The car that Wilson and the Macombers use to hunt is notable because it is forbidden. At once a symbol of innovation, masculinity, and humanity’s—often futile—attempt to dominate the natural world, it appears throughout the narrative, facilitating the two parallel hunts and shuttling characters between the campsite and the hunting ground—that is, between safety and danger. The hunters are not supposed to use cars to track and shoot animals, since this provides them with a definite advantage and as such is unsportsmanlike. The car is itself a space of safety that separates humans from potentially vicious animals. In Wilson’s view, though, cars are “sporting” enough. He believes that chasing buffalo by car is itself dangerous, given the rough African terrain, and thus, a more courageous task. However, he also deems shooting from the car a cowardly act. For Wilson, then, the car represents the risk, thrill, and domination to be found in hunting. He even connects the car to Macomber’s transformation from “boy-man” to “man,” suggesting that cars are a source of male power: “Motor cars made it familiar. Be a damn fire eater now.” Indeed, to the lion who witnesses the car’s approach, it resembles a “super-rhino,” threatening brute force and strength. Yet for Margot, who is confined to the car while her husband and Wilson hunt, the vehicle is a kind of prison, a site of confinement. It is “doorless and box-bodied,” allowing her to witness the safari but preventing her from exiting and engaging in the hunt herself. Her femininity, it seems, excludes her from the space of the hunt, where masculinity reigns. Nonetheless, Margot shoots her husband from the car, directly contradicting Wilson’s imperative and asserting her own dominance—and her participation in the male-centric hunt. Thus, the car represents a crucial struggle between power, risk, and safety, both in terms of the hunt and in terms of gendered relationships between characters.
The Car Quotes in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
The lion still stood looking majestically and coolly toward this object that his eyes only showed in silhouette, bulking like some super-rhino. There was no man smell carried toward him and he watched the object, moving his great head a little from side to side. Then watching the object, not afraid, but hesitating before going down the bank to drink with such a thing opposite him, he saw a man figure detach itself from it and he turned his heavy head and swung away toward the cover of the trees as he heard a cracking crash and felt the slam of a .30-06 220-grain solid bullet that bit his flank and ripped in sudden hot scalding nausea through his stomach.
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.