The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

by

Ernest Hemingway

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The Car Symbol Icon

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 The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Car. 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

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.

Related Characters: Francis Macomber
Related Symbols: The Lion, The Car
Page Number: 13
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:
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The Car Symbol Timeline in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Car 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
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 the river. Macomber’s hand trembles as he opens his rifle and sees... (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... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Wilson stops the car and spots the buffalo, moving at a gallop across the prairie in the distance. As... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...Wilson kills. Wilson tells Macomber that he’s shooting well, and they get back onto the car and start moving toward the last bull. Both of them shoot at it, and though... (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... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Heading back to the car, Macomber feels a happiness he had never known before. He says he thinks he will... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Macomber, Wilson, and a gun-bearer get out of the car. The gun-bearer says to Wilson in Swahili that the buffalo is dead in an island... (full context)