The lion, a symbol of courage and masculine prowess, is the first animal Francis Macomber encounters on his safari, and it is the animal that most terrifies him. Its roar, a powerful, unnerving, “deep-chested moaning,” shocks Macomber awake while he lies in his tent at night early on in the expedition. Macomber is a stereotypically weak, emasculated man; he is a cuckold, constantly undermined by his unfaithful wife and constrained by his upbringing to mannered meekness. The lion, then, throws Macomber’s inadequacy into stark relief. It is the animal’s disturbing roar that plunges Macomber into a state of paralyzing fear, which ultimately prevents him from killing the lion and leads to his embarrassment in front of his scornful wife, Margot, and the white hunter Robert Wilson. Wilson both seduces Margot and demonstrates temerity and aggressiveness while hunting the lion—becoming a paragon of staunch masculinity in the story, the “alpha male” and Macomber’s foil. Additionally, Hemingway specifically genders the lion, referring to it as a “he,” and describes in painstaking detail his muscular build and resistance to the hunters. Yet even as the lion makes Macomber’s cowardice all the more apparent, the animal also prompts Macomber to undergo a transformation. Humiliated by his own actions—contrasted with the lion’s boldness, bodily strength, and its majesty even in death—Macomber seeks out another opportunity to hunt, determined to prove himself a true man of courage. However, his attempts to refashion himself into a figure like Wilson, or the lion, lead to his death. Ultimately, as a symbol the lion helps readers to understand the tensions and contradictions that characterize masculinity. His fatal wounding, in spite of his courage, mirrors Macomber’s own, suggesting that power and bravery—though deemed fundamental to masculine character—can be futile.
The Lion Quotes in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
But that night after dinner and a whisky and soda by the fire before going to bed, as Francis Macomber lay on his cot with the mosquito bar over him and listened to the night noises it was not all over. It was neither all over nor was it beginning. It was there exactly as it happened with some parts of it indelibly emphasized and he was miserably ashamed at it. But more than shame he felt cold, hollow fear in him. The fear was still there like a cold slimy hollow in all the emptiness where once his confidence had been and it made him feel sick. It was still there with him now.
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.
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.