Sometimes Hemingway does not have enough money to eat, and during this time he gets exceptionally hungry because the cafes and bakeries of Paris are filled with food that looks and smells delicious. Sometimes Hemingway goes to the Luxembourg museum while he is hungry and feels that he understands the paintings better; he wonders if Cezanne was hungry when he painted them. After the museum he walks down to Shakespeare and Company, feeling that his “perceptions are heightened again.” At the bookshop, Sylvia tells Hemingway that he is too thin and asks what he ate for lunch. Hemingway lies and tells her that he is about to go home for lunch. Sylvia makes plans for Hemingway and Hadley to have dinner with friends of hers, and she warns Hemingway not to “work so hard now that you don’t eat properly.”
This passage shows both the positive and negative sides of Hemingway’s struggle as a young, poor artist. His lack of money makes life difficult, and he is surrounded by reminders (in the form of delicious-smelling cafes) that other people’s lives are filled with more material pleasures and ease than his own. At the same time, Hemingway’s hunger allows him to connect with the world—and with art in particular—in a different way. Not only are his senses heightened, but he seems to feel a sense of solidarity with other artists who worked and struggled before him.
Hemingway asks Sylvia if he has any mail; he is waiting on payment from Germany, which he claims is the only country where he can “sell anything.” Hemingway admits that ever since he quit journalism, he has barely been earning any money, yet he immediately apologizes for talking about money. Sylvia reassures him that there is nothing to apologize for and that he shouldn’t worry. She asks him to promise that he’ll eat enough, and he does. Hemingway leaves and immediately feels embarrassed about complaining; he resolves to get something to eat and drink, so he walks to brasserie called Lipp’s where he orders a large glass of beer and a potato salad. The meal is delicious. Hemingway laughs at the fact that Edward O’Brien took one of his stories for a Best Short Stories collection and dedicated his own book to Hemingway—only to spell Hemingway’s name wrong. He thinks about another story, “Up in Michigan,” which Gertrude Stein called “inaccrochable.” It is now lying in a drawer.
At times, Hemingway presents himself as a rather practical, rational, emotionally detached person. However, this passage contradicts this impression of Hemingway’s personality. He swings wildly between different moods, including self-consciousness, embarrassment, anxiety, and laughter. Sylvia acts as a maternal figure to him, reassuring him that his financial and professional problems will resolve themselves, while worrying that he is not taking good enough care of himself. It is clear that Sylvia’s words have a big impact on Hemingway, as he immediately goes to the brasserie and has a meal. On a similar note, Stein’s dismissal of “Up in Michigan” immediately causes Hemingway to abandon the story.
After a trip to Lausanne, Hemingway shows O’Brien his story about racing. At this point, Hemingway is in a defeated mood and doesn’t feel able to write. When O’Brien reads the story, he is incredibly sad. Hemingway has only once before seen someone this sad, which was when Hadley realized that after being robbed they’d lost all Hemingway’s manuscripts. The first story Hemingway wrote after this loss was “The Old Man and the Sea,” although he omitted the story’s “real ending”—which involved the old man hanging himself—as a test of a theory that if the best parts of the story are cut out, the story overall becomes more effective.
This passage reveals that there are many people around Hemingway who are deeply emotionally involved with his success as a writer. O’Brien is moved to tears by Hemingway’s story, and Hadley is so invested in his writing that she become unbearably sad when his manuscripts are lost. Clearly, Hemingway is aware of the emotional power his writing wields over others, even though he has not yet found the widespread success and acclaim he wants as a writer.
Hemingway notes that, while “hunger is good discipline,” it is important not to let “hunger-thinking” go too far. Hemingway knows he needs to write a novel, but he is finding it difficult. He compares practicing writing longer stories to training “for a longer race.” He has written a novel before, but it was stolen along with his other manuscripts. He thinks that writing a novel will finally guarantee that he and Hadley can “eat regularly.” Hemingway goes to a café, orders a café crème, and writes a story about “coming back from the war” that doesn’t mention the war itself. Hemingway thinks of the money from Germany in his pocket, reminding himself that, even after that is gone, more money will come in.
Hemingway’s words suggest a connection between the lost manuscripts and his new theory about omitting the best parts of a story. Although the loss of the manuscripts was tragic, perhaps they will make the writing Hemingway does in the future all the better, simply by virtue of their absence. This possibility confirms the idea that deprivation helps writers produce better work. The omission of the “real ending” of “The Old Man and the Sea,” the lost manuscripts, and Hemingway’s hunger thus all ultimately help him to succeed.