A Moveable Feast

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The Seasons Symbol Analysis

The Seasons Symbol Icon

A Moveable Feast begins with a description of bad weather, and the book is filled with references to the seasons. Hemingway is particularly sensitive to seasonal change, and he frequently describes the way in which the natural atmosphere reflects—or dictates—his mood. Hemingway conveys this most emphatically in the chapter entitled “A False Spring,” in which he describes the way that the winter cold in Paris can give way to warm, bright weather, only for wintery conditions to resurface before the real spring eventually comes. Hemingway’s descriptions of the weather and seasons draw attention to the visceral experience of everyday life, a defining concern of A Moveable Feast and, more generally, of the broader genre of modernist literature in which Hemingway was writing.

The seasons also have specific symbolic significance within the book. The harsh and dark period of winter arguably corresponds to the First World War. This means that the era Hemingway is describing—Paris in the 1920s—is akin to a warm, sunny spring. Of course, this spring did turn out to be “false,” as the 1920s were quickly followed by the Great Depression and the Second World War. Hemingway’s emphasis on the seasons also highlights the passing of time, another central concern of the book. While Hemingway wrote much of the original material at the time in which the book is set, he revised and assembled it much later in life. His narrative perspective thus takes into account the cyclical progression of time, including the hopeful periods of youthful innocence (represented by the spring) and the dark, cruel eras of hopelessness and suffering (winter). Hemingway illustrates the way in which these seasons of life—like the four seasons of the year—inevitably end, even if in the midst of them it can seem like they will last forever.

The Seasons Quotes in A Moveable Feast

The A Moveable Feast quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Seasons. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of A Moveable Feast published in 2010.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Then the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.
In those days, though, the spring always came finally; but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.

Related Characters: Ernest Hemingway (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Hemingway has described the fishermen who fished along the Seine, noting that certain travel writers call these men crazy, when in fact they are far more successful at catching fish than most people realize. He notes that there are many trees in Paris, which means you can see spring coming in full force—yet at times this is a “false spring,” which gives way to more cold winter weather. In this passage, Hemingway compares the return of cold weather to a young person dying “for no reason.” This comparison makes explicit the connection between winter and the First World War.

At the time Hemingway is writing, Europe is haunted by the legacy of the war, which was defined by the senseless deaths of millions of people, particularly young men who fought as soldiers. Although the war eventually ended and the “spring” of peace arrived, cold weather is “frightening” because of the way it reminds Hemingway of the long winter of war. In addition, the thought that the spring had “nearly failed” draws attention to the fragility of spring (a concept also underscored by the next chapter’s title, “False Spring”). In the context of inter-war Europe (which was, of course, then understood only as postwar Europe), the fragility of the spring is an ominous premonition of the imminent return of war.

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Standing there I wondered how much of what we had felt on the bridge was just hunger. I asked my wife and she said, "I don't know, Tatie. There are so many sorts of hunger. In the spring there are more. But that's gone now. Memory is hunger."

Related Characters: Ernest Hemingway (speaker), Hadley Hemingway (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Hemingway and Hadley have been remarkably successful at the races, and after leaving the track they walk through Paris, discussing a number of different topics. Later, staring through the window of a restaurant, Hemingway reflects on the conversation they had while walking through Paris, wondering if it was “just hunger.” While standing on the bridge, Hemingway and Hadley had discussed Stein and Toklas, memories of their travels, and their friend Chink, so it is not clear what exactly Hemingway is referring to when he discusses “what he had felt on the bridge.”

Hadley’s response unites three of the main themes in the book: hunger, the seasons, and memory. Like Hemingway’s comment about the bridge, Hadley’s words are rather mysterious. Why are there more kinds of hunger in the spring? It’s possible the link between hunger and the spring is rooted in the fact that both are sensual experiences that make people more sensitive and attuned to the world around them. Equally enigmatic is Hadley’s final statement: “memory is hunger.” Perhaps this refers to the nostalgia one feels when thinking back on happy times that have passed. This certainly seems true of Hemingway, who frequently mentions how happy, lucky, and carefree he and Hadley were during the early years in Paris.

Chapter 16 Quotes

The winter of the avalanches was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to that winter and the murderous summer that was to follow. Hadley and I had become too confident in each other and careless in our confidence and pride. In the mechanics of how this was penetrated I have never tried to apportion the blame, except my own part, and that was clearer all my life. The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and the good work and all that came out of it is not part of this book. I wrote it and left it out. It is a complicated, valuable and instructive story.

