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A Moveable Feast | Symbols

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Food and Drink

Food and drink symbolize pleasure, joy, and community. Eating is an aesthetic exercise in Paris. Mealtimes are a celebration, and Hemingway frequently describes the quality of the food, evoking the reader's sense of taste, smell, and touch. Important, too, is that the expectation of good food, well prepared, is not an extravagance or affectation. It is a part of the Parisian culture he finds so agreeable and attractive.

"Drinking wine ... was as natural as eating and to me as necessary," says Hemingway in "Scott Fitzgerald." Drinking is a social unifier and a stress reliever, "a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight." Alcohol is central to the social life of Paris, for better or worse. Through his travels with Fitzgerald especially, however (but not limited to him), Hemingway sees the darker side of alcohol consumption and the decadent lifestyle of the Roaring Twenties.

Art

Art represents desire, longing, and new ways of looking at the world. Hemingway associates art with hunger; the concentration he achieves by skipping meals is similar to the concentration he requires to appreciate art. When he is hungry, he finds the paintings in the Luxembourg museum "heightened and clearer and more beautiful."

Visual art is as educational to Hemingway as literature. He believes his readers "will understand the way they always do in painting." He studies the canvases of Paul Cézanne to learn how to communicate more clearly in his writing. One of his selected titles for A Moveable Feast, The Early Eye and the Ear, emphasizes the importance of observation and attentive listening to Hemingway's own resonant, careful writing style.

Paris itself is presented in images and snapshots. Hemingway gives the reader a clear visual picture of the Seine, Gertrude Stein's apartment, the sidewalk cafés, and other areas of Paris, describing his daily walks so the reader can join him. The city becomes its own artwork through his words.

Skiing

Skiing, to Hemingway, stands for transition and change. Hemingway leaves Paris to ski, entering a new landscape with different scenery and different loyalties. He also associates skiing with turbulent change in his life. "Winters in Schruns" concludes with Hemingway bitterly foreshadowing the disastrous end of his first marriage. When "new people came deep into our lives," they included his second wife, Pauline, whose presence changed everything. Later, in "The Pilot Fish and the Rich," he compares broken legs on the ski slope to broken hearts.

Like life changes, skiing can be treacherous. Hemingway brushes against danger during the avalanche season and as he builds up for the glacier run. He describes witnessing avalanche deaths over his vacation: tragedy and celebration side by side. Skiing, however, like numerous other physical activities he thrives on, is always a risk he is willing to take; the thrill is worth it, and he is "stronger at the broken places" afterward.

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