Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
While on safari in Africa with Robert Wilson, a professional hunter and guide, Francis Macomber shows cowardice in the face of a charging lion. The story opens at noon as Macomber, his wife, and Robert Wilson are having a drink before lunch. The atmosphere is tense, though Wilson and the African porters try to act as if everything were normal. Macomber is very upset because of his earlier behavior, while Margot, his wife, ranges in her reaction from tears to merciless criticism. As Macomber tries to apologize for his failure, Wilson becomes increasingly impatient, not so much because of the events of the morning but because Macomber insists on talking about them. The final insult to Wilson comes when Macomber asks for reassurance that he will not talk about the incident when they return to civilization. Just as he has decided to break any social contact with Macomber for the remainder of the safari, the latter apologizes in such forthright terms for not understanding the custom of not talking about failures that Wilson cannot simply dismiss him. As their conversation ends, Wilson suggests that Macomber might make up his failure with the lion when they hunt buffalo the next morning.
That night, Macomber is haunted by memories of the lion hunt as he relives it in his mind. After having listened to the lion roar and cough all night, Macomber is unnerved the next morning, even before they start out for the hunt. Not knowing, as an old Somali proverb says,...
(The entire section is 1173 words.)
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“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” opens with Francis Macomber, his wife, Margaret (known as Margot), and Robert Wilson preparing for lunch at their camp in Africa. The Macombers are a wealthy and socially prominent American couple in Africa on a safari. Wilson is a professional hunter, paid to guide their adventures. The three begin discussing the morning’s hunt. This topic appears to cause them some discomfort, and soon the source of their discomfort is revealed: while stalking a lion, Francis Macomber panicked and ran. He is embarrassed about it, and Wilson tries to reassure him. Wilson actually has little respect for Macomber, but hides this fact. Margot, however, makes several sarcastic references to the incident.
Later that afternoon Francis and Wilson go hunting again, and Francis shows skill in shooting an impala. He is still ashamed of having shown cowardice when confronting the lion, though. That night he lies on his cot remembering the lion hunt, and the story’s action flashes back to that morning. Francis had been bothered by the lion’s roar the night before, and at breakfast he confesses that he is nervous. The trio set out in their car and stop when they spot a lion. Macomber gets out of the car, still frightened, but he fires three shots, two of which find their mark. The lion bounds away, and Macomber and Wilson follow him, although Macomber is reluctant to kill the beast. Wilson volunteers to take the lead. As they draw...
(The entire section is 665 words.)