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Kansas State University K E N N E T H G. J O H N S T O N Hemingway's “Wine of Wyoming”: Disappointment in America In the spring of 1928, after nearly six years of residence in Paris, Ernest Hemingway returned to the United States to live.1 Understand­ ably, then, when he met a French-immigrant family later that year in Sheridan, Wyoming, he sympathetically noted their difficulties in adjust­ ing to and accepting the American way of life. A “foreigner” himself in the New World, he no doubt shared to some extent the family’s disappointments and cultural shocks. Hemingway would wait nearly two years to make fictional use of this encounter; thus “Wine of Wyoming” was written and published in the first year of the Great Depression, a time of national stock-taking and general questioning of the promise of America. Carlos Baker calls “Wine of Wyoming” “a character sketch full of cleanliness and order, a quiet account of simple people who made and drank the wine of Wyoming and wondered if a Catholique named ‘A1 Schmidt’ could be elected President on a platform which demanded an end to Prohibition.”2 Sheridan Baker, on the other hand, dismisses the story as having “little to recommend it beyond the curiosity of ’Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, settled in Key West, Florida, at the “extreme, fugitive tip” of America (Sheridan Baker, Ernest Hemingway: An Intro­ duction and Interpretation [New York, 1967], p. 57). However, not until the spring of 1931 did they purchase a home there, an old stone dwelling, which was “their first permanent house in the United States” (Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story [New York, 1969], p. 221). -Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, p. 196. Carlos Baker identifies the French family in Sheridan as Charles and Alice Moncini and their two sons, August and Lucien. “Charles was a trucker at the mines. Alice cooked and served meals. Ernest and Pauline sat on the vine-shaded back porch drinking cold home-brewed beer, with a view across the yellow grainfields, towards the distant brown mountains. They all spoke French together” (Ibid.). They also shared a common faith, for Hemingway had married Pauline within the Catholic Church and “now regarded himself as at least a nominal Catholic” {Ibid., p. 185). 160 Western American Literature American prohibition in rural form, and the fact that it seems to be almost straight Hemingway autobiography.”" Actually “Wine of Wyoming” is a perceptive story about the American “melting pot” and the discrepancy between the dream and the reality of American life; it dramatizes the ongoing process of Americanization and reflects the bewilderment, frustration, and disappointment of a French couple who have settled in the American West. The story opens on a note of disappointment. Two men, wishing to purchase some beer, stop by the home of the Fontans, a Frenchimmigrant family who live on the dusty outskirts of a Wyoming town and who make and sell wine and beer in violation of the “dry laws.” But the men, who are drunk, are refused and sent away empty-handed. After they leave, Madame Fontan talks about two of her disappoint­ ments in America. She was served “ ‘pork that was raw,’” she recalls, the only time she ate in an American restaurant.4 Thoughts of illprepared food quickly lead to complaints about her daughter-in-law, who “ ‘don’t cook’ ” and serves “ ‘ les beans en can’” (159). Her son’s marriage may be seen as a comic parody of the immigrant mother’s dream of having her boy grow up to wed a sturdy, native-American girl. Madame Fontan’s son is married to an American Indian, who tipped the scales at 185 at the time of the wedding and has since ballooned to 225 pounds. “ ‘Tout le temps elle stay in the bed and read books,’” complains Madame Fontan. “ ‘All the time she says sonofabitsh goddam. She don’t work’” (159, 169). When the daughter-in-law is not reading, she is attending the movies. Too lazy to cook, too fat to have another baby, too desirous of escaping reality to make a good helpmate, the Indian girl is clearly...


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pp. 159-167
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