Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastThe Man Who Was Marked For Death Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | The Man Who Was Marked for Death | Summary

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Summary

Hemingway meets the poet Ernest Walsh in Ezra Pound's studio. He describes Walsh as "dark, intense ... poetic, and clearly marked for death." The two young women with Walsh brag about how much money Walsh earns per published poem. Despite this alleged sum, he was bailed out of Claridge's by two rich women.

Pound later tells Hemingway that Walsh is going to start a new magazine with financial support. Hemingway recalls that the Dial, an American literary magazine, offers a large monetary award to winners of a writing contest. Walsh then asks Hemingway to an expensive lunch, and the two men praise the writers Pound and James Joyce. Hemingway is relieved to see Walsh looking healthier, although he is ill with tuberculosis. Walsh says Hemingway is "marked for Life" because he has nothing wrong with him, and then tells him he's going to get a similarly substantial writing award that his new magazine, This Quarter, would be offering. Hemingway doesn't quite believe him and thinks contemptuously of Walsh: "You con man conning me with your con." But outwardly, Hemingway appears humble and protests he doesn't deserve the award. The two men part on good terms.

Years later, after Walsh's death, Hemingway has a drink with Joyce, and the two men remember Walsh. Joyce says Walsh promised the writing award to both Hemingway and Pound. Hemingway tells Joyce about his first meeting with Walsh in Pound's studio, and the story makes Joyce happy.

Analysis

Ernest Walsh was an American-born writer who died of complications from tuberculosis at 31. He was best known for editing the magazine This Quarter (the publication promising Hemingway and Pound a hefty prize). Hemingway sees a certain sadness Irish writers have in common—the "complete, sad Irish understanding."

Though he knows Walsh is ill, Hemingway suspects the "marked for death" appearance might be somewhat affected, and he is glad Walsh doesn't bother to look deathly ill during their private lunch. He thinks Walsh's alleged income from each poem might be exaggerated, too, because both the appearance and the income garner Walsh "lady admirers."

Physical and mental illness recur as a theme as Hemingway reflects on his friends who have died, whether he noticed their illness in the 1920s or not. His cryptic statement, "Give me time," as a response to Walsh's assuring him he's "marked for Life," may be a remark the older Hemingway added, knowing his own death was near, to show how even as a young, healthy writer, he knew death and despair would catch up with him.

Yet young Hemingway has seen real death in the war and doesn't think much of Walsh's cultivating an "ailing artist" image. Walsh served in the army and a plane crash complicated his lung condition. But Hemingway thinks Walsh and his image are a "con." "Con" has a double meaning: both a manipulative trick and a short form of the word consumption, or tuberculosis.

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