Study Guide

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber Section 1

By Ernest Hemingway

Section 1

  • It is lunchtime and "they" are sitting under a tent having some gin cocktails – Macomber remarks that "it's the thing to do" (1.5).
  • Macomber consults with Wilson about tipping rules. How much should he give the barkeep?
  • Time for a flashback. Half an hour, to be exact.
  • About thirty minutes ago, Macomber was carried back to camp on the shoulders workers, but not gun-bearers, who take him to his tent. It seems to be some sort of strange celebration.
  • The festivities don't include his wife, who joins the two men in the tent, but is giving her husband the cold shoulder.
  • Wilson compliments Macombers success in getting a lion on the hunt, but Macomber's wife is still stewing for some reason.
  • It has to be said: she's also beautiful and a former model.
  • Wilson is a white hunter, dressed with all of the accessories of a macho guy (including four big cartridges of ammunition). He is weathered and sunbaked, like Robert Redford in Out of Africa.
  • Macomber is good-looking in a different way – younger, fresher, with safari clothes that look new and a bit less natural. He's a good athlete, but a coward.
  • The subject of the lion comes up again and is awkwardly dropped. Margot makes some remarks about Wilson's appearance. She's needling both of the men, but then gets emotional and leaves, saying she wished it – whatever it is – hadn't happened. The men seem uncomfortable.
  • When Macomber persistently thanks Wilson for helping him with the lion, Wilson tries to brush off the gratitude.
  • Wilson notices "the boys" in the camp acting strangely toward Macomber, so he snaps at one of them in Swahili, threatening to whip him.
  • Macomber can't stop talking about "that lion business" (1.60) and is now worried that word will spread that he's a big coward. But Wilson assures him that he's a professional and never talks about his clients. Macomber's secret is safe.
  • Then Wilson thinks a bit more about his relationships with his clients – the people he takes on hunts. He needs to keep some distance – not become so involved in their emotional dramas and just drink their whisky.
  • Macomber admits that he "bolted like a rabbit" (1.66), and Wilson doesn't know what to say. It's true, after all. They make a plan to hunt buffalo the next day, so Macomber can make up for being afraid.
  • Their conversation prompts Wilson to realize that he just can't figure out Americans. One minute he likes them, and the next he's not a fan.
  • Meanwhile Margot returns to the dining tent with a new attitude, pretending not to care that her husband is a coward. She provokes Wilson, who begins to think about what tough nuts to crack American women are. She insists on going on the buffalo hunt, too.
  • They begin to eat elands, which sparks a conversation about dangerous animals.
  • Margot starts in on Macomber again until he calls her out for ragging on him about the whole lion debacle.
  • Wilson wonders at what a wench Margot is – but what does one expect of a wife whose husband is a coward?