Related Characters: Ernest Hemingway (speaker), Hadley Hemingway, Pauline Hemingway (née Pfeiffer)
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

Hemingway has described his and Hadley’s winter vacations to Austria. During one of their trips, there are a number of avalanches that kill some of their fellows skiers. However, despite the tragic deaths that take place that year, in this passage Hemingway argues that the next year is even worse, due to the initiation of Hemingway’s affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, which ultimately causes the dissolution of his and Hadley’s marriage. Throughout the book, Hemingway often compares himself and Hadley to children and their happiness to an innocent, youthful naïveté. This emphasizes the distance between Hemingway at the age he is during the book’s events and as the narrator looking back on this time many years later.

This passage is certainly melodramatic, and it is curious and somewhat morally dubious to imply that the winter of the avalanches—in which several people lost their lives—was “happy and innocent” in comparison to the winter in which Pauline enters Hemingway’s and Hadley’s lives. The final sentences of this passage emphasize Hemingway’s theory that omitting the most important and powerful parts of any story will strengthen it. Of course, the reader must then decide for themselves if this is really true. Is A Moveable Feast enriched by the fact that we never learn the concrete details of how Hemingway’s affair with Pauline begins or how he eventually decides to leave Hadley and marry Pauline instead?

Chapter 17 Quotes

He had many good, good friends, more than anyone I knew. But I enlisted as one more, whether I could be of any use to him or not. If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby I was sure that he could write an even better one. I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him. But we were to find them out soon enough.

Related Characters: Ernest Hemingway (speaker), Hadley Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Related Symbols: The Seasons
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

Hemingway has returned from his (rather stressful) trip with Scott to Lyon, and has told Hadley all about it. A couple of days later, Scott brings a copy of The Great Gatsby for Hemingway to read, and Hemingway is impressed. In this passage, Hemingway argues that The Great Gatsby is an excellent book but that it proves Scott can write an even better book. This could be interpreted as something of a backhanded compliment, although the overall impression is that Hemingway genuinely admires Scott and wishes him well. Indeed, Hemingway demonizes Zelda for inhibiting Scott’s ability to succeed as a writer, placing far more blame on her for Scott’s problems than he does on Scott himself. Again, this is an indication of Hemingway’s rather sexist distrust of women.

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The Seasons Symbol Timeline in A Moveable Feast

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Seasons appears in A Moveable Feast. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: A Good Café on the Place St.-Michel
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
Hemingway describes the “bad weather” that always comes to Paris after the fall, with cold rain and wind pulling the leaves from the trees. He describes the Café... (full context)
Chapter 4: People of the Seine
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
...lonely when he is walking by the river, and walking along he waits for the spring to come. He notes that “the only truly sad time in Paris” is when the... (full context)
Chapter 5: A False Spring
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Success, Gossip, and Fame Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
When the spring comes, even when it is “false,” the only question is “where to be happiest.” People... (full context)
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
...the wine they drank and they say that they will “always miss Chink in the winter and the spring.” Hemingway explains that Chink is a professional soldier, whom Hemingway met in... (full context)
Chapter 9: Ford Madox Ford and the Devil’s Disciple
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Success, Gossip, and Fame Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
...the Closerie des Lilas, which is one of the nicest cafés in Paris. In the winter it is warm inside, and in the spring it is pleasant to sit outside at... (full context)
Chapter 10: With Pascin at the Dôme
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Success, Gossip, and Fame Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
It is a lovely spring evening. After a day of work, Hemingway leaves his flat and walks over to a... (full context)
Chapter 12: A Strange Enough Ending
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
...had invited Hemingway and Hadley, but Hadley preferred to go elsewhere. It is a “lovely spring day,” and when Hemingway arrives at Stein’s home the maidservant lets him in and tells... (full context)
Chapter 16: Winter in Shrums
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
After Hemingway’s son Bumby is born, the young family leaves Paris during the cold winters. Before Bumby Hemingway would happily work in cafés during the winter, but he feels it... (full context)
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
Hemingway grows his hair and beard long during these winters, and Herr Lent tells him that the local peasants nickname him “the Black Kirsch-drinking Christ.”... (full context)
Chapter 17: Scott Fitzgerald
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Success, Gossip, and Fame Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon
...join him on a trip to Lyon to pick up the car. It is late spring and Hemingway likes Scott, so he agrees to accompany him on the trip. Hadley also... (full context)
Paris Sketches: A Strange Fight Club
Creation vs. Critique Theme Icon
Hunger vs. Consumption Theme Icon
Success, Gossip, and Fame Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
...to the Stade Anastasie, a “dance hall restaurant” that hosts boxing matches during the late spring, summer, and early fall. Customers at the restaurant can watch the match as they eat... (full context)