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Literature in relation to feminist studies is one that aims to emancipate the role of women from the patriarchal dominance  present in the world, either overtly or covertly specifically those in  literary works, like Hemingway’s Margot Macomber.” To onlookers , feminist theory and practice appear to diffuse , a loosely connected body of criticism that is more divided than unified …’ “ s this is because “ feminist criticism does not claim nor does it want to claim any ultimate spokesperson because feminists believe in the personal and advocate for many different voices to be heard and respected…”(BRESSLER, 159) however the many different paths that feminist take the goal remains the same it aims to “ assert that all  people -women and men-are politically , socially ,and economically  equally.” (BRESSLER 159) it is nearly impossible to say At what point this wave of equality of the sexes began ,mostly because any writing produced by a woman was either disregarded or was placed under the name of a male counterpart in order to receive the fame and accreditation  it deserved  but perhaps this endeavor to reclaim the female identity began to take some solid formation during the 14th century with Kate Cunningham when she declared ” there is no one so well calculated to think for womankind than woman her self in the province of administering to the wants of her sex no one can be so well adapted as she . Her advancement is in no better way proven they buy her progress in medicine and literature to say nothing of the reform movements  which she is steadily  carrying  on for the benefits of her sex” ( Kunningham )A methodological  approach to deciphering the roles of women in literature or more so what that role will mean for women had been defined and redefined for  centuries.

The Rise of Feminist Criticism

Nearly 500 years passed with this method of men claiming dominance in the battle of the sexes ,still insisting they were better able to identify and define women better than women themselves that is until the movement resurged and a new method of approach was added to the regime of feminist criticism , with Christine de Pizan pronouncing in 1405 “that God created both man and woman as equal beings .”(Bressler147). In a attempt to defend the biased and chauvinistic claims made by men in  order to present the woman as an inferior figure in comparison to their male counterparts.

    Ideas furthered in 1792 ,when Mary Wollstonecraft exclaimed ” women must define for themselves what it means to be a woman . Women themselves must take the lead and articulate who they are and what role they will play in society by rejecting the patriarchal assumption that women are inferior to men” (Wolstonecraft). Resulting in the methodology of asking what types of roles for women are reflected in a text and what that infers.

 Virginia Woolf added to this feminist momentum by shining a light on the oppressing party when stating ” the most transparent visitor to this planet … Who picked up a newspaper would see that we live under the rule of patriarchy ” (Bressler 143) ,it is an idea that men had an urge to control and define all beings , conquer women just as they conquer the land and the animals. Virginia Woolf felt that not only were women being falsely defined but also being denied denied the opportunity to disprove the claim . Both “A room of ones own ” and “Shakespears Sister” examines what it would be like if women possesed the same opportunities as men . “My belief is that if we live another century or so — I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals — and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.”   (WOOLF)  The argument primarily deciding if Women were allowed to think and write And given privacy what is to stop them from producing works as good or better than any of their male counterparts.

   This process of feminism in literature fell in and out of popularity and transformed over time as new or amended methods were utilized . For instance Elaine Showalter ” in her influential essay ’Toward a Feminist Poetics’ (1997) , Showalter asserts that feminist theorists must “ construct a  female framework for analysis of women’s literature to develop new models based on the study of female experience , rather than to adapt to male models and theories,’ a process she names gynocriticism . Through gynocriticism Showalter exposes a false cultural assumptions and characteristics of women as depicted in canonical literature.”(BRESSLER150).  Gynocritics then  reread and reanalyze the canonical works of male authors from a female perspective ., such analysis devolops a uniquely female conciousness based on female experience rather than traditional male theories.

Feminist Criticism develops a uniquely female conciousness based on female experience rather than traditional male theories.

This method can be applied in accordance with any literary  material ,for the purposes of this essay Earnest Hemingway’s  “ Short happy life of Francis Macomber” will be analyzed from the feminist standpoint , in order to  examine the character of Margot Macomber and redeem her character from predatory to that of  the prey.

  “ The Short Happy Life of Francis MAcomber” portrays Mrs. Margot Macomber as the pragmatic  Hemingway bitch ;” however , the story interpreters since 1960 have tended increasingly to project the revolution in our cultural values , arguing that Margot is the heroine and that the guide Wilson and even Francis are villains” (Bender).We learn most about  Margot through the vantage point of the males ;Robert Wilson who describes her as “  the hardest in the world; the hardest, the cruelest, the most predatory and the most attractive “(Hemingway) . but it can also be noted in  this description how Wilson views her very similar to the way he views his prey he was grateful that he had gone through his education on American women before now because this was a very attractive one”  you can see his admitration for Margot Macomber , and that he is grateful that he had studied  women from America , the same way he was happy to have studied any animal he  intended to hunt.

