In the words of Herbert Hoover, “Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath.” War disfigures and tears away precious lives. Its horrors embed themselves like an infectious disease in the minds of the survivors, who, when left to salvage the pieces of their former existences, are brushed into obscurity by the individuals attempting to justify the annihilation of the world that was. The era following World War I epitomizes the inheritance of tribulation and sorrow for the generation that remains to retrieve some form of happiness – the lost generation. These are the poor souls who suffer for mankind and endure abandonment by a world that wants to forget suffering. This generation of the 1920’s is often featured in the literature of the era, particularly the work of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is one such example in which he portrays the social dislocation of the members of the Lost Generation and illustrates his own inner torment as a member of this collection of outcasts. Hemingway’s lost generation consists of society’s misfits, the unwanted pariahs that exist in every part of the globe. They, like their creator, seek a new peace and a permanent escape route from the cruelties of living. This group of “untouchables” includes Jake, Brett, Cohn, Bill, and Mike. Although each of them has earned his place in society in a different fashion, they find themselves captives of the same injustice of society and form a camaraderie that brings them security and companionship in a cruel world. They fully realize their estrangement from society and recognize others in the same situation. For example, Brett says of Count Mippipopolous, “He’s one of us, though. Oh quite. No doubt. One can always tell.”‘ Despite their fast-living, European lifestyle designed to numb their emotional and spiritual pain, the members of this branch of the lost generation continue to suffer. Jake says in a moment of painful reflection, “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.'” The demons of the night haunt the group, particularly Jake, because night is a time of quiet and solitude. Once the bars close and the restaurants shut down for the evening, no more distractions exist to prevent the onslaught of memories and painful thoughts. Jake says at a later time, ” There is no reason why because it is dark you should look at things differently from when it is light. The hell there isn’t.”‘ The unfortunate members of this lost generation are truly estranged from their mother countries. They feel as if society has led them astray, with no means of return, similar to a scene that Jake observes in Spain: “In the square a man, bent over, was playing on a reed-pipe, and a crowd of children were following him shouting, and pulling at his clothes. He came out of the square, the children following him, and piped them past the cafÈ and down a side street. We saw his blank pock marked face as he went by, piping, the children close behind him shouting and pulling at him.” This image of the pied piper leading the children blindly at his whim is analogous to the situation of Jake and his friends, who see themselves as victims led like sheep during the war by their homelands. They blindly follow orders and society and suddenly find themselves on the outskirts of a world that they once thought they knew. Now they are without a country and without a purpose. These expatriates are groping in the dark shadows of this world for some semblance of morals or values. Jake and his fellow outcasts are living in a world comparable to Plato’s allegory of the cave, where they are trapped, kept out of the light, and the only world they know is what they see reflected by the shadows. They have no success in the realm of emotion or spirituality. Even though they continuously thrust themselves into the fires of experience, they are still isolated from the world in which they long to be. Jake is the only religious character in the novel, but his spiritual attempts are futile; he calls himself a “rotten Catholic” and wishes for a time when he can actually feel religious. Bill has one brief spiritual moment when he says, ” We should not question. Our stay on earth is not for long. Let us rejoice and believe and give thanks.”‘ However, religion is not an integral part of his life or the lives of the other characters. Jake remains the one spiritual pillar of the group. The members of this lost generation seek the worlds of Paris and Spain to find a niche where they can exist happily and successfully. Hemingway, himself an expatriate, is a part of this unfortunate group. Jake’s world parallels Hemingway’s. He, like his creator, moves from place to place and moment to moment in search of release, though he realizes that “[y]ou can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” Hemingway and his characters live in a world where discrimination and neglect are normal standards. They are merely struggling to survive and stand out from the background that blurs in the vision of society. Jake has accepted his extraction from American society and is attempting to carve out a niche for himself in Paris. He is frightened by Bill’s revelation: ‘”You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You’re an expatriate, see? You hang around cafés.”