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The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway Essay

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It is the mainstay of many pieces of classic American literature, especially those that fall into the category of 'pulp', to have thin, cardboard-cutout characters with obvious emotions and intentions for which their only purpose is to drive the story to a predetermined end. The seductive and dangerous femme fatale; codgerly old men; the badgering and nagging housewife, adorned with dress and apron; and etc... These characters, and the many like them, are set into a story to play a specific role—namely as a reactor—and force the protagonist in some direction. After all, what would a hero do if there was nothing heroic to be done? Sit around? Twiddle their thumbs...? These characters are, in some degree, necessary for the purpose of advancement, and the only reason I have spent this first paragraph going into them, however briefly, is that I feel the need to distinguish between a person and a character. Ostensibly, they are the same thing, at least from an outward point of view. One might say, “A story has people,” which is practically the same thing as saying, “A story has characters.” But, the obnoxious semantics aside, these are not both the same thing—it's a case of the uncanny...Characters, though appearing to be people, are not. They are posters of people, images of people—used to meet some plot obligation and/or bring out characterization in a real person. As confusing as this could sound, it's really simple: Characters are not people. They are merely ideas or archetypes1 of a human form, used to push the story along. People are real. They react to things, sometimes stupidly, sometimes intelligently, and above all, when written into a story believably, give the verisimilar appearance of truth and correctness (even when doing...


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... her? Yes, and it's left her bitter and contemptuous. The story never goes into great detail (part of it's fun is the ambiguity) as to why the couple is at a safari beyond the readers assumption that it was fashionable at the time, but maybe it was an attempt at finding a joyful purpose, not only for Francis, but for Margot as well.
In the story, chronologically, Francis, Margot, and Wilson are hunting a lion they heard coughing and growling a mile or so outside of their camp. They drive to meet the lion, and from about 100 yards away, Francis shoots, hitting the lion in the flank and wounding it. The lion runs, and the trio continues to pursue it. Although warned, Francis is still surprised by the lions last-ditch attempted rush, and flees the scene of the kill. Ashamed by her husbands cowardice, Margot flirts, seduces and finally sleeps with Wilson, their guide.



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