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Characterization of Hadley

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Ernest Hemingway remembers his time in Paris fondly in his memoir A Moveable Feast. The book tells about his writing process and other fond memories in Paris with his wife, Hadley. Hemingway often refers to Hadley strictly as his wife, but he eventually makes a transition from calling her his wife to Hadley. Throughout the book, Hemingway characterizes Hadley as a fun-loving, supportive wife. While Hemingway’s book has no chronological order, he uses this subtle transition to mark a divide in his and Hadley’s relationship.

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Hemingway tells the reader about his experiences in Paris and about his encounters with other famous authors. The first chapter of the book starts out with Hemingway describing his cafe where he prefers to write. At the end of the chapter, he mentions a brief conversation with his wife about a vacation that they want to take. He describes her, “She had a lovely modeled face and her eyes and her smile lighted up at decisions as though they were rich presents” (Hemingway 19). With a simple description of his wife, Hemingway allows his dialogue to be the center focus rather than elaborately describing his wife. The imagery Hemingway uses to describe the way she responds to a decision to go on a vacation shows how she sees the vacation; she thinks of the vacation as a rich present that she does not often get. Since Hemingway is so set on going on this trip, his wife delights in going. She supports Hemingway’s decision to leave Paris, so he may write about Paris.

Hadley also supports Hemingway when he decides to grow his hair out long. She even decides to cut her hair to the same length as Hemingway has his, so they may grow their hair out together. One of the bigger decisions Hemingway makes during this Parisian time is to bet on horse races. Hadley asks Hemingway, “Do we have enough money to really bet, Tatie?” (42). At this point in Hemingway’s career, he is still writing for newspapers, and he has submitted some short stories to be published. The Hemingways are nowhere near being rich, but they do not think themselves poor either. They certainly do not have the spare money to gamble on horse races, but Hadley supports Hemingway anyway: “I think we ought to go… We haven’t been for such a long time” (43). Hemingway even says that he has been tight with any income that they have, so when he wants to gamble what little surplus, if one could call it that, that they have, Hadley still supports him.

Hemingway conveys how deep his and Hadley’s relationship is in a specific scene, “It was a wonderful meal at Michaud’s after we got in; but when we had finished and there was no question of hunger any more the feeling that had been like hunger when we were on the bridge was still there when we caught the bus home” (49). He shows in this scene that their hunger was not only a physical feeling, but it was a longing for something more. Hemingway knew his wife so well that he could tell that she felt hungry in the same way he did. Hemingway shows with this scene that he and Hadley had a strong bond which only makes their divorce more tragic.

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In the sixth chapter of the book, Hemingway uses Hadley’s name for the first time instead of referring to her as his wife. While this may seem insignificant, it has a deeper meaning behind it. The chapters of A Moveable Feast are not in chronological order, so this switch in reference to Hadley could symbolize the beginnings of how Hemingway and Hadley’s relationship started to deteriorate. In chapter sixteen, Hemingway closes the chapter with a discussion about the end of his relationship with Hadley. He states, “Hadley and I had become too confident in each other and careless in our confidence and pride” (123). He starts this brief discussion with saying that they had grown too relaxed in their relationship. Later on he states, “ Hadley … came well out of it and married a much finer man than I ever was or could hope to be and is happy and deserves it” (123). Hemingway intimately knows Hadley, and he recognizes that she was not to blame for their marriage ending. He still cares for her happiness because she was his wife and mother to his first child. From chapter six to chapter sixteen, Hemingway rarely calls Hadley his wife. These chapters take place during the time that they had “become too confident in each other.” Hemingway distances himself from Hadley through work, and his marriage falls apart.

How does Hemingway see Hadley completely? He sees her as a dedicated wife who supports him in his writing career, someone with whom he can relate to on a deeper level, and ultimately as a woman who deserves someone better than Hemingway himself. He captures her true personality through the conversations he includes in A Moveable Feast. Since his marriage to Hadley ended in divorce, Hemingway could have skewed the reader’s perception of Hadley into a spiteful woman, but he chose to remain mostly unbiased in his characterization of her. Hemingway remembers his time in Paris with Hadley as a mostly happy time in his life, and he wants the reader to experience Paris as he did. He approaches his memories with Hadley free of noticeable bias, and he provides the reader an accurate description of his first wife. Hadley Hemingway was incredibly supportive of Ernest during his years as a struggling author, and she appreciated the simpler life they led compared to the richer lives that some of Hemingway’s friends lived. Ultimately, Hemingway knew Hadley deserved better than he was or could provide for her at the time. He still cherished their time together, and he did not want to taint those memories with the bitterness a divorce can bring. He loved Hadley and only wanted to show his readers how much life she helped him lived in Paris during those five years of marriage.

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