Depiction of Women in Selected Works of Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest American writers, but he was also one of the worst in depicting life and women. Carlos Baker believes that the stories of Ernest Hemingway, particularly The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber and The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, are centered on women, alcohol, money, and ambition. In both of these stories, Hemingway portrays the wife either as a “bitch” in character or was considered to be a bitch by the husband. The woman is also seen as smart and challenged the male’s ego. The women in these stories are seen either by a male character or by the husband as controlling and manipulative. In Hemingway’s stories, Hills Like White Elephants, Up in Michigan, and A Canary For One, Hemingway depicts the female characters as weak. He makes them seem stupid and ignorant.
In The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, Harry and his wife, Helen are on safari at the bottom of the volcano in Africa. Harry has scratched his leg and not taken care of it, causing gangrene to infect it. He seems to hate his wife, and says that he never loved her. He married her for her money, but does not like her for the power it gave her. Harry is dying and knows that he does not have much time left. While waiting for a plane to take them to civilization he thinks about his past experiences, and wished that he would have written about them, instead of marrying Helen for her money.
The women in these two stories are not fully characterized. Helen a simple woman who is a “good” woman while Margot Macomber is presented as “bad”. Both women are seen as smart and able to learn how to shoot and survive like a man.
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber tells the story of a young, rich, beautiful, and unhappily married couple who goes on a safari in hopes of getting rid of their boredom and hopefully make their hometown newspapers. Francis Macomber is a “coward” who can’t shoot animals or control his wife. His wife Margot is a “bitch” who can not stay out of other men’s beds or control herself.
Helen and Margot are both portrayed as the killers of their husbands. Margot is seen as demeaning Francis and Helen is accused of being “a destroyer of Harry’s talent”. Helen’s wealth is the ’cause’ of Harry’s literary ‘impotence’. Helen and her money are said to have separated Harry from what he believes is manly, while Margot’s need to keep Francis under control prevents him from maintaining in control. The description, by the husbands is that their wives are ‘bitches’.
“Helen is a woman, a symbol of danger and threat.” She is the wealth that has corrupted Harry, with all the comfort and security it gave him, it also killed him. Helen is a symbol of death. Harry calls her “rich bitch” and her money “bloody money” or “damned money”. Harry ridicules her and also admits that she is attractive and desirable. “She was still a good- looking woman, she had a pleasant body … she was not pretty, but he liked her face”. Even after saying this he still thought of her as a “bitch”.
Helen is the “good woman” who takes care of Harry and even cares about his wishes. She gives encouragement and love, which is in opposite of his attitude towards her. “She had gone to kill a piece of meat and, knowing how he liked to watch the game, she had gone well away so she would not disturb this little pocket of the plain that he could see. She was always thoughtful, he thought. On anything she knew about, or had read, or that she had ever heard”
Margot is the “bad” woman who wishes to control. She is demeaning of her husband almost all of the time. Francis, like Harry, refers to her as “bitch”. “You are a bitch.” ; “Well, you’re a coward.”. Sugiyama says, “She is a woman who tries to get what she wants.” “There is no contradiction in Margot’s finding both Francis and Wilson attractive, Francis for his wealth and Wilson for his prowess. In becoming sexually involved with Wilson, Margot is not choosing one man over another; she is choosing both”. Nina Baym says, “whatever she does, Margot is as `buffaloed’ as the buffalo,” exercising a mere “illusion of power” which “rather than freeing her delivers her from the power of one man to the power of another”
Margot acts upon Francis’s cowardice by ridiculing him, and then cheating on him. Her ridicule seems to work, and as Anne Greco states, “By playing the role of bitch, Margot startles her complacent husband into recognizing her disgust and feeling the need to perform”.
In these two stories, the women play strong willed, but they lack hope. These two women, Margot, and Helen, are perceived to as “bitches”. Helen is perceived as this because of the effects of her money, and Margot because of her need to control.