The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

Three’s a Crowd “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself. ” Known by many, this common phrase has few words, but a intense meaning. In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” the overcoming of fear is shown throughout the story. Francis Macomber and his wife Margaret Macomber are on an African safari with a man name Robert Wilson. Hemingway portrays Francis Macomber as wealthy and beautiful, yet cowardly. Macomber’s wife Margaret also young and beautiful, but seemingly dissatisfied with her husband of eleven years.

Robert Wilson is portrayed as a fearless man that has little regard for anyone but himself. The story is focused around Francis Macomber’s cowardly actions and his attempt to become courageous, which inevitably leads to his death. The story contains different types of conflict and rising actions that lead to the unforeseen climax. In Hemingway’s short story, there are several types of conflict portrayed by the main character Francis Macomber.

The initial conflict is Macomber with himself, suggesting an internal conflict. This is shown as Macomber is disappointed with himself for acting cowardly on his first encounter with a lion.

Macomber says to Wilson, “I can’t thank you for what you did”, and admits that he “bolted like a rabbit. ” His words suggest Macomber was afraid, and needed to be saved by Wilson. The next conflict in the story is Macomber’s conflict with the wild. This is portrayed as Macomber struggles with his fear of wild animals and his attempt to overcome those fears.

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Another conflict is the obvious conflict Macomber has with Robert Wilson. In addition to feeling inadequate against Wilson’s many talents in the wild, there is also the fact Wilson beds Macomber’s wife.

Lastly, there is the conflict Macomber has with his wife. This is portrayed throughout the story but becomes more relevant when Macomber’s wife sleeps with Wilson. Macomber says, “You said if we made this trip there would be none of that, you promise. ” This leads the reader to believe the Macomber’s marriage is less than perfect, and likely an ongoing conflict. In addition to the conflict in the story, there are scenes of rising action. One example of rising action occurs when Wilson and Macomber return to the wild to hunt for a lion once again.

Macomber is able to get a shot off but only able to wound the lion before it runs away. As Wilson and Macomber search for the wounded lion to finish it off, he inevitably runs away frightened for a second time. Hemingway writes Macomber, “was running; running wildly, in panic in the open, running toward the stream. ” As a result of this instance, Macomber’s wife takes a thriving interest in Wilson. Hemingway writes, “Once he had reached over to take his wife’s hand . . . she had removed her hand from his . . . his wife had reached forward and put her hand on Wilson’s shoulder . . . and kissed him on the mouth. Later, Macomber’s wife sleeps with Wilson, which will completely change Macomber’s persona for the rest of the story. Macomber is so overcome with anger, his character quickly changes from cowardly to courageous. Finally, the conflict and the rising action of Hemingway’s story leads to the climax. This occurs when Wilson, Macomber, and his wife take their final journey into the wild. As a result of the sheer anger Macomber has for Wilson and his wife, his fear is drowned by adrenaline. Macomber instantly takes on the characteristics of Wilson as he takes out two buffalo on the journey.

At this point, Wilson respects this new persona of Macomber, while Margaret seems intimidated. With all fear aside, Macomber sets up for his final kill, head on with the third buffalo charging right for him. Just when he feels invincible, his wife Margot pulls a riffle and kills her husband. Margaret pleads she was trying to save her husband’s life from the charging buffalo. However, it is assumed in Hemingway’s story that the young wife, intimidated by her husband’s new found courage, may have been aiming for Macomber all along.

In conclusion, Hemingway’s story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” has different conflicts and scene of rising action which lead to an outstanding climax. The multiple conflicts Macomber has with himself, nature, and man leads to a shown fear of the wild, and his inadequacies. These events lead to the unforeseen climax of the story where the actions of both Macomber and his wife are questioned. Although Macomber’s life was in fact short in years, it was indeed happy as he was able to face his fears and overcome his biggest obstacles.

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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. (2017, Dec 03). Retrieved from

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
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