The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

by

Ernest Hemingway

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The Lion Symbol Analysis

The Lion Symbol Icon

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

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

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.

Related Symbols: The Lion
Page Number: 10-11
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

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:
Get the entire The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber PDF

The Lion Symbol Timeline in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Lion 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
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... (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... (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... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Race, Violence, and Empire Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...every day, anyway, and immediately feels embarrassed. Macomber agrees, and then apologizes again for the lion business. (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 Macomber if he is suggesting... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...respond to Macomber’s apology and tells him that in Africa, “no woman ever misses her lion and no white man ever bolts.” Macomber says that he bolted like a rabbit, and... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...are doing, and says she has dropped the whole thing, since Francis’s trade isn’t killing lions. Rather, Mr. Wilson’s is, and he’s impressive at it. (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... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...pleasant to have had his wife see him do something like that (referring to the lion business), Wilson says that Macomber shouldn’t think about that any more. (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...and makes him feel sick, as he remembers the night before when he heard the lion roar for the first time. In a flashback to that night, Macomber awakens to the... (full context)
Men and Nature Theme Icon
The morning after, the lion roars again during breakfast, and Macomber frets that the animal is close to their camp.... (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, and Macomber admits that it’s the “damned... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
...with excitement. Wilson points out that vultures are circling in the distance, indicating that the lion has just left beyond his prey, and that it should be appearing soon. The group... (full context)
Men and Nature Theme Icon
The lion, looking majestic, watches an object approaching but is not afraid. He sees a “man figure”... (full context)
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
At the same time that the lion is watching him approach, Macomber is walking toward the beast. Macomber’s hands are shaking, and... (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 that Wilson is furious with himself because he failed to notice... (full context)
Men and Nature Theme Icon
The lion is thirty-five yards ahead of them into the grass. He is sick because of the... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Wilson, Macomber, and the gun-bearers enter the grass, listening closely, rifles cocked. Macomber hears the lion’s grunt, sees its body swishing in the grass, and begins to run wildly toward the... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...him “the beautiful red-faced Robert Wilson” and looks away across the stream to where the lion lies, the guides skinning his body. The guides bring the lion carcass into the car,... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
Macomber does not know what the lion felt as it started heading toward them, nor what kept him coming despite the bullets... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Later that night after the lion hunt, Macomber wakes up suddenly, realizing that he has been dreaming about a bloody-headed lion.... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
...up and went into a bush. Margot says that it’s going to be like the lion again, but Wilson disagrees. Wilson, Macomber, and Margot go look at the second buffalo, dead... (full context)
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
...the chase. 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... (full context)