A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | A False Spring | Summary



Spring's only problem in Paris is "where to be happiest." Problems come from people, "the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself." Energized by the season, Ernest Hemingway wakes early in the morning to work, listening to the goatherd arrive with his herd to sell goat milk.

He buys a racing paper, thinking about betting on horse racing. Hadley Richardson wonders if they have the money to bet. Hemingway has left his job at the Toronto Star to focus on his writing, and the couple is adjusting to the change in income. Hemingway reflects on "the fight against poverty that you never win" and the things he and his wife have gone without. He also reflects that the person "doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty bothers." But they don't think of themselves as poor at the time; they live "well and cheaply" and are happy.

Hemingway and Hadley decide to take the train to the races. They bet on two horses and have good luck, making plenty of money. Another day after they bet well on the races, they walk through the Concorde in Paris and discuss adventurous times they've had traveling. They miss their friend Chink, a "professional soldier," and hope he can return to Paris.

They go to dinner at the expensive restaurant Michaud's. Hemingway wonders if the nostalgia they felt on the bridge was just hunger. Hadley says, "Memory is hunger." After the two return home, Hemingway still has "the feeling that had been like hunger." The feeling keeps him awake all night, and he realizes nothing, even poverty, is simple in Paris, as opposed to the feeling of simplicity he had that morning.


Almost every sketch in A Moveable Feast contains a tribute to Hadley Richardson, usually in the form of intimate domestic dialogue between her and Ernest Hemingway. However, the focus on Hadley foreshadows the end to the world the two share.

Here, Hadley is portrayed as innocent and nostalgic, in keeping with the leisurely adventures of the young couple. The image of "the goatherd blowing his pipes" resembles a scene from a fable or fairy tale. Hemingway is mythologizing his experience in Paris, glorifying himself and Hadley as the hero and heroine: poor people who don't see themselves as poor and who distrust the wealthy. When Hadley asks, "Who are we anyway?" she asserts their right to enjoy themselves and not live like paupers. In fact, the young Hemingways lived more cheaply than they needed to because of Hemingway's thriftiness. His statement that poverty hits hard, "especially if you buy pictures instead of clothes," is a veiled insult to Gertrude Stein, who advised him to invest in paintings instead of new clothes.

The chapter shows how Hemingway and Hadley are observant in different ways. Hemingway wants to remember the narrative behind the wisteria vine, already thinking of how to preserve his memories in story. Hadley thinks the vine itself, the experience, was the important part. As the two relive experiences, they sense longing, interpreted by Hadley as "hunger." Nostalgia, like hunger, implies a lack and absence. Hemingway as an older writer seems to feel something close to pain. Even as a young man he knows his happiness isn't permanent; he seems to be missing it even as he experiences it.

The chapter includes one of James Joyce's few appearances in the book, and the only mention of his well-known muse, his wife, Nora Joyce.

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