Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastA Strange Enough Ending Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | A Strange Enough Ending | Summary



Ernest Hemingway discusses the strange ending of his friendship with Gertrude Stein. He finds it difficult for a man to be friends with great women before the relationship inevitably "gets better or worse," and even more difficult for a man to be friends with an ambitious woman writer.

At first they're close enough that Stein invites him to drop by her apartment even when she isn't home: the maid will let him in. Hemingway tries not to abuse this privilege but does stop by occasionally. One day Stein asks Hemingway to come and say goodbye to her before she leaves on a trip. As Hemingway waits inside for Stein, he hears her "pleading and begging" with someone else in a tone he's never heard anyone use before. Hemingway becomes so uncomfortable he leaves, a signal of the end of their friendship.

Stein had wanted the Hemingways to visit her while away, but they didn't want to and were not planning to. Hemingway mentions Pablo Picasso, who later told him how he avoids making visits he doesn't wish to make—he "always promised the rich to come when they asked him because it made them so happy and then something would happen and he would be unable to appear."

Hemingway still makes a show of supporting Stein, but she quarrels with and alienates most of the friends she has left. While she and Hemingway eventually become friends again, they are never close in the same way.


The reader is left to imagine what exactly happened behind closed doors in Gertrude Stein's apartment, but the strong implication is a romantic/sexual rejection. The sketch is clearly an example of the importance of omission in Ernest Hemingway's stories in which he never mentions a major event and leaves it to the reader to feel and understand what is happening. Hemingway, observing Stein for the first time as weak and vulnerable, is unsettled by the sudden familiarity. He can't relate to her with the camaraderie and competition he feels with male writers. Something about Stein seems mysterious to Hemingway: her utilitarian clothing, her distinctive appearance, and her views on homosexuality. The mystery is left to the reader, too, who hears the incident from Hemingway's limited perspective.

Hemingway didn't always portray friends and family kindly in his writing. Though Stein was an essential benefactor to Hemingway, his portrait of her is unflattering, even mean. Hemingway portrays his young self by comparison as well-meaning, bewildered, and polite. His discomfort in continuing to appear at Stein's apartment, which was still the necessary meeting place for any writer, shows Hemingway adjusting to the still-changing modern art world. He judges some of Stein's new pictures as "worthless," and can't tell readers the whole story of their dissolved friendship at the end because "it was really much more complicated than that."

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