A Moveable Feast


Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Hemingway and Hadley continue to go “racing,” even though Hemingway admits that this makes it seem as if they are racing themselves, when in fact they are only gambling. Although racing doesn’t come between them, it is nonetheless a “demanding” presence in their relationship. Hemingway tolerates all that is difficult about racing because it has the potential to be “profitable,” but soon he gets “too mixed up” in it. It is complex and difficult to keep track of it all, though Hemingway finds it “beautiful.” Hemingway is relieved when he finally gives it up, though this also creates an “emptiness” inside him. The day he quits racing, he meets his friend Mike Ward on the Boulevard des Italiens while depositing his final winnings. They have lunch at bistro that serves “a wonderful white wine.”
Hemingway’s uneasy relationship with racing provides an interesting counterpoint to his feelings about writing. Hemingway appears to find writing a simpler practice than racing in that he is able to exercise greater control in writing than racing and he is thus better able to ensure success. On the other hand, racing is appealing because it has the potential to be “profitable”—more so, it seems, than writing. However, this temptation does not prove sufficient to keep Hemingway going to the races forever. The stress caused by the intensity and unpredictability of racing turns out to be something Hemingway seeks to escape.
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Hemingway and Mike discuss racing; Mike advises Hemingway that it’s hard to stop going and it’s good that he has done so. Mike suggests that they go to the bike races instead. For now, Hemingway admits that it is a relief to bet “on your own life and work, and on the painters that you know” again. He has begun writing many stories about bicycle racing but he has never managed to capture how wonderful it truly is. He reflects that there are many different kinds of racing: some long, some quick, some dangerous, and some beautiful. He resolves to write a story about “the strange world of the six-day races,” because the topic has only “properly” been written about in French so far. He notes that he agrees with Mike that “there is no need to bet.”
Hemingway’s decision to stop gambling at the races indicates a sense of newfound maturity in the young writer. Whereas before he was attracted to the “dangerous” thrill of betting, he now focuses on the more reliable and appropriate pursuit of trying to capture the races in literature. Thus writing itself is presented as a kind of gamble, in which winning constitutes accurately and compellingly portraying the subject matter at hand. Compared to real gambling, however, writing is both less risky and more productive.
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