"The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber" by Ernest Hemingway is a short story overflowing with indirect references to Ernest Hemingway and his life. Through this story, Hemingway's views regarding marriage, women, and even men are made apparent. The story takes place in Africa during a safari Francis Macomber and his wife, Margaret are on. Robert Wilson is their guide, and the person that unwittingly changes the life of Francis Macomber. Francis's marriage is not one of love, but one of convenience. Margaret has cheated on him before, and proceeds to sleep with Wilson.
Up to that point, Francis is playing the role of the meek and mild husband, but all that changes when he channels his anger and shoots a buffalo. This is the turning point for him and the first time he feels confident in his abilities on this safari. The story begins with a man who ran from his first lion, screaming, and ends with a man who is brave and ready to go for the kill. Margaret, sensing this newfound bravery, "accidently" shoots and kills him. The personalities of each of the characters parallel different aspects of Hemingway's life and illustrate his views. Ernest Hemingway was married four times during his life.
By the time this story was written, he was on wife number two. It has been written that he was bitter towards his mother, who was rather overbearing. This attitude toward his mother carried over into all his relationships with women. He does not view women as wholesome, loving beings, but rather as "the most predatory and the most attractive" and they [women] break their men so that they "have softened or gone to pieces nervously as they have hardened" (126). Margaret's character encompasses all the qualities a man desires, and also all the qualities that Hemingway loathes about women.
She is selfish, condescending, and unloving toward her husband. Throughout this story, she never redeems herself or becomes a character with whom we can empathize. Francis Macomber is an intelligent, handsome man who excels at many things, but is out of his element on this safari. His character represents a man who has been broken by a woman. Francis is the type of man that Ernest Hemingway always made a point not to be like. Hemingway was always involved in the most violent, dangerous, or challenging situations.
These activities ranged from fighting in wars to going on his own safaris in Africa. He excelled at all physical activities, but was unable to ever attain the one thing he most wanted, happiness. Francis experiences an epiphany after shooting the buffalo. He feels rejuvenated by at last taking charge of a threatening situation, instead of turning his back on it. "By God, that was a chase," he said. "I've never felt any such feeling" (149).
This is the point at which Margaret begins to feel very threatened, and knows that Francis will no longer be intimidated by the idea of not being married to her. Robert Wilson appears to be the character most similar to Hemingway. He is a "man's man", as the saying goes and resembles the image Hemingway developed for himself. He is not married, excels at his occupation, and does for himself what is best suited to his interests. Wilson is not very concerned with what others feel or think.
He knows that he has to keep his clients happy and that the women "did not feel they were getting their money's worth unless they had shared that cot with the white hunter" (144). Wilson did not respect these women because of their behavior, but he did enjoy their company. As a matter of fact, "he despised them when he was away from them... ." (144). Ernest Hemingway was concerned with authenticity in a story, as well as ensuring that the reader felt as though he was actually experiencing the plot in the story. This is most effectively done by writing from one's own experiences.
Hemingway did this very concisely through his characters, settings, and plots. We feel as though we are in the story and are able to identify with each character. Francis and Margaret Macomber, and Robert Wilson all reflect the views and characteristics of Hemingway. Each possesses some loathsome qualities that become their damning by the end of the story.