The Power Of Facing Fear

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In "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber", Ernest Hemingway takes the reader on safari to explore the boundaries of courage and fear. The story follows an upperclass American, Francis Macomber, who is on a hunting vacation with his wife, Margaret, and an English hunting guide, Robert Wilson. During this adventure, Macomber has to overcome personal adversity, and it has a very powerful effect on him. Hemingway creatively manipulates point of view and character to reveal Macomber's outlook on life before and after he faces his fear.

In order to effectively uncover Macomber's station in life, Hemingway employs a tactic of changing the story's point of view frequently. Near the beginning of the story, the point of view is shown from Margaret Macomber's point of view. Margaret has always had very little respect for her husband, and when Macomber runs from a lion while hunting, she thinks even less of him.

She feels that he "had just shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward." Now with this very clear picture of Macomber as a coward, Hemingway moves on to Robert Wilson's point of view, and continues to scrutinize Macomber's character. Hemingway flashes back to the lion hunt, and when Macomber has just started to show his fear in hunting the lion, Wilson think of him as "shameful". By utilizing this roving point of view, Hemingway paints a very crisp picture of Macomber as the rich American coward in the eyes of the other characters, as well as the reader.

The significance of Robert Wilson is very important in this story. Wilson serves as more than a character, but as a representation of courage with which the reader can compare Macomber. Wilson is the all around, sun burned, gun toting hunter who "is really very impressive killing anything." Macomber is the rich American who only kills "˜weak' animals such as birds, ducks and antelope. Wilson's character overshadows Macomber in reputation and in action. Not only does he have a sort of hunter's code that he berates Macomber with, "You don't shoot them from cars,...", but he killed the lion, when Macomber ran. He slept with Macomber's wife, when she won't even hold Macomber's hand. Hemingway waves the Macomber-is-a-lame-coward flag in every way he can think of.

With Macomber sufficiently beaten down, Hemingway starts to rebuild his character, like an army sergeant who has yelled at you long enough to strip your resolve, and is now going to make a man out of you. Macomber kills a buffalo. After finally killing something big, Macomber feels "drunken elation". Then there is an allusion that Margaret's opinion of her husband is changing when she exclaims about the kill, "You were marvellous darling". But Macomber is slow in letting his new found courage known, and Hemingway hints at it in this scene where Margaret and Wilson are discussing the killing of the buffalo: "It seemed very unfair to me," Margot said, "chasing those big helpless things in a motorcar." "Did it?" said Wilson.

"What would happen if they heard about it in Nairobi?" [asks Margaret.] "I'd lose my [hunting] license for one thing. Other unpleasentness," Wilson said, taking a drink from the flask. "I'd be out of business." "Really?" [asks Margaret.] "Yes, Really." [responds Wilson.] "Well," said Macomber, and he smiled for the first time all day. "Now she has something on you." Macomber, for the first time in the story, has unveiled a slyness on his part, and not had any qualms about it. With a smile on his face, he coyly insults his wife in a way that reveals in her, a sinister quality. His boldness is beginning to show in a way that hints at something "" courage.

Having boosted Macomber in the right direction, Hemingway returns to Wilson as a measuring stick, and to Wilson's thoughts. It starts in a subtle manner, where Wilson make a statement with "no expression in his voice", and Macomber responds "blankly". Now that Macomber is starting to discover his courage, his actions are, in nature, beginning to more closely reflect those of the courageuos Robert Wilson. With enough pieces now in place, Hemingway lets on that Wilson is beginning to actually respect Macomber, "Look at the beggar [Macomber] now, Wilson thought ... Fear gone like an operation. [Courage] grew in its place. Made him into a man." With Wilson now measuring Macomber as someone to respect, Hemingway has almost completed the transformation of Macomber. There is still one last question that needs to be asked before Hemingway is done with Macomber's revitalized image. What does Margaret think of her husband now? As Macomber and Wilson veritably discuss how good it feels to finally conquer your fears, Margaret jumps in with her opinion on the topic, "You're both talking rot, just because you've chased some helpless animals in a motor car you talk like heros." Margaret doesn't understand how the men could talk about such things, but she's also concerned that they aren't "talking rot". Again from Wilson's point of view, Hemingway starts measuring, but now he's measuring Margaret and her fears: "Sorry," said Wilson. "I have been gassing too much." She's worried about it [Macomber's courage] already, he thought.

"If you don't know what we're talking about why not keep out of it?" Macomber asked his wife.

"You've gotten awfully brave, awfully suddenly," his wife said contemptuously, but her contempt was not secure. She was very afraid of something. [Wilson thought.] Hemingway has now come full circle by turning Wilson's eyes on Margaret, and again revealing the image of a coward. With Margaret as the coward, the story continues. While tracking down the surviving buffalo, Macomber winds up being charged at. In the ensuing confusion and panic, Margaret shoots him in the back of the head.

In this tale, Hemingway displays just how powerful facing one's fears can be, and the effect it can have on the surrounding people. Macomber faces the buffalo, and in doing so, he faces all his fears. When Macomber discovers his courage, he quickly gains the respect of the great hunter Robert Wilson, but that is not all. Margaret now falls into the role of the coward, just as Macomber killed to face his fear, so does she. Hemingway not only points out that facing fear can be powerful, but that it does not always end up with a positive outcome. Facing fear can lead to respect, and self-confidence, even freedom. It can also lead to murder. Any way it you look at it, the act of facing fear have life altering results.