Quicklet on Ernest Hemingway's...

Table of Contents
Quicklet on Ernest Hemingway's... Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I. Background and Basics
About the Book

Introducing the Author

Overall Summary

II. Discussion and Analysis
Chapter-By-Chapter Summary and Commentary

III. Key Information
Character List

Notable Terms and Definitions

Major Themes and Symbols

Interesting Related Facts

IV. References

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Quicklet on Ernest Hemingway's... Table of Contents

Further Reading

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Background and

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Quicklet on Ernest Hemingway's... Background and Basics

About the Book

In our youth we are prone to indulging in the idea of love. Young love is primarily
concerned with purity, passion, and unconditional care. All too often the immature mind
glosses over the more painful moments connected to love and only remembers love as a
beautiful force. But as those who have loved and lost will attest, love is rarely the blissful
emotion that fairytales make it out to be. Love is messy, and sometimes even
dangerous if mixed with some measure of obsession, and a need to control. Such is the
case with Ernest Hemingway’s posthumously published classic, The Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden was released in the late 1980s, a little over two decades after Ernest
Hemingway’s death. The novel’s posthumous publication forced readers and scholars to
rethink their perceptions of its author. Early critics of Hemingway often praised his male-
centric view of the world. Most of his memorable characters were men performing
masculine pursuits. Most of his women were presented as characters that weakened the
male protagonist or lead to the deterioration of his life. However, in The Garden of
Eden, Hemingway presents two female characters (Catherine and Marita) who are both
not molded to fit the “weak” female characters portrayed in Hemingway’s other novels.
In fact, Catherine is often presented as more “manly” than her husband. This exploration
of gender roles, sexual identity, and sexual deviance drastically deviated from what was
expected from Hemingway

The novel also stirred up much criticism about how it was edited. The fact remains that
the novel was never finished. This begs the question, how much of it was edited out
before finally getting published? Moreover, what other changes would Hemingway have
made if he had had the chance to revise his work? Such has always been the problem
with posthumously published work. We may never really know what Hemingway’s novel
might have turned out to be.

But the material that did make it to print seems to suggest that this piece was something
that would have broken new ground for him. Unlike his previous stories, The Garden of
Eden didn’t focus on some thrilling, albeit vicarious, adventure. Instead Hemingway
ventures into territory that seems more the province of romance novelists than an author
of his stature.

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Moreover, his two main characters seem to go against type. Perhaps reflective of the
story’s role-reversing, gender-bending explorations, Hemingway’s leading male
character, David Bourne, is passive, while his lead female, Catherine Bourne, is the one
pulling the strings. Those familiar with Hemingway’s previously published novels such
as A Farewell to Arms, or For Whom the Bell Tolls will note that while Hemingway has
written strong female leads before, he has never really written such relatively timid male

Its controversial nature makes The Garden of Eden a definite must-read for serious
Hemingway scholars and fans alike. The book was even recently adapted into a
film starring Mena Suvari and Jack Huston. Unfortunately, the adaptation was mostly
panned by critics.

The novel is well-worth reading not just because it is quite distinctive relative to
Hemingway’s other books, but also because it gives us a glimpse into themes such as
gender roles and sexual awakening that Hemingway was doubtless trying to make sense
of in the years that he spent writing the novel.

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Introducing the Author

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1898. His father was a
physician and his mother was an active member of their local church. Both his parents
profoundly influenced the man he became. Hemingway’s father taught his son how to
hunt and fish, while his mother had him learn to play the cello and join their church choir.
His father’s eventual suicide haunted Hemingway for the rest of his life.

The emotional scars from this incident probably influenced his decision to run away from
home twice when he was growing up. However, his first real experience away from home
didn’t occur until 1917 when he was able to get work as an ambulance driver for the Red
Cross medical service in the Italian front. During this time he sustained severe injuries
after he rescuing a wounded man and carrying him to the nearby station. Consequently,
Hemingway needed to have over two hundred pieces of shrapnel removed from his legs
and body.

It wasn’t until after the First World War that Hemingway started exploring the possibility
of pursuing a career in writing. He was able to get a job as a foreign correspondent in the
Near East for the Toronto Star. His writing career blossomed after this point, allowing
Hemingway to produce an impressive body of work until his suicide in the 1960s.

Some of his major works include his novels, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms
which were published in 1920s. The former was inspired from Hemingway’s experiences
with the expatriate American community living in Paris during the 1920s. The latter drew
from his experiences as an ambulance driver during the First World War.

His novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, was published in 1940, and was drawn from
Hemingway’s experiences as a reporter in the Spanish Civil War. But it was one of his
later works,The Old Man and the Sea published in 1952, that won him the Nobel Prize in
Literature two years later. Hemingway’s novel, The Garden of Eden wasn’t published
until 1986, many years after his death.

What sets Hemingway apart from his contemporaries was his extraordinarily adventurous
lifestyle. Hemingway was an ambulance driver in World War I, studied bullfighting in
Pamplona, hunted in Wyoming, and sailed around the Caribbean in his own boat.
Hemingway was also present and reported on some of the battles of the Spanish Civil

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Hemingway was also present and reported on some of the battles of the Spanish Civil
War. In his travels as a reporter, Hemingway visited Europe, Cuba, and even China. His
excellent writing technique and ability to elaborately explain events made him a much
sought after correspondent and he used his skill to further explore the world. Yet
Hemingway’s many travels never provided him with one place he was able to call home.
Often, even while writing a manuscript, Hemingway would travel from country to country.
He rarely felt comfortable enough to stay in once place (no matter how beautiful) for an
extended period of time.

