Hemingway's A Moveable Feast  Book Report

Excerpt from Book Report :

Hemingway both describes these characters in the relation with him as well as in the relation with other subjects. Regardless however of the perspective, the hurdles the characters overcome make them successful both in the mind of the reader and in terms of the artistic legacy they left behind.

Gertrude Stein can be seen as an example of a person that overcame adversities and became successful. This is particularly taking into account the preferences in her private life and her long-term female companion, Alice Toklas. Back in the day, such preference was not necessarily condemned but it was not overlooked either. However, in the case of Gertrude Stein, her qualities and determination made her one of the most appreciated women of the French society. Hemingway points this success in his writing, "When you have two people who love each other, are happy and gay and really good work is being done by one or both of them, people are drawn to them as surely as migrating birds are drawn at night to a powerful beacon. If the two people were as solidly constructed as the beacon there would be little damage except to the birds. Those who attract people by their happiness and their performance are usually inexperienced. They do not know how not to be overrun and how to go away. They do not always learn about the good, the attractive, the charming, the soon-beloved, the generous, the understanding rich who have no bad qualities and who give each day the quality of a festival and who, when they have passed and taken the nourishment they needed, leave everything deader than the roots of any grass Attila's horses' hooves have ever scoured." (Hemingway, 2009)

The description provided for Gertrude reflects a deep sense of respect for the woman and the artist that she was. According to Hemingway, she was not a person of no faults, yet she overcame them and became an important personality in the Paris social life. The conversations Hemingway had with her take a significant part of the memoirs and the tone with which these are presented hint to the deep respect he had for her. Towards the end of the memoirs, the loss of Gertrude for a friend saddens Hemingway, yet acknowledges the fact that a man cannot be a friend to a great woman. This consideration further increases the appreciation Hemingway has for Gertrude.

Another important character whose experience has been shown in the memoirs is that of Scott Fitzgerald and his personal misfortune and yet his eventual overcoming of those misfortunes. In this sense, in one passage, Hemingway describes the complex situation Scott Fitzgerald is facing with his wife. "He told me how he had first met her during the war and then lost her and won her back, and about their marriage and then about something tragic that had happened to them at St.-Raphael about a year ago. This first version that he told me of Zelda and a French naval aviator falling in love was truly a sad story and I believe it was a true story. Later he told me other versions of it as though trying them for use in a novel, but none was as sad as this first one and I always believed the first one, although any of them might have been true. They were better told each time; but they never hurt you the same way the first one did." Despite the hardships in his personal life, Fitzgerald managed to create an important artistic legacy and succumb the challenges faced especially given the fact that Zelda was always pressuring him and eventually tried to lure him in her mental instability.

In reference to Fitzgerald's behavior and reactions to his wife's actions, Hemingway sometimes reacted with a sense of admiration, as Fitzgerald, despite the disturbing relation with his wife whom he loved very much, was able to write some of the most interesting and high quality pieces of his work. He managed to use the misfortune in his private life to create and get inspired to apply what Hemingway saw as being a pure artistic talent. In this way, Fitzgerald overcame the difficulties and made a clear contribution to the artistic life.

Finally, perhaps the most important character of the memoirs that managed to overcome adversities and achieve success is Hemingway himself. Throughout his existence in Paris and the one that is in detail described in these memoirs, Hemingway was forced to face several hardships and shortcomings. Yet he did manage to overcome them and use these challenges to his advantage. One such challenge was the horse racing and the gambling. At one point he notes that "it was necessary to give up going racing in the time of our real poverty...when you are...a natural heavyweight, missing a meal completely makes you very hungry. But it also sharpens all you perceptions" (Hemingway, p82) in his other notes, he does reference gambling and horse racing as something in common with writers such as Dostoyevsky and his associated madness. However, horse racing was an aspect that challenged him and allowed him to extract even more experiences in terms of internal feelings. At the same time though, the fact that he lost money also represented for him an inner feeling that was exploitable and therefore a source of further inspiration for him. This is not to say that it was an easy period for him, but rather that he managed to overcome this time by taking yet another positive aspect from that experience and using it for his artistic advantage.

Overall, "The moveable feast" is one of Hemingway's most entertaining and at the same time full of meaning creations of his late years. The complexity of the writing and the portraits of the characters are essential for providing an overall image of the world in the 1920s. Furthermore, the focus on Paris to such a great detail allowed the city to be an actual character in Hemingway's creation. The perspectives proposed by Hemingway together with the themes and subjects link the existence of the author and his depicted friends to the American dream and to the way in which adversities can be overcome in order to achieve success.


Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. New York: Scribner, 2003.

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