Book Review: The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway

The narrative perspective of limited omniscience in the third person is adopted in this work. Through succinct dialogue, implicit narration, exquisite psychological description, ellipsis and repetition and other artistic means, the image of Wilson as a tough guy who is calm, sophisticated, assertive and confident has been successfully shaped. It expresses the theme that the meaning of life lies in the courage to defy death and fight bravely. The novel revolves around two hunting trips in Africa by American couple Francis Macomber and his wife Margaret with professional hunter Wilson. On the first day of hunting, the timid Macomber was scared out of his wits by the injured lion. For this, he was viciously mocked by his wife and despised by Wilson. That night, his wife went into Wilson’s tent. Macomber was devastated and in extreme pain. The next day, out of his usual way, he suddenly broke free from his long-held fear and charged at a wounded bison. At that very moment, Margaret shot Macomber in the back, ending his young life.

It can be said that only those brave people who face the tragedy of fate are the real tough men; those who face the pressure of fate and maintain human dignity, courage, and elegant demeanor are the real heroes in modern life. On the contrary, people who are trapped in the modern net of material pleasures and desires often lose the courage to face life and become the miserable wretches that everyone is ashamed of. “The Short And Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is clearly a profound and rich account of this transformation. In Hemingway’s case, the color of modern life is clearly not what human life needs, and people who indulge in it are trapped in it. On the contrary, only with human dignity, facing the tragedy and death of life, can one gain some kind of freedom and feel real happiness. Macomber has endured death, pain, and absurdity throughout his life, but his defiance and his courage in trying to escape the grip of nihilistic forces are enough to make him a hero.

Death is the greatest nothingness and the power to get rid of nothingness. Macomber’s death in nothingness and his rebirth in death are spiritual triumphs. The significance and value of Hemingway’s creation lies in that people living in such a nihilistic life should seriously consider their own living environment through death, pain, and absurdity and establish a new way of existence to challenge and overcome nihilism. “The Short And Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is a third-person narrative. Therefore, the narrator can travel flexibly and freely among the narrated objects, and has a relatively broad narrative space. He can stay outside the characters for external observation, or sneak into the characters’ interior for psychological perspective. In the novel, Macomber, his wife Margaret, and professional hunter Wilson, these three main characters’ image creation and story suspense setting are realized by the different functions of the third person narration.

It is worth mentioning that the novel also occasionally inserts the second person, which refers to the narrative receiver, namely the reader, as “you”, showing a strong emotional tendency, which greatly reduces the distance between the narrative receiver and the narrator and enables the reader to participate in the story. “The Short And Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is a masterpiece of skill. The author’s own subjective intentions are completely submerged in the plot. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t lash out, the novel is exactly like a caricature with a touch of humor in it. Hemingway portrays the characters without any generalization or ambiguity. His implicit and concise style is usually simple on the surface, but with careful consideration, the profound meaning can be understood.

-Coreen C.

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