Despite being gifted with such writing brilliance, Hemingway suffered from psychological
problems that ultimately led to his own undoing. Perhaps it is more than a little ironic that
the very sort of struggle that Hemingway so enjoyed writing about was something that he
succumbed to in his final days. Nevertheless, Hemingway remains one of the most
enigmatic, charismatic, and influential writers of the previous century.

Someone once said that the choices we make that define our lives. In Hemingway’s case,
one moment of weakness ended up costing him his life, and robbing us of a literary
genius who was often decades ahead of his time. We can only speculate to what new
heights his writing would have soared had he lived. For example, was The Garden of
Eden and its portrayal of gender reversal, sexual identity, and artistic expression
Hemingway’s attempt to redirect his writing focus. Was his initial style a prequel to a
more developed illustration of the complex relationships between men and women?
While we will never know, The Garden of Eden provides a unique look into what the
Hemingway’s future could have been.

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Overall Summary

The story is set in 1927, the First World War was over, and the next one had yet to begin.
The world was very different from what it was at the turn of the century. The 1920s were
also the heyday of the jazz era. Hemingway’s choice to set the novel primarily in the
south of France is also particularly interesting because such a milieu helps reflect the
inner struggles of its principal characters. Southern France is a beautiful, idyllic location
filled with both natural beauty and the luxuries of a European country. One can almost
liken the beauty of the south of France to a modern day Eden, where Hemingway’s
characters explore, and eventually lose, their innocence.

David and Catherine Bourne are a couple of newlyweds traveling through the south of
France while on their honeymoon. David is a writer that has published two successful
novels, and is working on his next one. Catherine is a spoiled heiress that eventually
becomes the architect of the destruction of her relationship with her new husband.

The couple spend a lot of their time doing things that rich young honeymooners do:
making love, eating, drinking and enjoying the picturesque ambiance. Of course it doesn’t
take long for bored Catherine to suggest some sexual variation to “spice up” their sex
life. David submits, and his wife soon takes on a far more aggressive and dominant role in
their lovemaking.

Aside from the sexual experimentation, Catherine’s appearance soon grows noticeably
more masculine. She cuts and bleaches her hair. She even has some pants made for
herself so that even her clothing is even less feminine. While such “makeovers” may
seem quite par for the course nowadays, how this would have been perceived in the early
part of the last century was a different matter entirely. Women were generally expected
to take on a far more submissive role compared to the post-feminist world of the current
age. So for Catherine to reinvent herself in such a masculine fashion was in and of itself
somewhat revolutionary.

Eventually, Catherine meets Marita, a beautiful Italian woman living in the area. She soon
engages the Italian woman in a lesbian relationship. However, Catherine soon
encourages David to also have a sexual relationship with the “Italian beauty”.

At first glance, the plot seems more Zalman King than Ernest Hemingway. But King would

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At first glance, the plot seems more Zalman King than Ernest Hemingway. But King would
have kept his narrative firmly focused on mere sexual gratification; Hemingway has far
deeper point and purpose.

As titillating as a ménage à trois sounds, three is quite unstable for interpersonal
relationships. Invariably, one party eventually feels excluded by the other two. Such is the
case in The Garden of Eden. Not surprisingly, Catherine soons grows jealous of Marita and
David, who grow closer as the story unfolds. In a fit of jealousy, Catherine burns David’s
notes of his collection of stories.

Towards the story’s end, David and Marita end up living together. With her
encouragement, he starts working on rewriting the stories that were lost when Catherine
burned the notebooks. While it is satisfying to find the novel ending on a positive and
hopeful note, there is little doubt that the novel requires further polishing. As a character
Marita feels underdeveloped. Moreover, there are sections of the story that feel as
though Hemingway intended to develop them further, but died before being able to do

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Discussion and

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Chapter-By-Chapter Summary and

Chapters 1 to 5

The first five chapters of The Garden of Eden set up the rest of the narrative. The
chapters introduce the readers to David and Catherine Bourne, a recently-wed couple
honeymooning in 1927 Europe. There also hints of Catherine’s “destructive tendencies”
this early in the narrative. Catherine decides to cut her hair, and gets David to try some
things to spice up their sex life. The couple discusses future travel plans through Africa,
all while traveling through the French ,and eventually Spanish, countryside. David also
takes some time to write in his notebook.

The overall sentiment in these five chapters is relatively tranquil, and there is little hint of
the coming storm. But this is where the narrative is taking one deep breath before
plunging into catastrophe. The relative ease that permeates through these initial chapters
is a testament to Hemingway’s storytelling prowess. After all, it takes a good storyteller to
establish a routine or pattern before introducing problems.

One of the elements that Hemingway seems keen on establishing this early is
gastronomy. He has taken the time to describe the sort of food and drinks that David
and Catherine enjoy. It’s almost as though the reader is able to vicariously experience
their gastronomic adventures set against the backdrop of a lush European landscape.

At this point in the novel some readers are probably wondering to what point and purpose
highlighting such an innocuous, and possibly tangential, element could have on the story?
Hemingway may have wanted to develop a stronger link between the act of satisfying a
physiological need to consume food with the need to satisfy sexual cravings. While this
observation is by no means intended to be a Freudian interpretation, it is interesting to
note how remarkably similar both types of cravings can be.

More to the point, while crafting a love scene and a scene involving food may seem
different, the writing skills needed to be able to engage a reader’s senses are the same
for both. Bereft of any visuals, the storyteller must rely purely on the power their words
have on the reader’s imagination.

