Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastA Matter Of Measurements Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | A Matter of Measurements | Summary

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Summary

After Zelda Fitzgerald's first nervous breakdown, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway have lunch in Paris. Fitzgerald has something important to ask Hemingway. During lunch they talk about old friends and about their writing, while Hemingway wonders what the important thing is.

Finally, Fitzgerald confides in Hemingway; Zelda is sexually dissatisfied with him and claims he "could never make any woman happy." Hemingway assures Fitzgerald nothing is wrong with him. To prove Fitzgerald is normal, Hemingway speaks very frankly and takes him to see the male anatomy of the statues at the Louvre. He also gives him some sexual performance tips and says, "Zelda is crazy ... Zelda just wants to destroy you." Fitzgerald says Hemingway knows nothing about Zelda. Then Fitzgerald leaves to meet friends at the Ritz bar.

Many years later, after World War II (around 1945), Hemingway is at the Ritz bar alone. Georges, the bartender, asks Hemingway who "this Monsieur Fitzgerald" is. People ask Georges about Fitzgerald all the time. Hemingway says he was an American writer in the early 1920s who wrote two very good books and some good stories. Georges remembers seeing Hemingway at the time; he was poor and couldn't afford the Ritz. Hemingway thinks about how most of the people he used to know in Paris in the 1920s, including Fitzgerald, are dead. He recommends a few books to Georges, including Out of Africa. He also tells Georges he'll write something about Fitzgerald as he was in "the early days in Paris."

Analysis

The opening time marker "much later" indicates a jump in time from the previous chapters. The dialogue between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway probably took place in the 1930s; Zelda Fitzgerald's "first breakdown," or schizophrenic episode, occurred in 1930. The second half of the chapter jumps to Hemingway's return to Paris after World War II.

Fitzgerald and Hemingway are both supportive of and competitive with one another. The now-older Hemingway reveals personal, embarrassing secrets about Fitzgerald; the younger Hemingway positions himself as an authority. Despite the mocking tone of this chapter, Hemingway does genuinely want to free Fitzgerald from his destructive relationship. Zelda's confinement to a mental hospital took a great toll on Fitzgerald; he said he lost his "capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda's sanitarium."

The chapter's second half functions as an epilogue and eulogy for the Paris Hemingway remembers. It is long after World War II, and Fitzgerald (who died in 1940) is now a legend at the Ritz bar where he used to drink. Gertrude Stein died in 1946, James Joyce in 1931, Ford Madox Ford in 1939, and Evan Shipman in 1933. Hemingway has survived them all and peopled his work with them. So has the bartender Georges.

Like Hemingway's curious readers, when he hears them ask for stories about the famous characters Hemingway used to spend time with in Paris, he needs more information. What were they really like? Were they good writers? Hemingway promises to answer all of these questions and to write about Fitzgerald faithfully, "exactly as I remember him." He makes the same promise to his readers. Though A Moveable Feast isn't perfectly factual nonfiction—colored as it is by Hemingway's subjectivity—the book provides a moving portrait of the Lost Generation through Hemingway's eyes.

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