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A Feminist View on “The Paris Wife”

Like most Americans, I had to read Ernest Hemingway in high school.  It was part of our: “Modern writers of the 1920s who escaped America to drink heavily and party like they lived in an East Coast college frat house” unit.  I knew before that Hemingway was the badass of his time.  He could drink like an elephant and had a lot of charm with the ladies.  What I didn’t know about him though was his first marriage.  Although heavily fictionized, The Paris Wife tells the experiences of Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife and one of many women who put up with his douchebag alcoholic, cheating bullshit.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  Because it is well written, a quick read, and it shows a unique side of Hemingway.

I sincerely disliked Hadley.  Her character was weak and pathetic.  I understand that when you’re married, you should try to work through your problems, but it bothers me to read about such a passive female character.  When Ernest begins to openly cheat on her with another woman and expects her to understand and accept it, I thought: “Asshole!!! Leave him already!”  But then as I thought this, I realized that there really wasn’t much Hadley could do.  After all, she had a kid and couldn’t support herself.  She had given up everything she was interested in to “support” Hemingway and be his obedient cheerleader.  As a modern feminist, this disgusts me.  My opinion: never put all your eggs in one basket.  Especially with marriage.  But it, was a different time I suppose.  And Hadley turned out alright: she went from relying on one man to clinging on to another right after her divorce.  Yay for you Hadley.

My harsh judgement of Hadley aside, I do have to give her credit for trying to keep her marriage with Ernest and finally realizing that it was pointless.  Though her doormat personality made the last 30 pages difficult for me to read, I wouldn’t let that keep me from recommending this book.  If you have an interested in a short, well written book, this is a good one to pick up if you have a few minutes, or a whole day to spare.


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