Do you agree with some critic's remarks that the story's unequivocal announcement that she shot at the buffalo has to be honored or else the entire narrative has to be whistled down for a technical foul?
"The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" by Ernest Hemingway.
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The full paragraph:
Wilson had ducked to one side to get in a shoulder shot. Macomber had stood solid and shot for the nose, shooting a touch high each time and hitting the heavy horns, splintering and chipping them like hitting a slate roof, and Mrs. Macomber, in the car, had shot at the buffalo with the 6.5 Mannlicher as it seemed about to gore Macomber and had hit her husband about two inches up and a little to one side of the base of his skull.
The fact that Wilson complicates the ending by implying that Margot shot to kill her husband rather than the bull makes the statement that "she shot at the bull" not really unequivocal. The narrator is seemingly reliable but does not provide enough detail for the reader to suppose that this statement that she shot at the bull is unequivocal. Within the context of the entire story, the statement is uncertain; therefore, not unequivocal.
The statement does have to be acknowledged simply for the fact that it is in the story and that it provides one of two scenarios, this being that she shot at the bull, not at Macomber. That being said, a reader would have to "honor" the statement that she shot at the bull because without it, we only have Wilson's viewpoint that she tried to kill Macomber. Without honoring the narrator's statement that she shot at the bull the reader would be much more inclined to believe that she shot to kill Macomber and any notion that she shot at the bull would be less believable.
It is difficult to say that the narrator was unequivocally correct in saying that she shot at the bull because "at" is also vague, especially considering that Macomber could have been in the direction of the bull (from where she was firing) and therefore, she was shooting at the bull but in the direction of Macomber as well. If we don't honor or acknowledge the statement that she shot at the bull, the narrative is not destroyed, but the story does lose its complexity and most or all of the ambiguity of the ending is lost as well. In that sense, if the reader ignores the notion that "she shot at the bull," it is not the narrative that is flawed. If the statement is not honored, it does not reveal a technical flaw/foul of the narrative; it is the reader's fault for ignoring this significant part of the text. Using this "technical foul" analogy, the foul would be on the reader's part. You could likewise argue that any time a reader ignores a part of the text in order to simplify its meaning, that is the reader's right to do so but it is narrow-minded on the reader's part and misses one of this text's most thought-provoking components which is the ambiguity of the ending.
The statement that she shot at the bull is not necessarily "unequivocal" but if it is ignored, it is the flaw of the reader, not of the narrative.
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