the SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER
Hemingway’s themes in this story are masculinity and its foil, cowardice, and the “coming of age” that is possible through exposure to nature and by overcoming the challenges of the great outdoors. Francis Macomber is described as a handsome man who is “good at court games” and “had a number of big-game fishing records,” and whose safari clothes are, significantly, “new.” He is a typical international jet setter who lives in a suburban or perhaps big-city setting and has had no real exposure to a raw, unadulterated natural environment, though he is considered athletic. As such, Hemingway portrays him as weak, subservient to his wife, cowardly and frustrated. Once he conquers his fears and guns down three buffalo, he becomes empowered, emboldened, and elated. By conquering nature, he has become a man. As Robert Wilson puts it, “It had taken a strange chance of hunting, a sudden precipitation into action without worrying beforehand, to bring this about with Macomber…Fear gone like an operation. Something else grew in its place. Main thing a man had. Made him into a man. Women knew it too. No bloody fear.”
Hemingway was a great believer in the power of nature to improve one’s quality of life. He was a lifelong outdoorsman; he went hunting, fishing, camping, and boating in places as diverse as Europe, the Caribbean, the United States, and Africa. In fact, he wrote this short story following a 10-week safari in East Africa. This story summarizes the importance Hemingway placed on outdoor activities, especially for men. The character of Macomber comes into his own masculinity through a few seconds of shooting buffalo; the activity of hunting not only provides entertainment, excitement, and physical fitness, but it completely transforms his character and revolutionizes his relationships with others.
Hemingway’s masculine ideal in this story seems to be Wilson, the “white hunter” who lives, works, shoots, and kills...

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