The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Published in: “Cosmopolitan” magazine
Date of Publication: 1936
Genre: Short Story

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a famous American writer whose literary style has deeply influenced 20th-century literature. In his short stories and novels, Hemingway explored themes like love, loss and war; many times, he did it through what he called “the iceberg theory”. This implied that, in his literary works, the facts resemble the tip of the iceberg, while the deeper meaning of the facts is hidden.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 


The lion is an important symbol in the story. It is universally regarded as a symbol of courage. Macomber runs from it, revealing his inexperience, while Wilson holds his ground and kills it. This highlights the difference between the two men in terms of bravery at the beginning of the story. In killing the lion, Wilson proves he is the “alpha male” in their group. Even though Macomber takes credit for the kill, in accordance with their arrangement, the status quo has already been established.

The buffalo which cause Macomber’s epiphany are a symbol of escape from constraints and running free. Macomber first sees them “moving at a gallop across the far edge of the open prairie. They moved at a stiff-necked, stiff bodied gallop and he could see the upswept wide black horns on their heads as they galloped heads out”. The word gallop is repeated three times in the passage, which suggests that their foremost quality is their speed. Chasing them makes Macomber feel exhilarated. 


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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

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