Writings #1: The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

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Part 1 in a collection of posts where I’ll give some of my thoughts and analysis on essays, short stories, novels, movies, etc. It is not really anything academic, but purely for me to practice my writing.

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

by Ernest Hemingway

An odd, but compelling story to say the least. It took me several readings to try and pull out some sort of literary understanding.

At its core, however, the story felt very human to me. You want to feel sad, to feel sorrow for Francis or compassion for his wife, Margot. But, alas, I could not bring myself to such emotion. Despite being set in an unfamiliar time, the bizarre practice of african game hunting, and the ridiculous outcome something seems remarkably familiar.

Nothing tangible about the story is similar to any of my experiences. Yet nothing about the story felt distant. Perhaps it’s the pursuit of courage, Francis’s need to correct his cowardice, with which we can relate. Or maybe it’s the constant threat of fear from the lion or the idea of losing his wife.

In my opinion, and I suspect not everyone would agree, we can relate to Francis’s complete and utter lack of control on his fate. Within the scope of a single story he is afraid, dejected, happy, courageous, brilliant, pathetic, a bad husband and so on; essentially, he is a human. However, despite his best efforts to be a successful hunter, despite his security in marriage, despite everything that he’s done he dies. Not only does he die, but he dies in a quick, meaningless manner. And life goes on.

Is this terrifying? Is this relatable? I think so. I have absolutely no idea if this is what Hemingway was trying to get across (perhaps he gave his own analysis; I should look into this), but this is how I felt after reading the story. After Wilson finished berating Margot as she realized the situation.

Overall I believe The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber is a great short story and I’d recommend the read.

– Daniel Nichols