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These initial chapters focus on the relationship that exists between the Catherine and
David. The couple seems well suited to each other, but Hemingway drops subtle hints that
foreshadow the behavior that will slowly drive the couple apart.

Chapters 6 to 10

This next set of chapters initially carries on the routine from the previous chapters. But
also starts to introduce the cracks in the couple’s relationship. Moreover, Catherine’s
desire to slowly control and manipulate David eventually results in her convincing him to
bleach his hair like hers. All the while David continues to find time to write and the couple
enjoys the bliss of their honeymoon.

By the first third of the published material, Hemingway has already established the broad
strokes of narrative. He has introduced both Catherine and David and clearly established
their mannerisms. Catherine is the more aggressive, masculine character who is
constantly attempting to both make David more submissive to her and exhibit her own
power. David, on the other hand, is the more passive, even-keeled character that takes a
less overt approach to the relationship. This is obviously a huge break from how
Hemingway typically wrote both his male and female characters.

Hemingway also introduces elements that will eventually contribute to the novel’s
spectacular climax. However, it is interesting to note that although David is writing down
his experiences of their honeymoon, by this time Catherine has invariably introduced the
notion of “Africa” in his mind. Her questions, coupled with elements such as African wine
and the strategically encountered works of art, all help plant the seeds for David’s
eventual African story about his father.

The intense jealousy that Catherine eventually develops for David’s “muse” later in the
story is cast in a different light when we consider how it seems that she was the one who
planted the seeds in his subconscious. If so, then does this mean that she is the muse? If
that’s the case, then her jealousy and rage seem to demonstrate that among her many
issues, Catherine hates herself.

It seems prudent to point out that Hemingway may have wanted to develop this point
further, perhaps even created a sort of parallel journey of self-discovery and healing
between David, Catherine, and possibly Marita.

So rather than have Catherine’s jealous rage destroy the relationship, it could have
instead been the key to her healing. David’s story could still have been burned, but from
its ashes the trio could have emerged stronger and more solidly in love with one another

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than ever. While we will never really know how Hemingway might have developed and
revised the story, it is certainly interesting to consider the possibilities.

Chapters 11 to 15

Hemingway moves the narrative along such that by chapters 11 to 15 he introduces
Marita. This is the part of the story where Catherine seduces her, and eventual integrates
her into the relationship with David. David isn’t happy with this new development, but he
seems powerless to stop Catherine from indulging in a lesbian relationship with Marita. He
seeks solace in the one place that seems within his control: his slowly emerging narrative
about his father in Africa.

One of the things that has become apparent in the narrative is how in David and
Catherine’s relationship the pursuit of love seems to shift into a pursuit of control.
Catherine seems to be exerting greater and greater control over David, like convincing
him to bleach his hair to better match hers in the previous chapter set.

David’s response to her expanding influence is to escape into his story. David’s increasing
impotence in the face of his wife’s growing dominance seems a bit of an odd fit for a
Hemingway leading man. But then again, perhaps Hemingway was looking to break new
ground by moving in such a radical new direction? Moreover, David’s escapism isn’t total
since Marita is able to eventually coax him out of his shell. This process is evident when
David lets Marita into his writing room. Marita is enthusiastic about David’s writing and
this genuine interest helps David warm to her. In spite of his earlier misgivings he wants
to open up to Marita. In a simple scene, David explains that the door between Marita’s
room and his writing room has two bolts on either side. The door is normally locked
because David is a very private writer. However, David unbolts his side and anxiously
waits until he hears Marita unbolting her side of the door. This scene symbolizes David
opening up not only his most intimate place, but also his heart and mind to Marita. He lets
her into his life and his passions.

Chapters 16 to 20

The next chapter set has David finishing his narrative about his father and serves to
develop his relationship with Marita. Whereas in the previous set of chapters he was
resistant to the idea of being with Marita, by this point in the story he has succumbed to
pressure from Catherine.

David’s attraction towards Marita is to large extent due to her overall supportiveness. In
direct contrast with Catherine, who has up to this point been establishing her dominance,
Marita is nurturing and supportive. David doesn’t feel judged or feel like he’s being

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managed with Marita. It’s not too surprising that given the right circumstances she and
David would hit it off. They even spend time together without Catherine. One of their
“secret places” is a cove where they can be alone together.

An opposite trajectory begins to take place with Catherine’s relationship between them.
As David and Marita grow closer, Catherine feels more and more alienated. When the
feelings of exclusion mix with jealousy it becomes a very dangerous combination. The
tragedy in Catherine’s predicament is that it is largely self-inflicted. She initiated the
course of events that would lead to the novel’s unfortunate, yet seemingly inevitable
series of events.

Chapters 21 to 25

Hemingway seems to have wanted to draw some parallelisms between the narrative of
his novel and David’s story about his father in Africa. This is further developed
in chapters 21 to 25. In fact, the previous chapter set hinted at David’s growing
obsession with the his father’s African Adventure. At the same time, Catherine’s jealousy
over David’s writing and his relationship with Marita has started to show signs of the
eventual escalation.

It is prudent to mention the striking parallels between Catherine’s need for control and
David’s obsession with the story he is writing. We can only imagine what Hemingway
would have done with such a thing had he been able to more fully-develop this narrative
device. Juxtaposing both characters’ journeys and their respective destinations would
have lent the story greater gravitas and nuance. It is also interesting to note that
Catherine’s quest for control eventually leads to the destruction of her marriage, whereas
David eventually has to let go of his obsession after Catherine destroys his notes.

