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Ernest Hemingway was a “man’s man.” He enjoyed every kind of masculine activity available, even bull fighting. Basing his story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” on his personal experiences, he portrays three characters on an African Safari. The Macombers are a wealthy not particularly happy couple; and Robert Wilson, the professional hunter, takes advantages of every opportunity he finds for pleasure.
Francis botches his first attempt at the great white hunt. He makes a bad shot at a lion who charged at him, which scares him, causing him to run. Wilson has to kill the lion. Everyone knows that the Francis acts cowardly, especially Francis. He admits to Wilson that he was scared; he apologizes which forces Wilson to like him despite his cowardice.
“I’m sorry,” Macomber said and looked at him with his American face…”I’m sorry I didn’t realize that...there are a lot of things that I do not know…I bolted like a rabbit.”
With Francis admitting that he had much to learn and that he was sorry for his actions in the lion hunt, Wilson is back on his side. Francis cannot wait until he can prove himself in the buffalo hunt. In Wilson’s world, men needed to prove themselves and Francis was willing to try again.
After the lion hunt, Wilson doubts Francis’ courage. The day of the buffalo hunt begins Francis’ transformation, which was almost a rite of passage from fledging to adult hunter. When he stands his ground and shoots the buffalo cleanly, Francis seems to have taken care of the business at hand. Unfortunately when the bull charges, Francis does not make a good shot at the buffalo’s head. He shoots the horns fragmenting them. Again, Wilson has to make the final kill shot.
Wilson assumes that Macomber will have some understanding of the African customs and standards. When Macomber is brought in on the shoulders of some of the men, he does not notice that the gun bearers take no part in the celebration. The gun bearers know that Francis did not show courage in the lion hunt. He ran from the charging lion. The men have no respect for him.
Later, Wilson explains about the punishing of the men. The choices in punishment are pay fines or beatings; Macomber does not understand why the men would object to losing their money rather than take the beating. Macomber is wealthy, and Wilson realizes that he has no understanding of the need for money.
The entire experience has not been pleasant for Francis Macomber. His wife does not stop with her sarcastic remarks. When he runs in the lion hunt, he is unable to shake the memory and the looks of the gun bearers. Wilson and his wife commit adultery, and his wife flaunts it in his face. Yet, none of these things deter Francis from wanting to redeem himself in the buffalo hunt. He stands his ground when the buffalo charges him…the only thing that stops him is the bullet fired in his skull by his wife.
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