The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
The short happy life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway is a written manifestation of
Hemingway's own life philosophy, which says that as a true man one should face the difficulties of
life with grace and steadfastness. For good reason he believes that nothing in life comes for free and
that first one has to endure in order to achieve. In the quest for the code failure has gruesome consequences. The man will live in anxiety without being able to prove himself and this narrowing of his manhood is bound to have some serious effect on his self-esteem. "It isn't done," says Wilson "why not?" Asks Macomber. These words sounds like a tutor to his apprentice. The words are a part of the learning process and they are normally a result of one persons wondering.
They are also the words, which best describe the interaction between Robert Wilson and Francis
Macomber and which describe one of the essential themes of the story.
Like a master of etiquette and self-righteous behavior Hemingway tells us what is done and what isn't done, as he pulls us through his catching story of the acquiring and obtaining of the true code of a man. A code that Hemingway himself followed and which may seem old-fashioned, male chauvinistic and pointless now a day, but which has a profound resemblance to the knightly virtues that were maintained during the Middle Ages. In The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber we meet Francis Macomber who is our protagonist
and the rich American boy-man who has to pass a rite of initiation (in this case killing an animal) in order to become a man. His wife, the unscrupulous, cynical Margot, has brought him on yet another safari in a hopeless attempt to make a man out of poor Francis. Along with them they have the stoic hunter Robert Wilson, who is the wise code hero and the tutor of Francis. Francis´ and Margot's marriage has been deadlocked for a long time and they are slowly wearing each other out. Their marriage is described more thoroughly below. The tutor/apprentice relationship between Wilson and Francis is cemented already at the beginning of the story. To start with Wilson is shocked by Francis´ lack of honor, "I bolted like a rabbit Macomber said. Now what the hell were you going to do with a man who talks like that?" Wilson can't quite believe that Francis degrades himself by saying something like that; because a real man doesn't talk about his failures. A real man doesn't talk much at all. It isn't done. Later on as the story progresses and Francis shoots the buffalos, thereby achieving his manhood, we see that now he and Wilson can talk like real men and equals. In this story Hemingway chooses to leave the ever-questionable difference between courage and stupidity open, because in order to be a true man one has to be courageous, but where's the line between doing something courageous and doing something stupid? Francis Macomber acquires his manhood and...