Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is widely regarded as one of Hemingway’s finest pieces of short fiction. Not only has it been admired for its artistry, but it has also been praised for the insights it gives into the mind of its author. For instance, Kathleen Morgan and Luis A. Losada write in “Tracking the Wounded Buffalo: Authorial Knowledge and the Shooting of Francis Macomber” in The Hemingway Review that the story contains evidence of Hemingway’s hunting acumen. They point to his use of hunting jargon and his understanding of the logistics of a charging buffalo to theorize that the narrative’s ambiguities stem from a highly realistic and ballistically accurate situation. Critics more concerned with the literary aspects of the story often choose to focus on the characters of Wilson and Margot rather than Macomber. Margot, particularly, has been branded a murderer by many critics. Edmund Wilson, for example, in his 1941 essay, “Hemingway: Gauge of Morale,” writes that Macomber “saves his soul at the last minute, and then is actually shot down by his woman, who does not want him to have a soul.” However, Nina Baym, in her essay “Actually, I Felt Sorry For the Lion,” argues that readers should shift the blame for the story’s tragic events from Margot to Wilson. Baym does not think that Margot meant to kill her husband, stating instead that “Wilson killed them all. . . . [he] has hunted on behalf of his clients, and he has also hunted them, that is, they have been his prey.” In Baym’s opinion, Wilson feeds on men’s...

(The entire section is 642 words.)