Scott invites the Hemingways to have lunch with him, Zelda, and Scotty at their apartment. The apartment is “gloomy and airless” and everything in it is rented. Scott is nervous, and Zelda has a terrible hangover. The night before Scott and Zelda fought because he didn’t want to keep drinking. Hemingway notes that Zelda’s “dark blonde hair had been ruined temporarily” by a bad dye job. Although she makes an effort to be nice to Hemingway and Hadley, Hemingway feels that her mind is still at the party from the night before. They eat and drink wine; Zelda smiles happily, a smile that Hemingway thinks signals that Scott will not be able to get any writing done. He claims that Zelda is “jealous of Scott’s work” and always fights him when he is trying to write. Scott is deeply in love with Zelda, and they used to drink themselves into unconsciousness at the same time and end up going to sleep “like children.” However, now Zelda can drink more than Scott; Scott, meanwhile, is always trying to write and he dreams of going with his family to the Riviera, where he imagines all will be well. He invites Hemingway to join them.
Hemingway portrays Zelda as an almost demonic figure. His description of Zelda’s ruined hair and drunken smile suggest that she has a monstrous presence in the room; while appearing to be charming on the surface, in reality she has sinister, destructive intentions. On one level, Hemingway’s impression of Zelda seems to be rooted in reality. It is well-known that both she and Scott struggled with alcoholism, and that they enabled one another’s drinking problem through their intense and mutually destructive relationship. On the other hand, Zelda herself had ambitions as a writer and there is evidence that Scott deliberately suppressed her work, even confining her to a mental asylum. It thus seems likely that Hemingway’s account is biased by his apparent misogyny.
During one of their walks together, Scott tells Hemingway that he needs to sell some stories, and Hemingway advises him that he needs to write “as straight as you can.” Yet it is almost impossible for Scott to find time to write, and after his trip to the Riviera he is drunk more often, both in the day and at night. He is rude to “his inferiors” and starts “interfering” with Hemingway’s work just as Zelda interferes with his. Scott grows angry when Hemingway refuses to show him the first draft of The Sun Also Rises. While Hemingway and Hadley are in Austria, Scott and Zelda go to the lower Pyrénées, where Zelda is ill from “drinking too much champagne.” Scott invites Hemingway and Pauline to join them in Juan-les-Pins, which Scott claims will be like “the good old days.” Once there, “no one drank anything stronger than champagne” and Hemingway finds it is an excellent place to write. Zelda looks beautiful when she is tanned, and her hair turns dark gold. Hemingway concludes that Scott wasn’t able to write anything else until he “knew that [Zelda] was insane.”
It is clear that Hemingway sees Scott entirely as a victim, both of his own self-destructive alcoholism and Zelda’s malicious control. Even as Hemingway represents Scott’s cruel and destructive tendencies—of which Hemingway himself is sometimes the target—he is remarkably forgiving and suggests that Scott is not in control of his own behavior. It is perhaps Scott’s skill as a writer that leads Hemingway to represent him in this way and to demonize Zelda so thoroughly for obstructing Scott’s ability to work. Later feminist critics have pointed out that Zelda was perhaps as much or more of a victim than Scott, particularly after she was diagnosed as “insane” and locked away. However, this interpretation does not come through in Hemingway’s account.