This begs the question, what sort of elements would Hemingway have incorporated to
give David’s obsession a bit more weight? Moreover, the object of David’s obsession, his
father’s African adventure, while providing an interesting subplot, is nevertheless in need
of further development. Regardless of what Hemingway might have decided, the fact
remains that the overall build-up towards the novel’s climax is fairly solid despite it being
a draft. This is of course a testament to just the sort of masterful storytelling that won
Hemingway the Nobel.

Chapters 26 to 30

The leg of the story covered in this chapter set is the climax. Catherine destroys David’s
Africa story in a fit of jealous rage. She also brings about the destruction of her
relationship with both David and Marita. However, the story ends on a somewhat hopeful

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note with Marita and David picking up the pieces of their lives. They remain together, and
David starts rewriting the story lost to Catherine’s rage.

The novel climaxes with the destruction of the story that David had spent the greater part
of the novel writing. It also a dealbreaker for his relationship with Catherine. Not
surprisingly he chooses to stay with Marita because she has remained a fairly consistent
refuge for him. However, such predictability could have been avoided had Marita been a
more fleshed out character. Making her more rounded would definitely help make the
choice between both women that much harder.

Had Hemingway set it up just right, he might have actually managed to create a situation
where all three characters have to choose someone, but any decision they make ends up
hurting the one not chosen. More to the point, those elements would raise the emotional
stakes that much higher, and the resulting drama would have been riveting to say the

This is not to say that the current version wasn’t interesting, but think of how much more
readers would get if they were unable to predict the characters’ actions or their
respective outcomes. More to the point, Catherine’s exit from the story seems a little
abrupt and lacking a sense of closure. Unless Hemingway intended The Garden of Eden
to be the first of a book series, then giving a character such as Catherine a proper send
off would balance the overall sense of closure from David and Marita’s ending.

The book itself presents many stories that the reader can focus on. The most apparent is
the love-triangle that exists between the Bournes and Marita, but the more poignant story
is David’s “hard” story. The story he writes about his father and Africa. The passages that
David writes are exceedingly detailed and have an air of authenticity (no doubt due to
Hemingway’s own experiences in Africa). The most important aspect of David’s story is
that we, the reader, followed every step David took to completing the narrative. We get
to experience the grueling process of writing. We learn how David feels about his writing.
It is the most important thing in his life, surpassing love, and even marriage.

These subplots help make the book even more intriguing. However, the book does carry
some flaws. Marita is not well developed for a main character, and her emotions toward
both David and Catherine go largely unexplored. Furthermore, the book’s abrupt
conclusion seems too ideal for how the story progressed. Hemingway was constantly
shifting the emotions and actions of his main characters and a simple ending does not
coincide with the rest of his novel. Many of the book’s inherent flaws are linked to its
unfinished status, and one may suspect that the books ending (a short chapter) was
cobbled together from a few sentences or notes Hemingway left behind.

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The book does delve into situations and ideas the Hemingway had yet to explore in his
previous books. The role reversal of his main characters, the discussion of sexual
orientation, and the strength exhibited by both main female characters are all new for a
Hemingway novel. The Garden of Eden forces Hemingway’s fans and critics alike to throw
their previous assumptions about his writing. Perhaps this was Hemingway’s plan, to write
a book that presented the other side of his persona, and to show the incredible breadth
of his writing brilliance.

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Key Information

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Character List

Catherine Bourne

Catherine is perhaps one of the impressive female characters that Hemingway has ever
come up with. It is easy to dismiss her as simply the stereotypical spoiled, rich girl that
lashes out at the world because of unresolved childhood issues. However, as the
narrative progresses, the tragedy of Catherine’s self-destruction is slowly made apparent.

She tries to mask her insecurities about being a woman by dominating her new husband.
Perhaps these insecurities stem from her reaction to vicariously experiencing someone
else’s creative brilliance. That Hemingway managed to convey such a carefully nuanced
character in what was likely to have been further polished had he lived is remarkable.

When juxtaposed against similar female characters in Hemingway’s earlier works,
Catherine seems to be a literary “descendant” of Mrs. Macomber from The Short Happy
Life and Frances Clyne from The Sun Also Rises. Only rather than being an amalgam of
these characters, Catherine seems to more of a distillation of Hemingway’s feminist
perspective on such types of women.

Beyond her spoiled, rich-girl facade is a thoroughly tragic character who seeks to escape
the shackles that society at that time has fettered her with. This intense desire to be free
probably explains her decisions. Catherine isn’t driven so much by logic and reason as
she is by emotion. She doesn’t seem to be the type to think things through, but rather
succumbs to her emotions.

Catherine very likely felt that by assuming a somewhat more masculine role, she would
somehow liberate herself. Unfortunately, she actually ends up making one ill-advised
choice after another sending her careening into self destruction. Not only does she
destroy her marriage, but she ends up alienating the two people who cared very deeply
for her.

However, it is unfair to paint her a thoroughly reprehensible. After all, despite the envy
and self-absorbed insecurities that compel her to do what she does, she is also an
unfinished character. We can only wonder how Hemingway would have ultimately
decided to characterize her, or whether she might have found a way out of her

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quagmire. Regardless of her “unfinished” status, Catherine Bourne remains a distinctive
female character.

