Envy: A Pitfall of Marriage in Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden

Publicat deIoana Ioana

Jealousy is a natural, human emotion that holds most of man kind captive. It drives the human mind to act upon envious impulses that lead to distress and sometimes disaster. Though most of humankind has a sense of self-control to recognize and overcome this, there are those that do not. This is just the case in Ernest Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden. As Catherine Bourne struggles to cope with her confused sexual identity, she becomes uncontrollably jealous of her husband’s prosperity as a novelist. Her envy ultimately leads to the destruction of her marriage with her husband, David.

Catherine’s confusion with her sexual identity first develops when she decides to get a boyish style haircut. She explains to David, “You see, …I’m a girl. But now I’m a boy too and I can do anything and anything and anything” (15). Catherine believes that she possesses the ability to change sexes at any time. She sees that she is not entirely David’s equal and attempts to remedy her insecurities by claiming to be a boy. “Nobody can tell which way I am but us. I’ll only be a boy at night…” David responds, “All right, boy” (56). David perceives this as merely a sexual “game” between he and Catherine. However, he does realize that there is a change in his wife’s personality. “…His heart said goodbye Catherine goodbye my lovely girl goodbye good luck and goodbye” (18). David is acknowledging that a part of Catherine is gone and that he must learn how to deal with his wife’s changing state of mind. Catherine is slowly developing a distorted perception of reality that later leads to her jealous rages.

Although Catherine evinces a desire to further her husband’s career, she is only expressing a willingness to help him so that she may somehow be a part of his work. She is envious of his abilities to write, and because she does not share that part of his life, she retaliates with violent and harmful force. The first problem arises when David receives newspaper clippings containing reviews of his latest novel. Catherine says, “How can we be us and have the things we have and do what we do and you be this that’s in the clippings?” (24). She feels invaded by her husband’s prosperity as a writer and cannot fathom how their relationship can continue the way it is if he chooses to be the man described in the clippings. She implies that the David Bourne that she knows is different from the David Bourne characterized in the newspaper. He assures her that nothing will change saying, “I’ve had them before, they’re bad for you but it doesn’t last” (24). He mentions that the clippings are temporary and have no effect on him. David’s words do not assuage Catherine’s jealousy. Later, David expresses a desire to begin another novel. Catherine responds, “Then write, stupid. You didn’t say you wouldn’t write. Nobody said anything about worrying if you wrote. Did they?” (27). Catherine’s retort carries a tone of derision and sarcasm. Her words and tone imply a contempt for David’s talent; one that she knows not how to deal with.

Catherine’s envy reaches a peak when David finishes his third novel. Realizing that her verbal protest of the last novel and its reviews have no affect, Catherine resorts to damaging the writing itself. As David goes to place the finishing touches on his novel, he notices that “the pile of cahiers that the stories had been written in was gone. So were the four bulky envelopes from the bank that had contained the press clippings” (218-219). David immediately suspects Catherine of taking the stories but cannot comprehend how or why she would take them. “He had not believed that the stories could be gone, he had not believed that she could do it” (219). David confronts Catherine with this and says “Where did you put them, Devil?” (220). Catherine tells him honestly that she put them “in the iron drum with holes that Madame uses to burn trash. I poured on some petrol…It made a big fire and everything burned. I did it for you, David, and for…us” (221). Catherine feels that in order for her to obtain some validity in their relationship, she must destroy the thing that keeps her and David separate.

After this tirade, Catherine decides to leave David and travel to Paris. David is very pococurante about her decision and lets her go with only a warning to “…drive carefully and don’t pass on hills” (227). The climax of her jealousy and the result of her actions overshadow the love he once had for her. Because of this, David falls in love with another woman, and Catherine leaves without being heard from again. The development of Catherine’s jealous nature is the cause of David and Catherine’s destroyed marriage

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