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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Analysis

Guns

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

In "The Short Happy Life," guns are not just about shooting. Of course we know from page one that there will be a lot of that. They are on the hunt, after all. But in this story, guns are also about who is holding them, who is shooting them, and who is hitting the target.

Hemingway's guns imply all sorts of ideas about manliness and courage, survival and self-respect. Remember, Wilson is described as having "machine-gunner's eyes," so he's practically a human gun. Wilson also carries a "short, ugly, shockingly big-bored .505 Gibbs" (2.58), a big caliber hunting rifle that says "I'm a man, and I'm armed. Don't mess with me."

When Macomber, on the other hand, holds his gun, he notices his hands shaking, and he is barely able to control his body. Not so manly.

When Margot finally gets her hands on the gun, she shoots with precision and intention. She aims in an almost scientific way: "Mrs. Macomber in the car, had shot at the buffalo with the 6.5 Mannlicher as it seemed about to gore Macomber and had hit her husband about two inches up and a little to one side of the base of his skull" (4.42 ). She wields the gun clinically, and we don't see her hands shaking one bit. Margot kills Macomber with a German hunting rifle – pronounced "man-licker." You do the math.

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