What makes Macomber's life short but happy?  

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The short answer to what makes Macomber's life short but happy is: Well, it wasn't. It was short because he died young but it was not happy. Hemingway is employing verbal irony in a story with situational irony to underscore his view of the story The Short but Happy Life of Frances Macomber, which was derived from an actual incident that occurred in Kenya. Hemingway is also employing a formerly common cliche used when a person suffered the misfortune of dying young: "Well, s/he had a short but happy life."

The verbal irony in the title is revealed when you get to the conclusion of the story and ask, as you have done, "Why short but happy?" Frances Macomber had a stable marriage because Margo was so beautiful that he would never bear to divorce her and because Frances was so rich that she would never bear to leave all his money. In this ironically trite and greedy stability, Margot took liberties with fidelity and freely practiced infidelity, which she once again enjoyed with the...

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