Reader''s Companion to Everybody Was So Young
© 1999 by
1. Gerald and Sara Murphy were surrounded by artists and
writers--from Cocteau to Dorothy Parker--who epitomized the
modernist spirit of the 1920s. Was this accidental, or
2. "The very rich are different from you and me," Scott
Fitzgerald supposedly told Ernest Hemingway, to which Hemingway
(who told this anecdote) replied, "Yes, they have more money." How
well does each man''s statement apply to the Murphys?
3. "Only the invented part of our lives--the unreal part--has
had any scheme, any beauty," wrote Gerald to Scott Fitzgerald in
1935. What parts of their lives did they "invent," and what parts
were "the unrealistic things?" Do you agree with Gerald?
4. "Paris is bound to make a man either more or less American,"
Gerald Murphy told a newspaper interviewer in 1923. How was this
statement true of Murphy, and of Cole Porter, Hemingway, MacLeish,
Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, and the other expatriate artists of the
period? What was it about Paris that made it happen?
5. To the Murphys, their children were "the real foundation of
our future happiness." How would you evaluate the Murphys'' role as
parents? Were they attentive and caring or narcissistic and
irresponsible? In what ways did both Gerald and Sara act as
surrogate parents for their own contemporaries?
6. The Murphys'' marriage was severely tested by five decades,
but it endured. Why? What were the pressures on it? And was their
relationship truly "a love story"?
7. Sara Murphy had close relationships with at least three men
besides her husband: Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo
Picasso. Do you believe that these relationships were sexual or
platonic? On what do you base your opinion?
8. "I was never happy until I started painting," said Gerald
Murphy in 1956, "and I have never been thoroughly so since I was
obliged to give it up." Why was he "obliged" to give up something
he loved so passionately and which he did so well? Or was his
statement misleading? Also, what hidden references to events or
people in his life can you find in his pictures?
9. In A Moveable Feast, his posthumous memoir
of 1920s Paris, Ernest Hemingway paints a cruel picture of the
Murphys as the unnamed "rich" who seduced him into superficiality
and infidelity. Why would he describe them in this way?
10. Are the Murphys just a footnote, or did they contribute
something substantial to twentieth-century cultural history?
11. The media have often compared the 1990s to the 1920s.
Judging from the social circles described in Everybody Was
So Young, do you find many similarities between these
decades? Are there any contemporary couples who have the Murphys''
12. Referring to Scott Fitzgerald''s Tender Is the
Night, Sara Murphy said, "I hated the book when I first
read it. I reject categorically any resemblance to ourselves or
anyone we know--at any time." What differences and similarities do
you see between the Murphys and Dick and Nicole Driver? Discuss the
perceptions of the Murphys portrayed in Fitzgerald''s short story
"Babylon Revisited," Ernest Hemingway''s The Sun Also
Rises and "Snows of Kilimanjaro," Archibald MacLeish''s
poem "Portrait of Mme G___M___" and his play J.B., and Pablo
Picasso''s "Woman in White."