A False Spring: Why are people the limiters of happiness?

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Natalie Saaris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hemingway begins the essay "A False Spring" with the idea that spring represents happiness, and that the only limiter to that happiness are other people.

This introduction at first seems ironic. The story begins happily: Hemingway's early morning work is interrupted by a goat. He buys a racing paper and decides to go to the races with his wife. They win quite a bit of money and decide to go out to dinner to celebrate.

Thus far, this seems a rather happy story. Hemingway and his wife stop to remember stories from their past about the places they had inhabited, the meals they had enjoyed, and the conversations they had had with friends.

Hemingway remarks as he reminisces with his wife that he is hungry. She points out that "memory is hunger." He thinks that his hunger is physical, something simple that he can remedy with a meal. He is surprised to find that the hunger he experienced while reminiscing with his wife is still there once the meal has finished and they have returned home. 

Hemingway realizes that the simple happiness he experienced that day is actually much more complex:

But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong, nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.

The happy day he has experienced does not resolve the inner conflict that Hemingway feels. Many of the essays that comprise A Moveable Feast echo the feeling of a spiritual discontent that mars the writer's experience of the world. 

You can interpret the "other people" who limit Hemingway's happiness as either his wife who longs to relive the happy days of the past, the Parisians who look down upon Hemingway's poverty, or perhaps even the friends who populate his memories and remind him that time is moving forward. 

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