I’m not well-cultured in English literature, and would never pretend to be so. Heck, The Garden of Eden was only the fourth book I read that was written by Ernest Hemingway. Notwithstanding, I still couldn’t help but think about the issues raised by this beautifully written love story.
Everything seemed perfect when David and Catherine got married. They would spend everyday together drinking fine alcohol, swimming naked in the ocean, and making love. But soon one realized that Catherine was actually jealous of his husband, who was a published writer and received positive reviews for this works. As the jealousy grew, Catherine attempted to distract David from his work by changing her appearances and attempting other trivial shenanigans. When David seemed not to be moved by Catherine’s plea for attention, she introduced him to Marita, a handsome (in both Catherine’s and David’s words) girl with whom she claimed to have fell in love. Initially David found the idea of living with two women and even falling in love with both of them preposterous. However as the three of them spent more time together doing David and Catherine’s usual routine, David unexpectedly realised he was more and more drawn to Marita, who was indeed a very lovely girl and appreciated and supported his work more than Catherine did. Realising her plan had backfired and caused her six-month marriage with David to deteriorate, Catherine burned her husband’s work in progress out of spite and selfishness. During the couple’s quarrel, Marita stood by David’s side, comforted and encouraged him to carry on his work; the love of the two grew stronger. Finally came to her senses, Catherine apologized to David and told him that she still loved him despite what she had done. David knew that he loved Catherine as well, but the continuation of marriage would only end in more conflicts and unhappiness. Catherine decided to leave David and Marita for good. With Catherine gone and Marita at his side, David finished the story as he always wanted it to be.
That was an outline of the story with my own limited, if not superficial, interpretations of the motives. Even though the novel was published posthumously, I personally think it might have ended on a perfect note. David found the woman who he truly loved and who truly loved him without sacrificing either his passion for writing or the passion for each other. Though before Catherine’s eventual departure, the time the three of them spent together was both joyful and miserable. I believe that the love between David and Catherine and the love between David and Marita were real. I could not claim that I believe Catherine was actually in love with Marita. It was perhaps the two women’s distinct manners of love towards a man that ultimately denied the possibility of their co-existence. Catherine loved David with critique that bordered on the line of jealousy; Marita loved David with total affection and admiration. From a male, or rather my own, perspective, perhaps critique and admiration are both desired from a companion; or one is preferred over another as life shifts its course. Perhaps that was why David was reasonably in love with both women, but was forced to make a choice when his life and career were in jeopardy because of the love he offered and received.
I initially wanted to title this article “Is it possible to love two person at the same time?”, but realised that would raise a social and philosophical topic beyond my capability of discussing in depth. Although the consensus was “yes” when I asked a few friends (both Asian and European).