A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition

by Ernest Hemingway

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What does Hemingway portray about gender relations in A Moveable Feast?

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The main themes of the book are not told in a chronological manner. It is a book about memory. The writer was on his way to becoming the modern master of short stories, but he was getting married and moved to Paris. Memories of Paris make him recall other events in his life that happened before, during and after his days as a young writer in Paris. He writes about living with Hadley, meeting with Gertrude Stein, the first works that he ever did, writing on the stock exchange while working at an office job.

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Hemingway's attitude toward gender and gender relations is ambiguous. On one hand, Hemingway cultivates an image of the hyper-masculine man, but on the other, he can be submissive to certain women—Gertrude Stein, for instance. He pokes fun at Fitzgerald for his sexual insecurities and registers what he must have considered...

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a healthy disgust over Stein's lovemaking with her partner, Alice B. Toklas. His relationship with his wife, Hadley, is depicted in the book as a kind of happy mystery; for instance, in "A False Spring," the pair decide to go to the race track, where they win some money. Hemingway is clearly the one in control of the situation but is constantly requiring validation from his wife. At bottom, there is something missing in their relationship. The chapter ends with the pair using their winnings to have a nice dinner:

It was a wonderful meal at Michaud’s after we got in; but when we had finished and there was no question of hunger any more the feeling that had been like hunger when we were on the bridge was still there when we caught the bus home. It was there when we came in the room and after we had gone to bed and made love in the dark, it was there. When I woke with the windows open and the moonlight on the roofs of the tall houses, it was there. I put my face away from the moonlight into the shadow but I could not sleep and lay awake thinking about it.

The "hunger" Hemingway continues to experience reflects a certain emptiness he feels even at the end of a "perfect" day. Although A Moveable Feast does not say so, it's clear that the conventional gender relations of his marriage with Hadley, at least in this episode, are not emotionally satisfying. It is telling, earlier in the same chapter, when he asks his wife what this "hunger" he felt was, and she tells him that there are many kinds of hunger, that "memory is a kind of hunger," but he knows he simply wants a meal. This sort of disconnect ("I was being stupid," Hemingway says) underlies the whole problem of gender for Hemingway. As he says at the conclusion of the chapter, "nothing was simple" in Paris.

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