While ‘‘The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber’’ has long been acclaimed as one of Hemingway’s most successful artistic achievements, criticism about the actual shooting of Macomber has focused primarily on whether or not it was an accident, and the implications of this for the understanding of the story and characters, especially Wilson and Mrs. Macomber. Emphasis on this question has diverted attention from the technical merits of the sequence of events Hemingway devised for Macomber’s death. This sequence not only exhibits the vivid realism, sensory evocation and viewpoint manipulation characteristic of the rest of the story, but also depends heavily for its success on Hemingway’s practicing his credo of ‘‘writing what I know about,’’ in this case big game hunting and shooting.
As they begin the final tracking of the wounded buffalo, Wilson asks Macomber, ‘‘Have you any solids left?’’ After the gunbearer produces the cartridges, Wilson gives instructions concerning the disposal of the various rifles within the party and then advises Macomber what to expect:
‘‘When a buff comes he comes with his head high and thrust straight out. The boss of the horns covers any sort of brain shot. The only shot is straight into the nose. The only other shot is into his chest or, if you’re to one side, into the neck or shoulders. After they’ve been hit once they take a lot of killing. Don’t try...
(The entire section is 1836 words.)
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