What exactly are the terms of Wilson's narrow outlook in "The Short Happy LIfe of Francis Macomber" by Ernest Hemingway??

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” Robert Wilson---the English, professional, hunting guide---always gets his prey.  Hemingway uses Wilson to represent the kind of man that he most admired: a manly man.  Wilson represents the man who does not let emotion get in his way and always gets what he wants.  In this story, it is the prey whether human or animal.

Wilson has a strict code of behavior for his safaris, the amateur hunters, and his own personal conduct.  He does not adhere to the laws of society.  The reader discovers that the author admired Wilson, an outsider, who defies conventional morality. 

How does Wilson defy the so-called rules of society?

  • He illegally lashes the natives understanding that the natives would rather have the beating than lose their money.
  • He brings a double-wide cot in case he is able to bed some woman.  In this case, the wife of Macomber.

He, Robert Wilson, carried a double-wide cot on safari to accommodate any windfalls he might receive…They [the clients] were his standards except in the shooting.  He had his own standards about the killing and they could live up to them or get some one else to hunt them.  He knew, too, that they all respected him for this.

  • He believes in survival of the fittest. 
  • He breaks the law by allowing the client to shoot from a moving vehicle.
  • He is willing to cover up the murder of Macomber in order to keep the investigation minimal to prevent him from losing his hunting code violations.

Wilson has courage and always faces the violence necessary for the kill.  He served in World War II as a machine gunner. From his standpoint, he knows what it takes to be a man.  He expects little from people and basically despises them.   His main priorities are free whiskey, the occasional sex with a client’s wife, and his expensive fee.  It is important to him to remain detached from his clients which allows him to make important observations of their behavior.

His one flaw is his inability to see psychological state of mind of the people for which he works.  When the supposed accident occurs and Macomber dies, Wilson is able to surmise that the wife killed her husband on person.  Because of her knowing his illegalities, the wife holds Wilson's vocation in her hands.  Wilson will help her cover up the murder of her husband.

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