Saturday, May 14, 2011

Event Blog #4

“The Sweet Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, a short story by Ernest Hemingway, details the excursion of an American couple on a safari in Africa and the assistance of their guide as the man goes hunting for lions. At first, he falters in cowardice, and his wife despises him for it; she shuns him in favor of their safari guide. Francis is inexperienced and timid, and allows his wife to control him because he doesn’t know what else he would do without her. Yet, when he asserts his dominance on the savannah, it’s like a switch is flicked on within him; he is suddenly mature and ready to take life by the horns, so to speak. It is with this peace of mind knowing that he finally has control over his life that he dies, which is the most honorable way a man could kick the bucket: while in complete and utter control of his life, doing something utterly heroic. His death came at the most convenient time, because he may or may not have lost his gumption when he returned to the US, thus Francis died with dignity and honor.

“Tell the truth but tell it slant--” by Emily Dickinson relates to this in that it asserts that we as humans cannot handle the whole truth at once; it must be a gradual build-up, else it could shock us and have dire consequences. This rang true for poor Francis Macomber, who understood everything in one quick moment, and didn’t know how to properly conduct himself afterward; thus, his wife caught on to the idea that he was finally going to assert himself in life, and killed him before he could decide to leave her.

“Success is Counted Sweetest”, another by Dickinson, also rings true for Macomber, because his relatively minor kill of buffalo was his only success for the trip, and yet it was sweet enough to change his entire perspective on life. This poem explains that those who do not experience success as much appreciate it the most when it happens to them. “I heard a Fly buzz--when I died” tells of a death predicted and seen long-coming, which could be related to Macomber in that the tone of the story was too tense for both he and his wife to escape intact; she was far too power hungry for him to walk away from this trip a better man, and her behavior, in a way, foreshadows Macomber’s eventual demise. “Because I could not stop for Death—”, details how Death came to pick up the narrator, who believed she was far too busy for death; this is an odd juxtaposition because the narrator and Death are a calm, collected couple throughout the poem, a direct contrast to the tense power struggle constantly occurring between Mr. and Mrs. Macomber.

For this event, I participated in the student-directed One Acts, the first bill, which consisted of the shows Chalky White Substance, The Problem, and The Dumbwaiter. Chalky White Substance dealt with the issues of betrayal and loved ones, which definitely shares themes with “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. It depicts a scene in the distant future, a snapshot into a gay relationship now that the female population has nearly dwindled to zero as a result of the chalky white substance that now covers the earth killing females. The government is a totalitarian one, and violation of the rules is subject to death; the elder man can sense the younger becoming more cheeky and bold, and rather than go down with him if he got caught (or, in Mrs. Macomber’s case, sticking around to see if Francis kept his newfound cajones upon their return to the US), he reports him to the government (rather than shooting him himself, like Mrs. Macomber). Both works detail scenes of betrayal, though while Francis died at the perfect moment in his life, the younger man in Chalky White Substance still had plenty to live for.

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