The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

by

Ernest Hemingway

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A British hunter hired by Francis Macomber to facilitate the safari, Robert Wilson is often described as Hemingway’s alter-ego in the story, or at least an alter-ego for Hemingway’s own image of himself. Hemingway, himself a hunter and explorer, was a strong proponent of virile masculinity, and he frequently held himself to high standards for traditional masculine conduct that Wilson reflects. Throughout the story, he appears stoic and emotionless in the face of potential danger and violence (perhaps because he is a World War I veteran and has experienced worse). Moreover, he indulges hedonistically in sex with his clients’ wives (including Margot), all the while remaining detached from the affairs, which he justifies as mere financial gains. Yet Wilson’s breezy conduct has consequences. His moral judgment seems innately flawed, since he is willing to ruin other individuals’ relationships for his own benefit. Additionally, his commentary on Macomber and his wife reflect a severely limited, reductive understanding of gender: to Wilson, Macomber’s weakness and Margot’s cruelty are traits connected directly to masculinity and femininity. Perhaps most importantly, at the end of the story, Macomber suggests to Margot that he will help conceal Macomber’s death—which he believes to be a murder. Thus, Wilson’s masculine heroism conflicts constantly with his deeply imperfect view of the world, morality, and other individuals.

Robert Wilson Quotes in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

The The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber quotes below are all either spoken by Robert Wilson or refer to Robert Wilson . 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:

"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

Robert Wilson Character Timeline in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

The timeline below shows where the character Robert Wilson 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,... (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... (full context)
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Macomber agrees with Wilson; the lion was good. Margot looks at both of the men as if she has... (full context)
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Wilson toasts to the lion, then smiles at Margot again. She does not smile back, however,... (full context)
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After Margot’s comment, Wilson looks at her, not smiling. She smiles back at him, however, saying that it has... (full context)
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After asserting that upset women are a strain that amounts to nothing, Wilson tells Macomber to forget the whole thing, though Macomber insists again that he won’t forgot... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Race, Violence, and Empire Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
While the two men sit in silence, Wilson realizes that all the servant boys know about “it” now. Speaking Swahili, he snaps at... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Macomber says to Wilson that he hopes the lion business won’t have to go any further, and Wilson asks... (full context)
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Still embarrassed, Macomber apologizes again, and Wilson looks at Macomber’s seemingly adolescent face. Wilson tries one more time to respond to Macomber’s... (full context)
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Margot returns from her tent, and Wilson looks at her perfect oval face, musing that it is so perfect, you might expect... (full context)
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Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Wilson believes American women are the hardest, cruelest, most predatory, and most attractive women in the... (full context)
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In the dining tent, Margot mocks Macomber and says that she wants to see Wilson perform again, since he was lovely in the morning “blowing things’ heads off.” Macomber offers... (full context)
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Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Wilson reminds them of the lion, which Margot says she has forgotten about. Wilson wonders how... (full context)
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Later in the afternoon, Wilson and Macomber go off alone to hunt some impala, leaving Margot behind. Wilson compliments Macomber’s... (full context)
Men and Nature Theme Icon
...roars again during breakfast, and Macomber frets that the animal is close to their camp. Wilson says that he hopes it’s a shootable cat, and instructs Macomber to hit it in... (full context)
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Men and Nature Theme Icon
Wilson gathers Margot and Macomber for the hunt, and they climb into their motor car and... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
...fires 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... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Macomber and Wilson sit under a tree smoking and prepare to find the lion. Macomber does not know... (full context)
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Wilson, Macomber, and the gun-bearers enter the grass, listening closely, rifles cocked. Macomber hears the lion’s... (full context)
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Later, when Wilson and Macomber return to the car, Margot does not look at her husband as he... (full context)
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Men and Nature Theme Icon
...started heading toward them, nor what kept him coming despite the bullets in his body. Wilson seems to understand something about it, though, which he expresses by saying, “Damned fine lion.” (full context)
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The next morning at breakfast, Macomber regards Wilson with hatred. Wilson realizes that Macomber must have seen Margot sneak back into his tent... (full context)
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Macomber, Margot, and Wilson bicker about having Margot stay in the camp while they hunt buffalo. Margot threatens to... (full context)
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Next, Macomber, Margot, and Wilson head off on the hunt together. Macomber and Margot are not speaking, and Wilson reflects... (full context)
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Wilson does not want to hunt buffalo with Macomber—or to hunt with him at all anymore—but... (full context)
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Wilson stops the car and spots the buffalo, moving at a gallop across the prairie in... (full context)
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Moving quickly, Macomber hits one bull and misses another, which Wilson kills. Wilson tells Macomber that he’s shooting well, and they get back onto the car... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...from a flask. Margot says she didn’t know you could chase buffalo from cars, and Wilson explains that while you wouldn’t ordinarily do so (and that it is illegal), it seemed... (full context)
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A gun-bearer approaches and informs Macomber and Wilson that the first bull was only wounded: he got up and went into a bush.... (full context)
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Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...She looks at her husband strangely. Macomber says he wants to try another lion, and Wilson reflects that American men stay little boys for a long time—but that he likes Macomber... (full context)
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Macomber asks if Wilson has a feeling of happiness about what’s going to happen, and Wilson tells him that... (full context)
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Finally, Macomber and Wilson plan to shoot the final buffalo. Wilson tells Macomber that when the buffalo comes, he... (full context)
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Macomber, Wilson, and a gun-bearer get out of the car. The gun-bearer says to Wilson in Swahili... (full context)
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At the same time that Macomber is shooting the bull, Wilson has ducked to the side to get a shoulder shot, and Margot, from the car,... (full context)
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Margot is crying hysterically over Macomber’s body, and Wilson tells her not to turn her husband over. He puts a handkerchief over Macomber’s head.... (full context)
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Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Wilson returns to Margot and admonishes her. He says that he knows it was an accident,... (full context)