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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber


by Ernest Hemingway

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber Theme of Courage

To Hemingway, courage and masculinity were absolutely intertwined. Men must be courageous and prove themselves through activities like hunting, boxing, fishing, soldiering. Then here comes rich, handsome Francis Macomber, who has never had to prove himself. Whether he had courage or not had never mattered – until now. Once he is finally forced to prove himself, and suddenly his marriage, his self-worth, and his life are all on the line. The rules have changed. His money and success no longer matter. Courage is what counts in Africa. Macomber not only acts shamefully by running from the hunt, but he also humiliates himself by continuing to harp on the fact that he has no courage. What's interesting is where Hemingway stands on his protagonist's cowardice – does he sympathize with Macomber for what he goes through after that lion hunt, or does he side with Margot's contempt? It's one of the central questions posed by "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," and it's one we are still trying to answer.

Questions About Courage

  1. What role do the natives play in Macomber's struggle to gain courage?
  2. Who is the most courageous figure in the story? What makes you say so?
  3. What is the reader supposed to think of Macomber when we find out at the very beginning of the story that he is a coward? Do you agree that he's a coward, or can you relate to his behavior?
  4. Do you think facing down a lion amounts to real courage? Are there other ways Macomber should be courageous?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Maybe Macomber should have left his wife at home. It's hard to tell if he brought her so she could have fun or so he could show her just how macho he is (not).

Wilson seems more bugged by Macomber's annoying personality than by his shortcomings as a hunter. Part of the hunting code is "taking it like a man" – even when you fail.

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