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A Moveable Feast | Summary

See Plot Diagram


A Moveable Feast is a collection of anecdotes by young American writer Ernest Hemingway that cover the time he spent in Paris (1921–26) with his first wife, Hadley Richardson. The couple lived first in a small apartment in Paris's artistic Left Bank; Hemingway made money as a journalist while working to pursue his goal of writing fiction full time. The sketches introduce readers to the artists and writers who influenced Hemingway, many of whom were also American expatriates in Paris. Not arranged chronologically, the events depicted in the sketches move backward and forward in time.

A Good Café on the Place St.-Michel

In "A Good Café on the Place St.-Michel," Hemingway describes his regular walk through Paris, from the working-class Place Contrescarpe to the warm, more pleasant café. He contrasts the atmosphere of two cafés—one filthy and decadent, one warm and welcoming. He likes to write by "transplanting" himself into a different setting, working on a story about Michigan while in Paris.

Miss Stein Instructs

Hemingway describes the days he spends in writer Gertrude Stein's apartment, an important gathering place for career writers and artists. Stein's companion serves refreshments and engages wives in conversation. Hemingway helps Stein publish, and Stein critiques his writing, calling one story "inaccrochable," or too explicit to publish. One memorable discussion with Stein involves her teaching him about various aspects of homosexuality.

Shakespeare and Company

With little or no extra money for books, Hemingway discovers Shakespeare and Company, the lending library and bookstore owned by Sylvia Beach, who is generous and gracious. He befriends Beach and borrows several books. Afterward he and Hadley discuss their plans for Paris.

People of the Seine

Hemingway shares the sights he encounters while walking to the river Seine. He discusses the material value of books with a bookseller who runs an open-air stall along the river, and he watches the fishermen, noting the busy life on the river.

A False Spring

"A False Spring" presents two typical days in the life of Hemingway and Hadley when they were happy and optimistic. They go to the horse races, walk through Paris's wealthy neighborhoods, eat at restaurants, and reminisce about the past.

The End of an Avocation

Hemingway is infatuated with betting on horse races. The gambling is risky but occasionally profitable, and the profit motive keeps Hemingway devoted to it. Because it takes too much time, he decides to quit and becomes interested in bicycle racing.

"Une Génération Perdue"

Hemingway discusses literature with Gertrude Stein and explains some of her quirks, flaws, jealousies, and opinions of fellow authors. He also reveals the origin of the famous phrase "the Lost Generation" and its meaning to him.

Hunger Was Good Discipline

Hemingway has given up his journalism work, and money is tighter. He skips meals to save money and tries to avoid the aroma of food. He learns writing techniques from observing art and hopes he will be able to sell more of his work. He feels bad for having complained to Sylvia Beach.

Ford Madox Ford and the Devil's Disciple

"Ford Madox Ford and the Devil's Disciple" reveals a brief portrait of the British writer Ford Madox Ford, whom Hemingway finds smelly, nasty, and pompous but who edits an influential magazine. Ford explains the practice of "cutting" someone (ignoring the person when meeting socially) but is mistaken about the identity of the person he cuts. Meanwhile, Hemingway observes fellow veterans at his preferred writing café, the Closerie des Lilas.

With Pascin at the Dôme

In "With Pascin at the Dôme," Hemingway spends an evening at a bar with painter Jules Pascin and two of Pascin's vivacious models. Pascin is in good spirits, the way Hemingway will remember him after the painter's suicide.

Ezra Pound and the Measuring Worm

Hemingway is in Ezra Pound's apartment teaching the poet, whom he greatly admires, to box. Pound introduces Hemingway to artist Wyndham Lewis, nicknamed the "Measuring Worm." Hemingway thinks Lewis is the nastiest-looking man he's ever seen, describing him as "toe-jam," but tries to like him because Pound does.

A Strange Enough Ending

An odd incident—a domestic quarrel—at Stein's apartment leads to the end of her friendship with Hemingway. He says it is difficult for a man to be friends with great women and especially difficult with ambitious women writers. Hemingway continues to attend Stein's salons but never rekindles the friendship as it once was.

The Man Who Was Marked for Death

Hemingway meets Irish poet and editor Ernest Walsh, who suffers from tuberculosis and whom Hemingway calls a "con man." Walsh promises Hemingway a literary award, which never materializes. Hemingway also spends time with Pound and Irish writer James Joyce.

Evan Shipman at the Lilas

"Evan Shipman at the Lilas" depicts Hemingway's friendship with poet Evan Shipman and their interactions with the waiters at the Closerie des Lilas, who are military veterans. Hemingway thinks having time to read and write in Paris is like "having a great treasure given to you" and explains how Pound and reading Russian authors' works are teaching him to write.

An Agent of Evil

Ezra Pound asks Hemingway to deliver opium to reclusive and ill writer Ralph Cheever Dunning. When Hemingway attempts to make the delivery, Dunning drives him out of the apartment. Hemingway and Shipman later discuss the incident, trying to explain it; Hemingway thinks Shipman needs more ambition.

Winters in Schruns

Hemingway, Hadley, and their infant son, Bumby, go to a ski resort in Schruns, Austria, for the winter. They meet guests from all over Europe, train for long ski runs, and survive a season of avalanches. Hemingway hints his marriage to Hadley will end painfully during a second Schruns winter.

Scott Fitzgerald

Hemingway meets acclaimed writer F. Scott Fitzgerald; he waits for him and then travels with him in Lyon and from there back to Paris. Hemingway realizes Fitzgerald is unstable, rude, irresponsible, extravagant, and addicted to drinking, but nonetheless he respects Fitzgerald's talent and the struggles he faces.

Hawks Do Not Share

The Hemingways meet Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda (the "hawk" of the title), a woman who lives lavishly and is jealous of her husband's work, often trying to prevent him from writing. When the Hemingways spend time with the Fitzgeralds and other couples at a resort, Hemingway learns about Zelda's mental illness.

A Matter of Measurements

"A Matter of Measurements" takes place in the 1930s, later than the other stories. Hemingway and Fitzgerald meet in Paris and discuss Fitzgerald's unhappy marriage. After World War II Hemingway returns to Paris and reminisces with a bartender about Fitzgerald's Paris years.

Additional Paris Sketches

The restored edition of A Moveable Feast includes 10 additional sketches, which are Paris-centered stories that Ernest Hemingway's fourth wife and editor chose not to include in the first edition. Although Hemingway considered these stories incomplete, they shed light on several experiences and reflections omitted from the main narrative. The "Additional Paris Sketches," as the editors call them, give a larger picture of Hemingway's friendships and family relationships. The restored edition also adds a section called "Fragments," drafts of Hemingway's attempted introduction to the book. The fragments show his overall vision for A Moveable Feast as fictionalized autobiography.

A Moveable Feast Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675


1 Hemingway and Hadley move to Paris.

Rising Action

2 Hemingway quits working for the Toronto Star.

3 Bumby is born.

4 Hemingway revises first draft of The Sun Also Rises.


5 The Sun Also Rises is published.

Falling Action

6 Hemingway and Hadley end their marriage.


7 Hemingway starts to write A Moveable Feast.

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