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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 Violence

In "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," bullets are flying. Of course for the most part, humans are not shooting each other here. It's all about shooting animals, and in Hemingway's world, the violence of the hunt was all a part of being a man, as long as you play by the rules. The violence against the animals is the most graphic in this story, with detailed descriptions of the pain of slow death coming from the perspective of the animals themselves. Interestingly, as much of a macho man hunter as Hemingway was, he didn't deny that the animals suffered, and could suffer even more if the hunter did not go and put them out of their misery promptly. The story also features human violence aplenty, both physical and psychological. The servants are threatened with beatings; Wilson considers that Macomber may put a bullet in his head; and Margot torments Macomber, and then finally shoots him like a beast in the field. Deliberate or accidental? To protect him from death or to protect her interests? The violence in this story is not all that straightforward, so we have to figure it out for ourselves.

Questions About Violence

  1. How many different kinds of violence are there in the story?
  2. What is the worst form of violence we see?
  3. Is the story too graphic? Not graphic enough? Just right? Why?
  4. Who is the most violent character in the story? What makes you say that?

Chew on This

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

Hemingway takes the "thrill" out of the violence by showing the suffering that comes with it. In some ways, the narrator seems more sympathetic to the animals than to Macomber.

Margot is clearly the most violent character because she kills her husband on purpose in the most gruesome way possible.

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