A Moveable Feast


Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Hemingway and Stein develop a close friendship, but Hemingway feels that friendships between men and women are ultimately doomed to fail. Stein tells Hemingway to feel at home at 27 rue des Fleurus and sometimes Hemingway stops by even when Stein and Alice are not there. One day, Hemingway comes to say goodbye before Stein and “her companion” leave for the South of France. They 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 him Stein will be down shortly. She offers Hemingway a glass of eau-de-vie, which he drinks happily.
This chapter tells the story of how Stein and Hemingway’s friendship ends, but it begins by highlighting how close they are. Stein is so fond and trusting of Hemingway that she invites him to treat her house as if it is his own and for him and Hadley to accompany her and Alice on their trip. However, Stein’s feelings do not seem to match those of Hemingway, who harbors the secret belief that it is ultimately unsustainable for men and women to be friends in any circumstances.
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Hemingway then hears Stein’s voice in the distance, repeating the following words: “Please don’t. Please don’t, pussy.” Hemingway immediately sets down his glass and rushes out, despite the maidservant urging that Stein will be there shortly. Hemingway tells the maidservant to tell Stein that Hadley is sick and he had to go, but that he will write. This is the “end of it” for Hemingway; although he still gives Stein practical help and makes “the necessary appearances,” his friendship with Stein is over. Hemingway notes that, as years pass, Stein came to resemble a Roman Emperor, which “was fine if you liked your women to look like Roman Emperors.” He and Stein become friends again eventually, but Hemingway notes that he couldn’t actually be friends with her again “in my heart.”
Hemingway’s reaction to overhearing Stein’s pleas (presumably directed at Alice) seems rather extreme. It is clear that he is embarrassed to have accidentally encountered such an intimate and vulnerable side to Stein’s life. At the same time, Stein herself is not aware that Hemingway overheard anything, and thus there is no risk that she feels intruded upon. Rather, Hemingway appears to act solely out of disgust at what he hears. The notion that Hemingway feels misogynist disgust at Stein is further confirmed by his comment about her resemblance to a Roman Emperor.
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