Colonel John Boyle

For all of the novel’s merits, the fact that it was unfinished when it was posthumously
published is apparent in how characters seem somewhat less developed than Hemingway
could have made them. One such example is Colonel John Boyle. In the one brief scene
where the character appears it is apparent that Hemingway intended Boyle to be one of
his “classic” heroes. It is quite possible that Boyle might have been intended to be a foil to
one of the lead characters, possibly David Bourne.

David Bourne

David is the novel’s lead male character. From the way Hemingway characterizes his
main protagonist, it seems that David is a literary sibling of Jake Barnes from The Sun
Also Rises. Whereas Jake was made impotent due to physical injuries he sustained,
David’s impotence is more of a psychological nature.

Moreover, David’s passivity is also somewhat reminiscent of Robert Cohn, another
character from The Sun Also Rises. Both characters bore the brunt of the emasculating
treatment they received from women with a somewhat stoic passivity. However, David is
also somewhat different from his literary brothers in that he doesn’t seem to possess
qualities that Hemingway loved to infuse into his heroes, such as having courage in the
face of adversity, or simply taking a more proactive role in his life. Did the creation of
such an oddity entail Hemingway was trying to a “softer” approach to masculinity?

Then again, this notion is perhaps predicated on the idea that David was meant to be the
novel’s protagonist simply because he was the most developed male character. But what
if this notion has been predicated on something that Hemingway never actually
intended at all? This would cast David in an entirely different light.

Had Hemingway lived to finish The Garden of Eden, would he have made more
characters and told the story from multiple perspectives? After all, Hemingway enjoyed
using elements such as place and era to contextualize and ground his narratives. Could
Eden have been his attempt to add some new insight to the interpretation of the
sensibilities of the late 1920s?

Part of the difficulty with posthumously published work is that it is put together with the
intent to cleave as closely to the writer’s style as possible that it allows precious little
chance for the notion that the writer might be trying to surpass rather than replicate their

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previous works. This begs the question, would Hemingway have chosen to make David
less passive in his final version of the character?

After all, for all of his eccentricities, foibles, and proclivities, Hemingway was always
questioning conventional wisdom. So is it really so far-fetched to consider that perhaps
David Bourne was the first of a new kind of Hemingway hero?

As tempting it is to indulge in such an apologetic train of thought, the fact of the matter is
that David’s character seems somewhat paradoxical. How can someone who just lets his
marriage disintegrate, on one hand, also possess enough sophistication, self-assurance,
and savoir-faire to manage the various members of the European servant class? That
would be like seeing some farm-raised hick being able to act all dapper and James Bond-


The novel’s unfinished nature is perhaps most apparent in the characterization of Marita.
Whereas Catherine is reasonably fleshed out such that her actions are consistent with her
character, Marita seems more like a plot device than an actual character. The Bournes
meet Marita in a small local shop and her name is not even mentioned until her third
appearance. She is a young, beautiful, tanned Italian woman with an excess amount of
money. Initially, Marita is portrayed as a innocent ingenue that is often hesitant to even
slightly contradict Catherine. As the story progresses, we learn that she is not as innocent
as presented especially in the area of sexual intimacy. Furthermore, Marita subtly makes
David question who is in charge of the Bourne’s marriage. The reader is given little insight
as to how Marita changed so dramatically as the story progressed, and it seems that she
only changed so that Hemingway could further his narrative.

There is little gravitas to her characterization such that her decision to move in with the
couple and the subsequent effect she has on their relationship seems more like
a MacGuffin than anything consistent with what a more fleshed out character would do.
A well written character’s actions should feel natural and consistent with who they are.

Characters’ whose actions feel utterly dependent on the needs of the plot generally
aren’t as compelling. While there are doubtless many opinions on this matter, at the end
of the day the plot of a well-crafted story should feel like it was the natural confluence of
consequences that stem from character actions. This not to say that the plot of a good
story shouldn’t be railroaded. But good writers are able to railroad narrative without
making their audience see the tracks.

In Marita’s case, she is largely a blank canvass with very little to make her distinctive. To

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say that such a character manages to have such a catastrophic effect on David and
Catherine’s relationship stretches credulity to say the least. Moreover, it eventually begs
the question, was introducing a third party even necessary? If all Hemingway wanted was
a way to destroy their relationship, then why didn’t he simply use another type of plot

Nevertheless, because The Garden of Eden was far from being a final draft upon its
publication it would be more than a little disingenuous to cry foul over such a perceived
failing, especially since a writer of Hemingway’s stature would have no doubt been
careful to fully flesh out such a crucial character. Would she have been made into a
powerful foil for Catherine? After all, both women become diametrically opposed as the
story unfolds. It’s not such a stretch to consider how much more interesting a fully
fleshed out Marita would fare when pitted against a better developed Catherine.

Of course, such is often the case with such types of books. Without the author to continue
the delicate craft of revision and expansion, the story remains an unfinished masterpiece.
Regardless of what Marita might have been, we are left with what is very likely a mere
shell of a character possibly meant to be fleshed-out later.

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Notable Terms and Definitions


Absinthe is a bright green liqueur flavored with wormwood, licorice, and other aromatic
flavoring that was manufactured in France in the 1700s. The drink used to be quite
addictive, and prolonged consumption had been known to cause hallucinations, blindness,
and mental deterioration.

In the book, Catherine, David, and Marita all drink absinthe. Hemingway seems to suggest
that the hallucinogenic properties of the drink initially trick the trio into believing that their
existence is perfect. In David’s case, the absinthe blinds him from the domineering
behavior of his wife, and perhaps makes it easier for him to submit to Catherine’s
increasingly deranged requests. The absinthe may also have played a role in Catherine’s
slow descent into mental instability.


