The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

by

Ernest Hemingway

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Margot Macomber Character Analysis

Margot Macomber is Francis Macomber’s “extremely handsome and well-kept” wife, a socialite and former model (she once commanded five thousand dollars” to endorse “a beauty product which she had never used)” who clearly understands her power over men. Though she has been married to Francis Macomber for eleven years, she flirts persistently and eventually sleeps with Robert Wilson, and it is suggested that she has had affairs with other men as well. She and Francis seem to have an unspoken agreement: Margot can have affairs, but she will never leave her husband, since she is “not a great enough beauty any more” to do better. Margot grows increasingly nervous throughout the story as her husband gains confidence in himself as a man and a hunter, and, subsequently, begins to treat her more coldly; and as Wilson, who regards her scornfully in his inner monologues as a woman “enameled in that American female cruelty,” turns his attention toward the “reborn,” newly courageous Macomber. Critics have pointed to Margot as an archetypal “female predator,” a dangerous, promiscuous woman who defies standards of passive femininity by boldly asserting her own sexuality and pursuing wealth instead of love. Yet the ambiguous ending of the short story unsettles this portrait of Margot. Though Wilson is convinced that she has murdered Macomber by shooting at him from the car from which she witnesses the hunt, it is also possible that she intended to shoot the buffalo he and Wilson had been hunting. Margot’s potential motivations are numerous. She may have wished to dominate Macomber, threatened by his transformation to “man of action”—but she also may have wished to defend him from the advancing buffalo, either out of respect for his newfound masculine courage or to protect the wealth he provides her. In the end, however, Margot is rendered pathetic, and her fate without Macomber, who sustains her lifestyle and well-being, seems dismal. The reader is reminded that for all her charm and “female cruelty,” Margot’s role in society is ultimately limited, and she is thus more fallible than dangerous.

Margot Macomber Quotes in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

The The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber quotes below are all either spoken by Margot Macomber or refer to Margot Macomber . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber published in 1987.
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber Quotes

One, Wilson, the white hunter, she knew she had never truly seen before. He was about middle height with sandy hair, a stubby mustache, a very red face and extremely cold blue eyes with faint white wrinkles at the comers that grooved merrily when he smiled. He smiled at her now and she looked away from his face at the way his shoulders sloped in the loose tunic he wore with the four big cartridges held in loops where the left breast pocket should have been, at his big brown hands, his old slacks, his very dirty boots and back to his red face again.

Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

They are, he thought, the hardest in the world; the hardest, the cruelest, the most predatory and the most attractive and their men have softened or gone to pieces nervously as they have hardened. Or is it that they pick men they can handle? They can't know that much at the age they marry, he thought. He was grateful that he had gone through his education on American women before now because this was a very attractive one.

Related Characters: Margot Macomber , Robert Wilson
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

All in all they were known as a comparatively happily married couple, one of those whose disruption is often rumored but never occurs, and as the society columnist put it, they were adding more than a spice of adventure to their much envied and ever-enduring Romance by a Safari in what was known as Darkest Africa until the Martin Johnsons lighted it on so many silver screens where they were pursuing Old Simba the lion, the buffalo, Tembo the elephant and as well collecting specimens for the Museum of Natural History.

Related Characters: Francis Macomber , Margot Macomber
Related Symbols: The Lion
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

"If you make a scene I'll leave you, darling," Margot said quietly.

"No, you won't."

"You can try it and see."

"You won't leave me."

"No," she said. "I won't leave you and you'll behave yourself."

"Behave myself? That's a way to talk. Behave myself."

"Yes. Behave yourself."

"Why don't you try behaving?"

"I've tried it so long. So very long."

Related Characters: Francis Macomber (speaker), Margot Macomber (speaker), Robert Wilson
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

He, Robert Wilson, carried a double size cot on safari to accommodate any windfalls he might receive. He had hunted for a certain clientele, the international, fast, sporting set, where the women did not feel they were getting their money's worth unless they had shared that cot with the white hunter. He despised them when he was away from them although he liked some of them well enough at the time, but he made his living by them; and their standards were his standards as long as they were hiring him.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Their figures stay boyish when they're fifty. The great American boy-men. Damned strange people. But he liked this Macomber now. Damned strange fellow, probably meant the end of cuckoldry too. Well, that would be a damned good thing. Damned good thing. Beggar had probably been afraid all his life. Don't know what started it. But over now. Hadn't had time to be afraid with the buff.

Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Wilson had ducked to one side to get in a shoulder shot. Macomber had stood solid and shot for the nose, shooting a touch high each time and hitting the heavy horns, splintering and chipping them like hitting a slate roof, and Mrs. Macomber, in the car, had shot at the buffalo with the 6.5 Mannlicher as it seemed about to gore Macomber and had hit her husband about two inches up and a little to one side of the base of his skull.

Related Symbols: The Car
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber PDF

Margot Macomber Character Timeline in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

The timeline below shows where the character Margot Macomber appears in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
Race, Violence, and Empire Theme Icon
At lunch in a dining tent, Francis Macomber, Robert Wilson, and Macomber’s wife, Margot, are pretending that nothing has happened. They decide to have gimlets, which they order from... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...they congratulate him. He shakes their hands, then sits on the bed in his tent. Margot enters the tent but does not speak to her husband, and Macomber abruptly leaves the... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
Back in the present, Wilson tells Macomber that he’s got a damned fine lion. Margot looks at Wilson. She is beautiful and well-kept, and five years before had been a... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Macomber agrees with Wilson; the lion was good. Margot looks at both of the men as if she has never seen them before, though... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Wilson toasts to the lion, then smiles at Margot again. She does not smile back, however, and looks at her husband. Thirty-five-year-old Macomber, who... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
After Margot’s comment, Wilson looks at her, not smiling. She smiles back at him, however, saying that... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Margot returns from her tent, and Wilson looks at her perfect oval face, musing that it... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...world. He is glad to have known and been educated about American women before meeting Margot, because the latter is very attractive. Margot says that she wouldn’t miss the buffalo hunt... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
In the dining tent, Margot mocks Macomber and says that she wants to see Wilson perform again, since he was... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Wilson reminds them of the lion, which Margot says she has forgotten about. Wilson wonders how a woman should act when she discovers... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Later in the afternoon, Wilson and Macomber go off alone to hunt some impala, leaving Margot behind. Wilson compliments Macomber’s shooting and says that he will have no trouble with the... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...Macomber awakens to the roar and finds himself in a state of total panic. With Margot beside him asleep, there is no one to see that he is afraid, nor to... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Margot enters to have breakfast, and the lion roars again. Margot asks Macomber if something’s wrong,... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
Wilson gathers Margot and Macomber for the hunt, and they climb into their motor car and move up... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
...again, and sees the lion head into the grass. He feels sick and finds Wilson, Margot, and the gun-bearers, who look very grave. Macomber, Wilson, and the assistants head out to... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...how fearful Macomber was earlier, and because he wishes he had sent Macomber back to Margot. Macomber takes his big rifle from Wilson, who orders him to stay five yards behind... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Later, when Wilson and Macomber return to the car, Margot does not look at her husband as he sits beside her in the back seat.... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Nor does Macomber know how Margot feels about him now—but he does know that she is through with him. Margot has... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...suddenly, realizing that he has been dreaming about a bloody-headed lion. He also realizes that Margot is not next to him in their tent, and he sees her crawl back into... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...morning at breakfast, Macomber regards Wilson with hatred. Wilson realizes that Macomber must have seen Margot sneak back into his tent at night, and that he knows they have slept together,... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Macomber, Margot, and Wilson bicker about having Margot stay in the camp while they hunt buffalo. Margot... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Next, Macomber, Margot, and Wilson head off on the hunt together. Macomber and Margot are not speaking, and... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...at all anymore—but he pities Macomber and resolves to have nothing more to do with Margot. He uses a double size cot on safari in case any of his clients’ wives... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
When they return to the car for a drink, Margot is sitting there white-faced. She says Macomber is marvelous, and all of them drink whiskey... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...that the first bull was only wounded: he got up and went into a bush. Margot says that it’s going to be like the lion again, but Wilson disagrees. Wilson, Macomber,... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...thinks he will never be afraid of anything again, and that he feels absolutely different. Margot, though, says she hated the chase. She looks at her husband strangely. Macomber says he... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...to happen, and Wilson tells him that it doesn’t do to talk much about that. Margot says that the two of them are “talking rot,” and mocks Macomber contemptuously, saying that... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
...shooting the bull, Wilson has ducked to the side to get a shoulder shot, and Margot, from the car, shoots toward the group—hitting her husband “two inches up and a little... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Margot is crying hysterically over Macomber’s body, and Wilson tells her not to turn her husband... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Wilson returns to Margot and admonishes her. He says that he knows it was an accident, but that he... (full context)