The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
Men and Masculinity Theme
Hemingway was known for liking his men manly and, frankly, his women sort of manly, too. Men in Hemingway stories can often be seen hunting, fighting in a war, or watching a bull get gored at a bullfight. "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" is no exception. Our protagonist starts out a mouse, but by the end of the story he is a man. In "The Short Happy Life," we have a protagonist who starts out a mouse and in a few pages becomes a man – all because he finally manages to shoot and kill a big, ferocious animal. Macomber's boyishness is contrasted with Wilson's strong masculinity, which is more in keeping with Hemingway's ideal. He is weathered, experienced, tough. Of course what is the point of men and masculinity without a woman around? Lucky we have Margot, whose feminine whiles provide a stage upon which Macomber and Wilson can perform their masculinity. But we also have to face facts. Margot kills her husband just when he has achieved the height of masculinity. What exactly are we supposed to make of that?
Questions About Men and Masculinity
- What qualities does Hemingway hold up as the most masculine in "The Short Happy Life"? What makes a man a man in this world?
- Does Wilson have any weaknesses, or is he "pure man" (according to the terms of the story)?
- Does the narrator's opinion about manliness differ from that of Wilson?
- What do you think Margot really thinks of these men?
Chew on This
Macomber will prove his masculinity at all costs. He's even willing to risk his life to do so, which shows just how important it is to be manly in Hemingway's story.
Wilson's skewed sense of ethics is what makes him the ultimate masculine man. He takes what he wants and asks questions later, if at all.