Catherine is generally thought to mean “pure”, and is widely thought to be derived from
the Greek word “Katharos”. However, there is also a possibility that the name is also likely
derived from “Hecate”, a Greek goddess associated with witchcraft, demons, and the
Underworld. It might also be related to the Greek word “aikia” which means “torture.” So
it is interesting to consider that Hemingway may have chosen to name his main
antagonist such a nuanced name.


Characterization is a literary term that refers to writers present or reveal a character
over the course of the narrative. Although the techniques vary, this generally involves
elements such as the character’s speech patterns, their mannerisms, how they dress,
and so forth. These details help reveal the character without actually requiring lengthy
exposition or internal monologue.

Both Catherine and David are thoroughly characterized in The Garden of Eden. There are
many instances where we see the underlying character of the Bournes. Scenes such as
when Catherine cuts her hair, and when they are in bed together and she attempts to
“become the man” help demonstrate the motivations behind Catherine. David’s

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submissive and permissive nature are also exhibited in these scenes. Characters like
Marita and the Colonel however are not well-developed and seem almost two-
dimensional when compared to the Bournes.


David is derived from a Hebrew name that means “beloved.” It is also the name of
Israel’s second and arguably greatest king. Hemingway might have wanted to juxtapose
polar opposites when he decided to name his main male protagonist such a name.


Any writer worth their salt knows the value of pacing how the narrative
unfolds. Foreshadowing is a storytelling technique where the audience gets glimpses of
what’s to come without getting a full idea of what’s coming.

Jazz Music:

Jazz is a type of music that developed from the blending of harmonic and rhythmic
structure from Europe and Africa. Jazz was heavily influenced by blues music.
Interestingly enough, key characteristics of jazz music include syncopated rhythms and a
fair bit of improvisation.

By setting his narrative against such an historical period allowed Hemingway to
incorporate much of the improvisational quality of jazz into the mentality and proclivity
for eschewing convention in favor of something new that permeates the characters.
Much like jazz music, the narrative is rife with examples of “improvisation” such as the
Catherine’s desire to spice up her sex life. In fact, there seems to be little evidence to
suggest that Catherine really puts much thought into her decisions, but instead engages
in a fair bit of improvisation.


A MacGuffin is an element in the story that serves no other purpose than to move the
plot forward. Generally speaking a MacGuffin does not appear again after it has served its
purpose. Of course, it would be disingenuous to dismiss Marita as a being no more than
the novel’s “MacGuffin.” But she does share some similarities in the sense that her
actions seems to have been made based on anything other than serving the plot’s needs.


The name Marita is a variant of “Mary,” which may have been derived from the Egyptian
word “mry,” that means “beloved,” or “mr,” which means “love.” It is interesting that

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Hemingway chose to use this variation of the name instead of “Maria” which is more
commonly used in Italy.

Ménage à Trois:

A ménage à trois is an arrangement wherein three people engage in a sexual
relationship with one another, especially while cohabiting. Such a situation is typically
composed of a couple, usually married, and a third party that is their lover.

In The Garden of Eden, Hemingway introduces the fantasy of a ménage à trois, but
swiftly reveals that true love cannot continue in such a situation. One member of the trio
may often feel left out or secluded. In this case, Catherine feels so alienated that she
becomes openly hostile and aggressive.

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Major Themes and Symbols

Gender Roles and Sexual Deviance:

Among the novel’s central themes are the issues of gender roles and sexuality. Even in
its unfinished state, The Garden of Eden was very clearly meant to deal with such
controversial themes. This is especially telling when you consider the way Catherine and
David Bourne are characterized.

If you simply taking a look at their respective characteristics and disregarding their
names, Catherine easily comes off as more traditionally masculine. She is assertive,
thinks she knows what she wants and has no problems taking the steps necessary to
achieve her objectives. What’s interesting is that had her characteristics been applied to
David instead, then that would have probably ended up making David seem far more
chauvinistic, and a lot less of a sympathetic character.

David’s passivity and almost utter lack of drive seems to be somewhat more associated
with a “damsel in distress” and some sprinkling of “ingenue” for good measure. So when
Marita “rescues” him from a life quickly careening into catastrophe, she becomes his
“knight in shining armor” so to speak. Of course, it goes without saying that this would
have been far more interesting if both these characters had been more thoroughly
fleshed out. The subsequent reversal of roles would have been an interesting play on
classic storytelling tropes.

Other hints of the play on gender are supplied in Catherine’s emerging desire to be more
and more masculine. She seems to possess a need to progressively sexually dominate
her husband while systematically emasculating him. She cuts her hair and goes to great
lengths to start dressing in a more manly manner. She even starts calling David, “girl,”
and not in a manner intended to be endearing.

So in a way, one of Catherine’s greatest achievement on her quest for masculinity occurs
when she successfully seduces Marita. There is far more going on there than Hemingway
indulging in some sordid lesbian fantasy. Stripped of the titillation, sexual relations that
take place between the three characters may have been intended to be the result of
Catherine’s manipulation and assertion of dominance.

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Granted such a theme seems very par for the course for people from the current
century. But imagine how such a thing would have been perceived just half a century
ago, or even by people from the 1920s? Is it any wonder Hemingway struggled with the
novel? Surely someone of his experience would have realized that his tale about upended
gender roles and “sexual deviance” would have probably been stretched the limits of his
readers’ acceptance of it.