Margot Macomber is a foil character to the Lion

Margot Macomber is a foil character representative of the lion , both Margot and the lion are at a disadvantage in the sport of hunting . Like the lion Margot is beautiful and intimidating but essentially has no intention of attacking . They are the preyed parties . Margot immediately empathizes with the animals  “Wilson  tells  Margot  that ‘he could be put of business “ if the authorities found out that he had chased buffaloes with a car , Margot had said it seemed awfully unfair, and Francis notes  ‘now she has something on you” (Bender).She identifies how the sport isn’t fair and that the animals are not placed in much of a position to defend themselves . The very same argument  can be made for Margot Macomber the only woman on a trip of men in a foreign land . , especially vulnerable to one whom decides not to play by  the rules .

     As Francis undergoes an education of sorts …..  And his manhood is solidified Margot stands more alone than before. 

      Margot , though Wilson doesn’t make it clear , is not the murdress the story makes it seem to be . “ Some critics, among them Nina Baym , have opposed the predominant view of Margot’s culpability , contending instead that she intended to save her husband despite her disdain for the macho posturing and cruelty of the hunters . In fact , Baym equates Margot with the lion in terms of being a perceived but overpowered threat  ‘ Margot does not recognize’ Baym writes , ‘ … That she to , in relation to these men , is in the situation of the lion – imaged as dangerous ,  but in fact helpless… she has an illusion of power which she exercises in occasional infidelities to her husband , but such exercises rather than freeing her from the power of one man to the power of another.” (Jelena Krstovic).The shot was an act of defense intended to  preserve life of her husband . Francis death was an unfortunate accident .   More so  , Wilson’s behavior is also to be noted , the true undoing of Mr.Macombers life was  orchestrated by him  ,Wilson “deeming him  a lifeless automaton of stereotypically masculine attributes as well as a malevolent conniver who begins to plot the ruination of the the Macomber’s immediately after the misuse of the automobile … with his job and reputation on the line ,Wilson orchestrates the final hunt so that Margot accidentally kills her husband and then threatens to accuse her of murder so that she keeps quiet about the his violation of hunting regulation.” (Jelena Krstovic). Evidence of this can be found early in the text  during the time in which Francis and Wislon discuss the  lashes  “Oh, yes. They could raise a row if they chose to complain. But they don’t. They prefer it to the fines.”

“How strange!” said Macomber.

“Not strange, really,” Wilson said. “Which would you rather do? Take a good birching or  lose your pay”( Hemingway). From this the reader  can infer that Wislon  places  the  importance of money above  morality , and gives him ample motive  to  do anything to  protect him self , even if it means preying on a  helpless individual  , such as Margot Macomber .

     This is all important to understand in the terms of gynocriticsim our narrator, whom is a male attempting to understand the actions and emotions of a woman he had never taken the time to know as a person and is as little understood as the way a hunter understands his prey, admirably but  from afar but never making a true connection., with the intent to overcome and conquer . “ it is  worth noting here that  according to  Hemingway’s understanding of the Macombers deadly relationship , Margot is is  not a simple “bitch goddess,” (Bender)responsible for the whole mess. In fact  her involvement is entirely calculated and strategized by that of  Robert Wilson.

Work Cited 

Bender,Bert. “Margot Macomber’s Gimlet.” CollegeLiterature(1981):12-20. Document

Bressler, Charles E. Literary Critcisim . Boston : Pearson Education , Inc. 2011. Book

Cunningham, Kate. Womens Chronicle of Little Rock. (1888). Article

Hemingway, Ernest. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.(1936) Short Fiction.

Krstovic, Jelena. “Hemingway.” Short Story Fiction Vol 137 (2010):502. Book

Wolstencraft, Mary .”A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” (1792).Document

Woolf , Virginia . “A Room of One’s Own” (1929).Document



Brianca Jay is a writer, tutor and literary analyst. She has upwards of 100 literary videos on youtube and has presented at several national conferences, with a host of publications across various literary journals. Feel free to connect with Brianca

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