The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber


Ernest Hemingway

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Themes and Colors
Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage Theme Icon
Race, Violence, and Empire Theme Icon
Guilt and Morality Theme Icon
Men and Nature Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Masculinity, Dominance, and Courage

A hotly-pursued African lion in “The Short Life of Francis Macomber,” one of Hemingway’s most famous and controversial works, roars “in a deep-chested moaning, suddenly guttural,” unsettling his would-be hunter, Francis Macomber. Macomber’s subsequent, panicked flight from the animal causes his hunting party—which includes his bitter wife Margot and leader Robert Wilson—to deem him a coward. Only upon later successfully standing his ground against a charging buffalo is Macomber able to reassert his…

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Race, Violence, and Empire

Written in 1936, a time when much of the African continent remained under European colonial rule, the specters of capitalism and empire move quietly through “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” The native Africans assisting the safari excursions remain nameless, personality-less characters, subject to orders and punishments from white game hunters. Though only briefly mentioned—for the narrative focuses mainly on the love triangle implicating its three white main characters—the maltreatment of the Swahili guides

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Guilt and Morality

Different sorts of moral codes conflict and create tension in “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” specifically visible in the character of Wilson. Though Wilson emphasizes the importance of limiting the hunted animals’ suffering, this firm esteem for the natural world counters his own lack of respect for other human beings within the world of the hunt—and for the social and legal regulations that organize human life. Wilson’s ambiguous and often outright contradictory…

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Men and Nature

Equipped with potent technology—guns, cars, and the like—the hunters in this story are capable of exercising control over nature. Yet Wilson, Francis Macomber, and the Swahili guides regard the natural world with awe and veneration. They seem to recognize that despite their own forceful, dangerous weapons, the beasts they target are similarly powerful and dangerous, and thus are worthy of respect. Furthermore, since Hemingway highlights the perspectives of both the male hunters…

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