Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” includes several of Ernest Hemingway’s important themes and introduces characters typical of his work. This is a story of a man’s coming of age, but it also presents something of Hemingway’s attitude toward “the code” for which he is famous, his views on women, and the value he placed on the life of action. Each of the main characters can illustrate one of these themes.

Robert Wilson, the white hunter, is an archetypal Hemingway hero. He lives a life of action—a manly life—that is governed by a code that he never states, but which is his standard for judging his own as well as others’ behavior. Sportsmanship, courage, and “grace under pressure” are the hallmarks of Wilson’s behavior. His professionalism is more than simply an attitude; it is a philosophy that governs his life. To him, it is morally unthinkable that he might leave a dangerously wounded animal in the bush, talk about his clients behind their backs, or otherwise violate the unspoken contracts of his trade. His philosophy, however, is expressed in action, not words, and he is suspicious of those who, like Macomber, ruin an experience by too much talk. He respects men who, like himself, can face danger courageously, certain that death is less to be feared than a coward’s life.

Francis Macomber is described as one of “the great American boy-men,” the sort of men who are likely to remain immature throughout...

(The entire section is 508 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” explores a number of important themes. Francis Macomber and his wife are on a hunting...

(The entire section is 727 words.)