Ernest Hemingway has created a masterpiece of ambiguity in his story
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Ernest Hemingway has created a masterpiece of ambiguity in his story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" The mystery of the story does not reveal itself to the reader until the end, yet it leaves a lot to the imagination. The story is about the deficiencies in a marriage and how it effects and is effected by a right of passage the husband experiences from coward to fearless adult. The story takes place on an African safari with three main characters. Francis Macomber, a wealthy American, his wife Margaret, and Wilson, a professional hunter hired by Macomber. At the end of the story Margaret kills her husband by accident in order to save him from being mauled by a large wounded buffalo. The ambiguity is whether or not this killing was truly accidental. I consider it to be intentional and Hemingway certainly gives numerous instances that could lead the reader to devise an acceptable motive, yet human nature tells the reader that this killing could not have been intentional. From an objective analysis, I believe the reader can find far more evidence supporting the theory of an intentional killing rather than an accidental one. Hemingway uses the character of Wilson throughout the story to give the reader the most objective description of the relationship between Francis and his wife. It is his insight that is most detailed and suggests that she might be capable of such an act. At the end of the story, he believes her actions to be intentional. The evidence supporting the idea that Margaret killed Francis intentionally can best be seen when observing and studying the information on Francis and Margaret, how they interact with each other, and Wilson's observations of them. With this combination of information, I believe Hemingways plot for an intentional killing can be found.
The Macomber marriage is based mainly on convenience. Macomber's a rich man, but of poor demeanor while Margot is beautiful, but now to old to remarry and so remains with her wealthy husband. Hemingway gives us a clear image of the Macomber marriage in these early passages;
His wife had been through with him before but it never lasted. He was wealthy, and would be much wealthier and he knew she would not leave him ever now. That was one of the few things that he really knew. (pg. 139)
His wife had been a great beauty and she was still a great beauty in Africa, but she was not a great enough beauty any more at home to be able to leave him and better herself and she knew it and he knew it. If he had been better with women she would have probably started to worry about him getting another new, beautiful wife; but she knew too much about him to worry about him either. Also, he had always seemed to have a great tolerance which seemed the nicest thing about him if it were not the most sinister. (pg. 139)
Margaret is constantly belittling, humiliating, and rejecting Francis. Hemingway begins to dramatically show this to the in the following passage. This passage occurs after a major incident in the story where Francis cowardly runs from a lion during a hunt with Wilson.
Macomber's wife had not looked at him nor he at her and he had sat in the back seat with Wilson sitting in the front seat. Once he had reached over and taken his wife's hand without looking at her and she removed her hand from his. Looking across the stream to where the gun-bearers were skinning out the lion he could see that she had been able to see the whole thing. While they sat there his wife has reached forward and put her hand on Wilson's shoulder. He turned and she had leaned forward over the low seat and kissed him on the mouth. (pg. 138)
The night after cowardly running from the lion both Margaret and Wilson contribute to Francis' own feelings of embarrassment and humiliation by bedding together. The incident was lead by Margaret and she made sure to taunt Francis about it. The following exchange between them demonstrates this point;
He realized that his wife was not in the other cot in the tent. He lay awake
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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Ernest Hemingway, White hunter, The Macomber Affair, The Sun Also Rises
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