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The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises

NickQ, May 4, 2010

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises illuminates the lost generation’s struggle to find meaning and purpose in the postwar world. In his discussion of the characters’ actions, Hemingway exposes significant insights into the detrimental effects of war on society. Although the novel is often monotonous and anticlimactic, it is a true literary classic that offers important comments on war and society in general.

The Sun Also Rises is divided into three parts and is told in first person by Jake Barnes, a World War I veteran and the novel’s protagonist. The novel’s first section delineates the aimless drinking and partying of Jake Barnes, his love interest Lady Brett Ashley, his friend Robert Cohn, and Brett’s many boyfriends in post World War I Paris.

Book two introduces several new characters including Jake’s friend Bill Gorton and Brett’s fiancé Mike Campbell. In this section, Bill and Jake make plans to travel to Spain for a fishing trip and to go to a festival in Pamplona to watch the bull fights. They are joined at the festival by Cohn, Brett, and Mike. Throughout this section, Cohn, Jake and Mike fight for the affection of Brett, who is unable to commit to a single man. This conflict culminates in a fight in which Cohn, a former boxer, punches Jake, Mike and Brett’s latest fling, a bull fighter named Pedro Romero. Cohn then returns to Paris and Brett leaves with Romero, leaving Mike and Jake behind in Pamplona with Bill to keep them company.

In book three the remaining men depart from Pamplona. Jake goes to San Sebastian to relax, but shortly after his arrival receives a telegram from Brett asking him to travel to Madrid. Jake promptly boards a train and arrives in Madrid to find that Brett has left Romero and plans to return to Mike. In addition to its basic plot, the novel expresses many important insights into the consequences of war.

In his portrayal of the lost generation, Hemingway explores the damaging effects of World War I. The novel opens with a quote from Gertrude Stien, stating, “You are a lost generation” (7). This quotation exposes the aimlessness and moral decay experienced by Jake and his compatriots as a result of the Great War. No longer able to rely on their traditional values concerning love and faith, the characters are truly lost, wandering purposelessly through life in search of meaning. For this reason, Jake and his friends seem to drink their lives away, using alcohol to distract them from their directionless existence.

Hemingway also exposes the feelings of emasculation that resulted from the war. Upon returning from war, men were forced to reevaluate what it meant to be a man. Their romanticized ideals of the heroics of war proved delusional, and they were left scared and alone as they fought in the trenches. Jake shows this most prominently as a wound he sustained during the war has literally deprived him of his manhood by rendering him impotent. These feelings of emasculation are further heightened by Brett’s refusal to have a relationship with him, although she loves him, because of his inability to perform sexually. She replies to his request, stating, “I don’t think so. I’d just tromper you with everybody” (62). Brett also repudiates Cohn’s attempts at courtship, continually dominating her male partners and compounding their feelings of insecurity. These consequences of war form the basis of Hemingway’s classic.

Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is a literary masterpiece and a timeless commentary on the impacts of World War I on a generation. Although the novel is largely anticlimactic, Hemingway’s innovative writing style and intriguing insights into the postwar world have made it a true classic that should never be overlooked.

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is a classic that will endure through the ages. Through his spare prose, Hemingway recapitulates the reactions of the lost generation to postwar society, illustrating the devastating effects of the Great War.
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