In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” the true
character which is fit to qualify as the code hero is Francis Macomber. It is not obvious at
first considering that in the story Francis is portrayed as a cowardly fearful man, as
opposed to the manly and brave Wilson, who seems the perfect character to be the code
hero. With the lion hunting incident at the opening of the story, Francis cowards off from
the lion’s roar alone, running to safety in front of his wife, which defies the code by not
having acceptable behavior in facing death, while Wilson goes in to face the lion and kills
him bravely. Yet where the theme of the story is concerned, Francis faces a bigger
challenge than Wilson can ever imagine.
Francis is a cowardly man, not physically, but mainly mentally. He lacks self
esteem and belief in his own self, which leads to people stepping all over him, like his
wife does. His wife openly cheats on Francis, only because she is convinced that he is too
much afraid if she left him, he can’t be wanted by another woman. Francis’ behavior
towards her is the root of her observation, he is convinced that he is less than what he is
and she underestimates him just the same.
Wilson is a tough man, who bravely earns a living by hunting wild safari animals
for rich men who come for hobby and to impress their wives. He is not facing an inner
turmoil like Francis, just physical ones that he knows he can handle. He has much
esteem, he is positive that he can overcome any challenge that his job brings. For his own
hobby, he pleasures the wives of the rich men he works for.
In the story’s climax, Francis proves to be the character Hemingway uses to fulfill
his code hero. Francis seems not to fit the code in the beginning of the story, for the
Hemingway code hero must: avoid death at all costs, which Francis does in a cowardly
way that defies the second rule; when in face of death the hero must have acceptable
behavior. At the near end of the story, Francis fulfills the code by thinking up in a quick
minute, just like the code, is a man of action, he doesn’t think before he goes into the
bush, he just lives for the moment with excitement.
Francis, as the true Hemingway code hero, goes all his life being a certain way, a
cowardly man who is afraid of everything deep inside that intimidates him, he has a life
altering experience when his wife cheats on him with the man who intimidates him the
most at the moment, Wilson, he decides to be brave and changes his fearful ways, just
goes about his way by facing the buffaloes as bravely as can be. At that moment the
person who uses him for his discontent in himself, Margot, realizes that he has changed
and he will now have the guys to leave her. The woman who before threatened Francis
endlessly when he stood up for himself now is in fear that the cards are turned.
Unfortunately for Francis he dies of bravery when his wife mistakenly shoots him
in the back of the head, missing the bull charging on to him, trying desperately to save
Francis’ life. A major difference is this in Hemingway’s two exemplary code heroes,
Francis Macomber and Frederic Henry of “A Farewell to Arms”, Frederic actually lives
on to change his ways of thinking and his values. Francis is a misfortuned man who
finally is saved and dies from cowardice by his bravery sprouted from anger and jealousy
and intimidation all rolled into one. The short story carried a great moral, how people
who are not content with themselves get stepped all over by others. It teaches you that
you are what you think you are, its your choice to choose to be content or not content, the
catch is that your decision might just change your outcome as it did in Francis’.
Word Count: 684