1. Ernest Hemingway’s story “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber” tells a tale of a husband and wife on safari in Africa. Accompanies by Mr. Wilson, their hunting guide, the two venture onto the savannah to hunt lion, buffalo, rhino, and other game. It becomes clear early in the story that all has not gone well on the trip so far, and that Francis Macomber apparently had some trouble in his attempt to shoot a lion. As Hemingway slowly reveals more details about the trip, about the Macombers, and about the state of their marriage, it becomes clear that the two are not exactly happily married. After returning to the hunt, Francis Macomber manages to have a bit more success with his effort to shoot a buffalo, leading to a sense of sheer happiness that seems entirely unlike anything he has felt before. As the story comes to an end, the rich irony of the story’s title becomes clear.
The story’s title, and the irony captured in it, functions on multiple levels. At first glance, the title “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber” would seem to indicate that Mr. Macomber had a happy life, just one that was cut short. As the background details of Mr. Macomber’s life come into focus, however, this first impression is quickly washed away. The portrait of Mr. Macomber that emerges is one of a man who is financially successful, and is married to a woman who not long ago was beautiful enough to work as a professional model. Now her looks are beginning to fade, by the standards of her own country she is no longer as beautiful as she once was, though she is, according to the thoughts of Mr. Wilson, still beautiful by the standards of the women he sees on safari with their husbands. Francis Macomber feels trapped in his marriage because he is not particularly skilled with women, while Mr.s Maacomber feels trapped in the marriage because she is no longer young and pretty enough to find a new husband who is as wealthy as Francis.
When Francis Macomber shoots the buffalo, he feels redeemed after the cowardly way he acted during the previous day’s lion hunt. In the brief moments after shooting the buffalo he feels a sense of elation that is so clear and profound that his wife immediately notices a change in him. She sense almost immediately that the power she once held over him has vanished in that moment, and any sense of security she once had that he would never leave her vanishes with it. As the wounded buffalo charges from the brush Francis, Mr. Wilson, and Mrs. Macomber all fire at it. Mrs. Macomber kills her husband, though it is not entirely clear that the shooting was accidental. The “happy life” of Mr. Macomber is over as quickly as it began, lending an air of both irony and clarity to the title of the story.
2. Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” like “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” tells the story of a couple that are on safari in Africa. In this case, however, the two do not appear to be married, though Harry, the main character in the story, does seem rather fond of Helen, the woman who is with him on the trip. Harry has been injured; though it began as just a scratch on his leg, the wound has become infected and his leg has turned gangrenous. It is clear that he is close to death, and as he drifts in and out of consciousness he recalls various events in his life that he regrets not using as subject matter for his writing.
There is little in the way of actual events in the plot of the story. Most of the time is spent waiting for a rescue plane that, if it comes, will likely arrive too late. At one point Helen goes off to do some shooting, leaving Harry at the small campsite. The two are accompainied by several guides or scouts, and these men bring Harry drinks and otherwise try to keep him comfortable while they await rescue. The guides have prepared a load of wood to burn in order to send up a smoke signal in hopes of drawing the attention of a rescue party.
As night comes the two fall asleep. Harry has a strong sense that death is approaching, and realizes that he will not survive the trip. He begins to drift off, and believes he hears the sound of a rescue plane. The men that are with him on the trip load him onto the plane, and as it flies into the sky harry sees the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. It appears for a moment that this is actually happening, though it soon becomes clear that Harry is both dreaming and fading into death. There has been no rescue plane, and the only sound in the night is that of the hyena who has been pacing around the camp, waiting for Harry to die.