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Themes

In "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," there is some seriously nasty game-playing going on in the Macomber marriage. Hemingway lays out the politics of this couple in fairly blunt terms: She's pretty. He's rich. They are stuck. Because they each have more to gain by staying together, there's not much they can do about the fact that they don't actually like each other all that much. So, in the meantime, Margot seems to enjoy tormenting Macomber. A lot. In the face of her contempt, Macomber appears impotent and quivering. Wilson looks on in disgust, clearly relieved that he lives the solo man's life, sleeping with other people's wives and living by his own code. Margot manipulates the relationship through sexual politics, using her sexuality as a form of punishment. Still, Macomber gets his manhood back and in dying at that moment is none the wiser. He may have failed in hunting the lion, but he makes up for it in hunting the buffalo, and that's a definite threat to Margot's marital power.

Questions About Marriage

  1. Is Hemingway trying to tell us something about the politics of marriage? If so, what?
  2. Why isn't Wilson married? Do you think he might ever want to be?
  3. Do the Macombers have the perfect marriage, or the marriage from Hell? (Try to think back to before she kills him).
  4. Sure, Margot has the looks and the smarts, but Macomber has the money. So, who has the real power in this marriage?

Chew on This

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

Wilson has it right. Nothing good can come of marriage, so you might as well make it on your own. Or at least, that's what this story suggests.

Wilson seems pretty disgusted by the extent to which Macomber allowed Margot to dominate him – but he also seems a little bit jealous.

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