The Sun Also Rises, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway
In the short story, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, author Ernest Hemingway introduces the reader to the Macombers, a loveless married couple who is on a hunting safari in Africa. After an episode in which Francis runs away from a lion that he is hunting, all of the couple’s problems become exposed. His wife Margot is cold and callous to Francis because of his cowardice. The fragility of their relationship is further exposed by the presence of their guide and professional hunter Robert Wilson. He was a contrast to Francis in many ways. He was not as tall, well dressed or well groomed as Francis and he also did not show a hint of fear when the two were hunting the lion. These characters are certainly not the first couples that Hemingway described, nor are they the only ones involved in a love triangle. They do however, demonstrate the greatest deterioration of a relationship when compared to other Hemingway couples from The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Sun Also Rises.
Before comparing the Macombers to any other couple it is important to account for the nature of their relationship. From the descriptions, both are well-built and attractive people. Macomber’s wife even made a living off her looks by endorsing beauty products. Francis was “very tall, very well built” and “considered handsome” (p. 122). An 11-year marriage has clearly begun to take its toll, however, and Macomber’s cowardice when hunting the lion only fueled his wife’s frustration with their relationship. She refuses to converse with him for the rest of the day and come nighttime, she disappears for over two hours to have sex with Wilson – something that Macomber points out is not her first indiscretion as he pleads, “There wasn’t going to be any of that. You promised there wouldn’t be.” After his wife rudely informs him otherwise, he lashes out again: “You said if we made this trip that there would be none of that. You promised” (p. 140).
The revelation of Macomber’s wife’s latest indiscretion allows him a freedom that he had not felt before. In the midst of their hunt the next day, he hunts down three bulls and undergoes a spiritual cleansing that dissolves the fear he had experienced the day before. Sadly for Francis, this joy is fleeting as during the hunt he is shot in the back of the head by his wife.
This liberation that Francis experiences before his death allows him to become the type of Code Hero that appears in many of Hemingway’s works. For most of the story, it is Wilson who plays the part of the Code Hero. He demonstrates courage – grace under pressure – during the hunt. He has been hired to do a job and he does it, regardless if it means that he has to stare down a hard-charging lion in the process. Even his role in Margot’s indiscretion is a part of him living up to his code.
He had hunted for a certain...