Mental Degradation:

The novel also deals with the theme of mental degradation, specifically that of its main
antagonist, Catherine. Hemingway chooses to use to sex and emasculation as vehicles for
Catherine’s eventual mental breakdown. Just as cracks in a building’s foundation don’t
become immediately apparent, the signs of Catherine’s forthcoming breakdown are not
immediately overt. Instead, Hemingway sets things up innocuously and then has events
spiral out of Catherine’s control.

Hemingway starts hinting at the cracks in Catherine’s mental constitution when she
convinces David to try a little sexual experimentation. After all, what could be more
harmless than some sexual variation in the bedroom? There are no doubt those who are
crying foul over the subtext of Hemingway’s association of mental degradation with
sexuality. But consider how differently such things were viewed just a century ago. As
someone raised in that era, shouldn’t we laud Hemingway for considering notions and
themes that challenged the conventional wisdom and societal norms of his generation?

That aside, David’s enabling role in his wife’s eventual breakdown should not be
overlooked. After all, David’s complicity seems to all but seal Catherine’s fate. Moreover,
David seemed to have some inkling that complying with his wife’s wishes would not bode
well for either of them. So in a way, Hemingway seems to foreshadow the eventual train
wreck without actually showing anything.

What is interesting about all this is how other elements further enable Catherine’s
inevitable breakdown such as the addition of Marita to their bedroom antics, as well as
her growing jealousy over David’s writing. As if to add fuel to the proverbial fire, the trio
spends increasing amounts of time having sex, frolicking in the sun, and consuming
copious amounts of various alcoholic drinks. Granted that such activities might probably
consider somewhat tame by today’s standards, they nevertheless set the stage nicely
for Catherine’s spectacular breakdown which results in the destruction of handwritten
short stories that David was working on.

Of course after that the trio breaks up. Catherine is left on her own, while David and

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Marita stay together, picking up the pieces of their lives. It is interesting to consider that
Hemingway might have missed an opportunity here. Rather than have the three break
up, what would have happened if they had stayed together even after Catherine’s
breakdown? Or perhaps even better, what if they had refused to enable her and instead
helped her purge herself of the insecurities that led to her self-induced breakdown? After
all, it’s easy to run away after a stormy break-up. Staying to help rebuild and heal is a far
more challenging task.

Love, Lust, and Living:

It is almost impossible to discuss The Garden of Eden without touching on the themes of
love, lust, and living. Nowadays we are bombarded with an almost infinite supply of
stories that reinforce a particularly idealized image of “love.” The current age seems to
be buying into the idea that “love” and “lust” are mutually exclusive, and possibly
diametrically opposed to one another.

The characters in Hemingway’s novel on other hand seem to reinforce a
somewhat different idea about love altogether. Rather than treat them as separate,
Hemingway seems to support the notion that love and lust go hand in hand, and are
necessary for a solid relationship. However, he seems to also hint at the need for

This is particularly illustrated in how unfettered, unbridled love and lust invariably
destroyed a marriage and ruined at least one life. Does this mean Hemingway somehow
condoned such a lifestyle? It is difficult to say with absolute certainty. Though it is
probably safe to say that his unfinished narrative at the very supported the idea of

What is also interesting to note about all this is how it seems to invariably lead to
discussion about how Catherine’s desire to liberate herself from the societal shackles
imposed on her by her gender leads her to seek power over the one man that she can
control: David. Hemingway seems to be making an interesting comparison and contrast
between love and enslavement. Ironically, Catherine’s attempts to control her husband
leads to the eventual destruction of their relationship. Hemingway seems to be affirming
the notion that loving someone doesn’t mean dominating and controlling them. On the
contrary, loving someone means setting them free.

The thing is Hemingway’s juxtaposing would have been more effective had he been able
to fully develop Marita. Had he done so, she could have proved to be a more effective foil
for Catherine. Moreover, he could have used her to further illustrate his point about the

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nurturing nature of love.

On the other side of the spectrum is lust. While, in small doses lust can spice up a
relationship, too much lust can have a devastating effect on the relationship. Lust
inevitably enslaves if left unchecked. Not surprisingly that is precisely what happened with
Catherine, she indulged in her lust and ended up with making one bad decision after

Dealing with themes of this magnitude can be tough for even the most seasoned master
storyteller. Nevertheless, Hemingway rises to the challenge. If his unfinished work is
indication, then his published version would have been groundbreakingly epic for him.
That’s assuming he had lived and actually managed to finish the book.

David’s Notebooks:

David’s notebooks become more than just a means for him to record his notes, ideas,
and drafts for the stories he is writing. They also become a tangible symbol of his fetters.
He used one set of notebooks to record his ideas for a biographical piece about his
experiences during the honeymoon in Europe. David used another set of notebooks to
draft his ideas for his story on his father’s African adventure.

Catherine eventually destroys the set that he used for the African adventure story. While
her motivations for doing so were largely selfish because she was feeling insanely jealous
and spiteful at the time, in a strange way Catherine was destroying the very things that
shackled him to his old life. In her effort to punish him, Catherine was actually setting him

Because of their importance to the plot as well as being such a fitting symbol of David’s
“bondage,” the notebooks’ destruction should be equally dramatic and full of tension.
Sadly the way they were destroyed was largely less than satisfying for such an important
symbol of David’s inner torment.

