Macomber is thirty-five years old, very tall and well built, at the apex of his manhood — fit and good at court games (by "court games," Hemingway is referring to tennis or squash, games in which there are rules and perimeters for the game). Now, however, the very wealthy and very handsome Macomber has come on safari to hunt wild game. This is no court game. There are no perimeters here — and few rules. The jungle is endless, and the law is the law of the jungle — or the law of the survivor, the fittest.
When the story opens, Macomber has returned from a lion hunt. He is hailed as a hero, but we discover that when confronted with the lion, he ran. Macomber's wife saw him become a distraught coward. Wilson, their British guide, witnessed the event. Macomber has to reclaim a sense of manhood for himself and regain their admiration. He has his chance when he is face-to-face with a charging water buffalo. His courage is magnificent — and then he is shot, at the very moment when he feels happier than he's felt in years. His short, happy life flares up, then dies, quickly.