The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

“Mr. Wilson is really very impressive killing anything,” an essay on “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by David Gagne.

Hemingway with catMr. Wilson doesn’t really kill just anything. Mrs. Macomber does. She kills Francis, that’s for sure. Mr. Wilson helps her to kill her marriage just as he helps Francis kill animals. There is quite a bit of killing in this story, actually. The only birth is Francis’, which is a shame because it comes so soon before his death. The title of the story, in my opinion, is a comment by Hemingway about how Francis is not really alive until he becomes a man.

Mr. Wilson is really very impressive killing anything.

These two sentences are indicative of Mr. Macomber’s connecting murder and the act of killing with the concept of manhood or manliness. Her coquettish way of teasing Francis, by acting as if Mr. Wilson is the end-all of machismo, is nauseating. But Hemingway uses it to throw her humanity into question in the mind of the reader, which confuses the intentionality of her husband’s eventual murder even more. This one of her statements is another possible clue that Mrs. Macomber isn’t afraid to kill a person, in fact she desires to kill anything. It can also be seen as her imploring Mr. Wilson to rid her of her pasky husband, but I don’t think she would seriously ask him. When she asks him if he’ll kill anything, it is a rhetorical question to irk Francis. She knows that he, unlike her husband at this point in the story, is a “real” man.

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

This post is part of The Hemingway Collection, an archive of essays, images, and hyperlinks to interesting articles about the great American author.

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There are 10 comments on this post

  1. Of course this story is about Mrs. Macomber killing her husband, Francis. The first entry is right on…Francis, finally as a man, is killed by his wife, a women undoubtedly of severe questionable moral character. I would ask that you think of other women in Hemingway’s stories…who else is so tortuous as she? “Before you write something so stupid, actually read the story” and propose a different interpretation.

  2. I suppose that this story is about manhood. Danger creates man and death tests manhood. Hemingway seems to be haunted by the threat of death. In order to overcome his fear of death, he chooses to confront it. Happiness lies in the brief sapn when he (and many of his heroes) is in direct and close confrontation with danger or impending death.

  3. This story is only vaguely about manhood, in that Francis maintains his obligation (real men care for their mates and offspring) to his wife even though she is the most unpleasant of shrews. The story is about happiness. Francis is only happy for a brief period of his married life, just before he is killed. The story is about how Francis goes through life doing what’s expected of him and receives no satisfaction because of the oppressing elements in his life – symbolized by Margaret. Wilson symbolizes the potential for happiness if freed from the drudgery of every day life. Francis would be much happier in life doing something adventurous (full-time, not just on ‘holiday’) rather than paying the mortgage and maintaining fidelity to Margaret. There’s an saying that single men are more likely to die young than married men, but married men are more willing to die. This story is an illustration that sentiment.


  5. sorry dave your summary has nothin to do with the story lol

  6. It is very obvious that she kills him because he has finally lost “fear”. FEAR of losing her. FEAR of his inadaqucies FEAR of life/death She has survived completely based upon HIS FEARS and he lost it very suddenly. Without his fear, she has no life, no money – he would actually let her go past her prime. She killed him (accidentally on purpose) because she would ‘lost HER life’ without his FEAR. Obciously. Please excuse misspellings.

  7. “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” can be viewed as many things and I personally feel that several of the comments that have been posted are correct. These stories, much in the way as all of Hemingway’s stories, can be interpreted to mean many things that relate to his life as well as situations that had meaning to Hemingway. As already stated the story is about fear, love, death, becoming a man, being born again, and many other topics that each person picks up through his or her own reading and imagination. I personally viewed it to be a story of self expression on how Hemingway might have felt if he was a woman that was treated how he treated the women he came in contact with throughout his life. Hemingway was always a type of ladies man freely flirting and mingling with the ladies and thought several of his stories he brings up different situations he experienced thought his life. Perhaps some things he has done he regretted much in the same as everyone regrets something that they have did at one point or another. With this in mind the coming of manhood for Francis Macomber may be the time that Hemingway realized the mistakes he made and what he would do with his new attitude to change them. The changes however would never come because Francis was killed in the story and no one can change the past in the present. Whether or not this is exactly what Hemingway was thinking while he wrote the story no one can be sure. Perhaps the story was just written for entertainment purposes only and eager literary people have just stressed themselves over many years trying to read something into the passages to fit what they want to believe in any given situation, but then again there is always the chance that Hemingway just wrote it to make people think for themselves for a change and not look to what everyone else thinks something means. ***NOTE*** I do not really believe that Hemingway viewed himself as a women to write this story. I just used that as an example to let the reader know that it is good to think for on your own for a change and to develop your own opinion on situations regardless if they are right or wrong. This I believe was Hemingway’s true meaning in writing…. To Encourage His Reader To Think Independently From Everyone Else, but then again isn’t that what all great writers do and want in the end.

  8. avatar
    Super Fun Time :)

    i appreciate love for mother nature for throughout this delicious article of words. my apologies go out to who has fun time with crazy crazy. please notify you will spend a car ride when reading out loud. my friend. but do not slowly read my face; it wonderful for those edible brain cellulars you contain. “MACOMBER FRANCIS OF LIFE HAPPY SHORT THE”- take special eye care to title in reverse: the macomber(S) put feet of short story to ground, proceeding this francis’ weak self is established-margot gives him downer- of life- life is prompted to be too much for mr francis- weak persons he is. happy-francis acquires happiness- short- life is short by francis’ killinged- the- um…end//// therefore, hemingway has exemplified his meanings by titles he gave book of this is by title inverted back words. goodnight.

  9. The previous comment is perhaps the greatest follow-up of all time. Period. Hemingway would be proud.

  10. Its a nice story about men’s weakness toward women

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