Food and Drink:

Food and drink are major symbols in the narrative. Throughout the novel, Hemingway
takes great pain talk about the sort of things the characters eat and drink. Usually food is
associated with nourishment as well as being a source of comfort and pleasure. However,
the food and drinks that figure into the story seem to become symbolic of vice and
licentiousness. As early as the first chapter Hemingway draws a strange correlation
between food and sex. So if eating food sates physical hunger, then does having sex feed
some metaphysical hunger?

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Alcoholic drinks figure in prominently throughout the story. One of the tangible objects
that helps plant the seeds of his future African adventure In fact, the characters drink
more and more of it as they become more deeply embroiled in the ménage à trois. So in
a way the alcohol becomes a symbol of the way they cope with quickly escalating tension
and negative emotions. One alcoholic drink in particular takes on an interesting
symbolism, is absinthe. It was also called the “green fairy” back in the day. The name
was probably coined from its hallucinogenic properties.

Hemingway would have no doubt known this because he was a heavy drinker, and also
quite the globetrotter of his day. So is it any wonder that he would pass up the chance to
use absinthe as a means of symbolizing the “illusory” perceptions that the characters
seem to cloak themselves in. Had Hemingway written this story today perhaps he would
have chosen some hallucinogenic substance instead of absinthe. Nevertheless, absinthe
served Hemingway’s purpose well.

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Interesting Related Facts

They say that fact is stranger than fiction. When you’ve lived a life as colorful and
nuanced as Hemingway’s, you’re bound to have more than your fair share of oddities.
Here are a few believe-it-or-not facts that you may not find in typical Hemingway

Hemingway’s mother treated him like he was a girl rather than a boy. She forced him
to keep his hair long and dressed him in girls’ clothing until he was almost four.

Despite his tall tales to the contrary, Hemingway never actually enlisted or served in
the military per se.

Hemingway seemed obsessed with the idea of courage. This is reflected in his stories
that center around characters that fight against the circumstances in which they are
placed. It didn’t seem to matter to Hemingway whether or not his characters
triumphed or failed in the end, so long as they put up a courageous fight.

Most of Hemingway’s stories were about war, hunting as well as other of struggles in
life that were literal and figurative. They also reflected his general dissatisfaction with
“modern culture”.

Hemingway seemed to determined to go out with a bang. Rather than commit suicide
by slitting his wrists, Hemingway attempted much more creative methods of suicide,
such as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, before he finally used a
shotgun to end his life.

Suicidal tendencies seems to run in the family. Both of Hemingway’s siblings
committed suicide, as well as his granddaughter, Margaux Hemingway.

Albeit never actually used, Hemingway once mentioned wishing to use “Pardon me
for not getting up,” as an epitaph.

Although Hemingway’s problems with alcohol seem par for the course these days, but
what is surprising is how he never seemed to ever suffer from hangovers. Perhaps
because he never really got sober enough to experience it? He would consume

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copious amounts of whisky, gin, vodka, absinthe, wine, tequila, and champagne upon
waking, and take pretty much the same thing before sleeping.

Hemingway was married four times and dedicated a novel to each of his wives when
he was still married to them.

The version of The Garden of Eden that was eventually published consisted of roughly
70,000 words. But apparently the original manuscript was 200,000 words long and
ran for 48 chapters instead of the 30 that made the final cut.

There are some remarkable similarities between David Bourne, a writer traveling
Europe with his new wife in the late 1920s, and Hemingway’s own experience with his
first wife Hadley Richardson. While it might be too much of a stretch to say the story
was somewhat biographical, it certainly reinforces the old writers’ axiom: “Write about
what you know.”

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Behind The Name, Behind the Name – David

Behind The Name, Behind the Name – Katherine

Behind The Name, Behind the Name – Marita

Britannica Online Encyclopedia, Jazz

eNotes.com, The Garden of Eden

GradeSaver, Ernest Hemingway – Biography

Hemingway Preservation Foundation, Ernest Hemingway Facts

IMDB, The Garden of Eden (2008)

Kent State University Press, Hemingway's The Garden of Eden - Twenty-Five Years of

Literatured.com, The Garden of Eden and the Super Objective

McGraw-Hill Online Learning Center, Complete Glossary – Literature Terms

MedTerms.com, Absinthe

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Ménage à Trois – Definition

New York Times, Movie Review – Hemingway's Garden of Eden

New York Times, Braver than We Thought – The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

NobelPrize.org, Nobel Prize in Literature 1954 – Ernest Hemingway

Notable Biographies, Ernest Hemingway Biography

RoofBeamReader, Review – The Garden of Eden

Shmoop.com, Ernest Hemingway – Timeline

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TheSmokingJacket, 5 Things You Should Know About Ernest Hemingway

TVTropes, Distressed Damsel

TVTropes, Knight In Shining Armor

TVTropes, MacGuffin

TVTropes, Playing Against Type

TVTropes, The Ingenue

University of South Florida Scholar Commons, The Development of Hemingway's Female
Characters: Catherine from A Farewell to Arms to The Garden of Eden

WhosDatedWho, Ernest Hemingway Trivia

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Further Reading

BBC News, Ernest Hemingway Letters Reveal Upset Over Cat

Broadway World, Roadside Attractions Acquires Rights to Hemingway's Garden of Eden

Ernest Hemingway Collection, What's New – Ernest Hemingway News

Film Critic, Hemingway's Garden of Eden

RottenTomatoes, Hemingway's Garden of Eden (2010)

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About The Author

Joseph Phillip Pritchard
Joseph Pritchard is passionate reader and writer. He has a bachelor's
degree in Biology and also completed a degree in medicine. He has
written for other prominent online publications and enjoys writing on a variety of topics.

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