A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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 is not right to bring a baby to a café in winter. Bumby’s only babysitter is the Hemingways’ cat, F. Puss. The family go to Austria and stay at a hotel called the Taube where the rooms are “large and comfortable” and where they serve good food. Due to inflation of the Austrian shilling, the price of room and board decreases over time. The family go skiing; one of the slopes leads to “a beautiful inn” with an ornately decorated drinking room. Bumby is looked after by a “beautiful dark-haired girl” while Hemingway and Hadley explore. They enroll in the ski school of Herr Walther Lent, a “pioneer” skier. Both Hemingway and Hadley love skiing and Hemingway notes that Hadley has beautiful, strong legs for skiing and she never falls.
Hemingway and Hadley’s “honeymoon period” continues even after their son, Bumby, is born. Although the family is forced to make changes to their usual routine, it seems that the decision to leave Paris for the winter ends up benefiting all of them in the long run. For Hemingway, fatherhood seems to be a fun, pleasure-filled, and light-hearted experience. Furthermore, Bumby’s existence does not inhibit Hemingway and Hadley from pursuing their own interests, such as traveling and skiing. While Hemingway at times experiences conflict in his friendships and creative endeavors, his family life is surprisingly conflict-free.
Themes
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Hemingway and Hadley are “always hungry” while skiing and every meal becomes “a great event.” They drink beer, wine, kirsch, and Schnapps. They have brought books from Sylvia’s bookstore and sometimes they play poker at the hotel. In the morning, they eat delicious breakfasts of fruit, eggs, ham, and coffee. A dog called Schnauz sleeps at the end of Hemingway’s bed and during the day walks around with Bumby and his nurse. Hemingway notes that it is a good place to work, and that he manages to get through the very challenging task of rewriting the first draft of The Sun Also Rises while there. One year, a couple is killed by an avalanche; they turn out to be the first of many people to die in this way. It is too dangerous to ski, and, although Herr Lent tells people not to come, they do anyway. Hemingway is disturbed by the discovery of the body of one man, who was buried alive for hours before finally dying and whose neck is eroded to the bone.
The contrast between Hemingway’s descriptions of the idyllic life he leads in Austria and the gruesome deaths by avalanche is striking. The Hemingway family’s life on the slopes is almost comically harmonious; their days are filled with delicious food and drink, Bumby is well taken care of, and even Hemingway’s writing goes seamlessly. However, even this paradise is haunted by violence, tragedy, and death. The description of the dead man’s body serves as a jarring reminder that meaningless destruction and death are everywhere. In this sense, the avalanche deaths symbolically represent the lingering presence of the war.
Themes
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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.” Hemingway fondly remembers the smell of the pine trees, the tracks of hares and foxes, and the many different kinds of snow. Hemingway says that the last year they spend in the mountains changes everything. He compares the winter of the avalanches to a “happy and innocent winter in childhood,” which was followed by a dark period in which three hearts were broken and happiness destroyed. He concludes by saying that Hadley was not to blame for anything and that she ended up marrying “a much finer man than I ever was” and being happy.
The ending of this chapter raises far more questions than it resolves. First of all, it is strange that Hemingway describes the winter of the avalanches as “happy and innocent,” given that this winter was defined by gruesome and meaningless death. His description of the events that follow is extremely vague, and he fails to mention who the broken hearts belong to or what exactly takes place. However, he then switches to an extremely specific detail—the fact that Hadley marries another man—and presents it with surprising nonchalance.
Themes
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Love, Sex, and Friendship Theme Icon
Happiness and Sadness Theme Icon