The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
by Ernest Hemingway
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber Theme of Women and Femininity
To be fair, there is only one woman in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" – Margot Macomber. But she plays a huge role in how the story unfolds. We know she is beautiful, was once a model, is something of a socialite, and a definite femme fatale. She is also a bruiser who makes sport out of busting her husband's chops. At least that's the woman Hemingway presents, from the perspective of her husband and Wilson. But no matter how these guys see her, Margot is, in the end, a bit of a mystery. Given all that Hemingway leaves out of the story, we're not sure if we're supposed to like her, or if we're supposed to write her off as scheming, selfish, cold-hearted wife. One thing is for sure. Her beauty and wits are a threat to her husband's masculinity, and that is so not good. She is powerful, sure, but only in a destructive and cruel way, and we're left wondering if Hemingway agrees with Wilson's assessment that she's not much more than a typically horrible American woman.
Questions About Women and Femininity
- In what ways is Margot feminine? Are there ways in which she is masculine, too?
- Why does Hemingway characterize Margot as a fading beauty? Why not just have her be beautiful still?
- Why does Wilson think American women are so cruel? Do you think Hemingway might be using Wilson as a mouthpiece here? Or is he just writing what the character would say?
- How does Margot use her femininity to gain power?
Chew on This
Wilson's assessment of Margot is spot on. She is cruel and selfish – nothing more.
Margot's femininity is threatening but, then again, so is her masculinity. If she had been passive, Macomber might never have gone hunting in the first place.