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I. Francis Macomber and his wife Margaret (usually referred to as "Margot"), are on a big-game safari in Africa, guided by professional hunter Robert Wilson. Earlier, Francis had panicked when a wounded lion charged him. Margot mocks Macomber for this act of cowardice, and it is implied that she sleeps with Wilson. The next day they hunt buffalo. When they find the buffalo, it charges Macomber. Francis, faced with a buffalo, suddenly becomes a man of courage, but his shots are too high. Wilson fires at the beast as well, but it keeps charging. Macomber kills the buffalo at the last second. At the same time, Margot had also fired a shot from the car, which instead hits Macomber in the skull and kills him. For once, they are both on the same side, shooting at the same bull, but tragically she kills the man she was trying to save. In “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” Hemingway uses his famously sparse prose style and villains with the moral make-up of animals to demonstrate the ironic truth that happiness is fleeting and had better not depend upon others.
The narrator furnishes details, nothing more, but packs in those details is all the psychological nuance of a session with a psychoanalyst. In "The Short Happy Life," a numerous basic actions can go a great distance. The sentences are certainly not fancy, but they reveal a ton about the characters. For example: "The mess boy had started them already, lifting the bottles out of the canvas cooling bags that sweated wet in the wind that blew through the trees that shaded the tents" (p. 1). Here, Hemingway speaks volumes in one sentence: the feeling in the air is apparent, he sets the visual scene, and he conveys ideas of class and environment. Readers know where they are, and what kind of people they are dealing with. Hemingway also lets the dialogue do a lot of the work. That way readers get to know the characters through what they say instead of having Hemingway tell them what to think. At the story's opening, for example, Margot says, "I'll have a gimlet too. I need something" (p. 1). This unadorned expression gives the reader their initial impression of Margot: She will drink because she needs something – but something for what? Something, readers soon find out, to dull the rage and disappointment over Macomber's failure and something as in "my husband gave me nothing, so give me something." Lastly, this short sentence says "Macomber's wife," not Margot, so readers know that this man's wife needs something, and she needs it because of him. That's a whole lot of meaning for eight short words. He omits things because he trusts the readers to be active, and to understand what he is saying indirectly. Hemingway packs a lot of unsaid things into the actual words on...