‘ His acceptance of Europe as his new home increases gradually as the novel progresses, although he continues to yearn for a place in society. He declares that “[it is] always pleasant crossing bridges in Paris,” demonstrating that he is slowly evolving in his acceptance of his new life. He also begins to see positive aspects of his new land, where “it is so simple to make people happy.” Hemingway also calls Europe his new home, particularly Spain. Although they are “lost,” the members of Hemingway’s lost generation long for a group to which they can belong. They realize that society has cast them out, but Jake and his friends continue to fear complete ostracism from the world. They yearn to be a part of a society that has closed its doors on them. Bill pleads, ” Don’t you ever detach me from the herd, Mike”‘ in a moment of complete insecurity, demonstrating the fear that lingers in his mind of being severed from society with no lifeline. He and the others are wandering without knowing their destination. Fate has cut the ties that bind humans to one another and to society and has left them to form a new herd and discover their own means of survival. The idea of being “lost” is a demon that lurks in the shadows of both the novel and Hemingway’s mind. Hemingway expresses his fears of the consequences resulting from being an expatriate through the insight of his characters. When Bill says to Jake, “You’re only a newspaper man. An expatriated newspaper man. You ought to be ironical the minute you get out of bed. You ought to wake up with your mouth full of pity,” he is demonstrating the common contempt in society toward expatriates. He voices concerns of Hemingway when he follows by saying, “Nobody that ever left their own country ever wrote anything worth printing. Not even in the newspapers.” Hemingway and Jake Barnes, both expatriate writers, are essentially one entity. Hemingway’s concerns are Jake’s and vice versa. Hemingway’s dissatisfaction with society prompts him to create characters that share his difficulties, partially to laugh at the world, and partially to console himself. His literature makes certain that others in the world are aware of the dangers of society and the sorrows of the outcasts. He molds men and women in the likeness of himself, providing them a world in which to flounder and blindly grope through moral and social darkness to illustrate the cruel nature of the world and provide examples of the unfortunate results of discrimination and neglect. Like Jake, Brett, Cohn, Bill, Georgette, Harrison, Count Mippipopolous, and Mike, Hemingway is a forsaken member of thousands who have become the lost generation.
The destruction of sex, a noteworthy theme in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, is specifically displayed in the relationship between the characters of Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. Because of Jake’s impotence and Brett’s promiscuity, they can never be together despite their deep connection and assumed love. An analysis of the attraction between them, Brett’s past relationships and behaviors, and the parallels between sex and bullfighting reveals that Jake and Brett could never be together even if they were capable of consummating their relationship. To the contrary, it is the introduction of a sexual element that would ultimately destroy their relationship.Since Brett is a member of the Lost Generation, growing up during the first World War, she is constantly seeking a sense of innocence to remind her of her pre-war existence. Brett finds this purity in the impotent Jake, and they both develop the belief that they are destined for one another. Jake’s innocence is founded in Brett’s unspoiled perception of him, an image that would be ruined were he and Brett capable of consummating their love. Jake and Brett remain friends and hide their feelings for each other as Brett philanders from one man to the next, all the while hurting Jake with her comparisons: “You’re a rotten dancer, Jake. Michael’s the best dancer I know” (69). Jake endures this pain and remains smitten with Brett.While Brett sees in Jake the innocence that she herself lacks, Jake finds in Brett the masculinity that he has lost. A strong, independent woman, Brett refers to herself as a “chap,” wears men’s hats over her short hair, and refuses to comport herself in a socially acceptable manner. Jake, who lost his own masculinity as a result of a war wound, is attracted to Brett’s independence, an image that would be ruined should he and Brett ever enter into a romantic relationship. Since the attraction between Brett and Jake is based on a purely platonic relationship, it is highly unlikely that the two would be able to maintain their love for each other if a sexual element were to be introduced.With sex comes attachment and commitment, both of which cause Brett to quickly abandon her male partners. Twice divorced and thrice engaged, Brett is not one to be tied down. She is aware of her promiscuity, even admitting to Jake that she could never live with him because she’d just “tromper [him] with everybody” (62). She has entered countless relationships with men, and has abandoned all of them because of their attempts to control her once they become physically involved with her. The love that the initially express once they sleep with Brett quickly manifests as continual attempts to control her and keep her for themselves. Brett simply can not and will not be controlled, and she elects to destroy each relationship before this becomes a possibility. Cohn, for example, simply cannot grasp that the time he spent with Brett in San Sebastian “didn’t mean anything,” expecting far more from his relationship with her than what he got (185). As a result of Cohn’s disappointment and the jealousy that both Mike and Jake feel towards Cohn because of his actions, tensions rise so high that the men erupt into verbal and physical conflict. This is Cohn’s downfall; he breaks his code of morals in order to defend himself. Shortly thereafter, Cohn is removed from the novel altogether, just as other men such as Mike and the Count are removed from Brett’s life. Pedro Romero, specifically, is dismissed when he asks Brett to grow out her hair: “Me, with long hair. I’d look so like hell…He said it would make me more womanly” (246). Brett can’t stand the idea of settling down and refuses to do so for anybody, even for a man whom she claims she is “mad about” and “in love with” (187). However, Brett also refers to Jake as her love while admitting that she “couldn’t live quietly in the country. Not [even] with [her] own true love” (62). Despite this blatant confession of love, chances are that the relationship between Brett and Jake would not fare any better than her other conquests, and she would leave him just as she left Pedro and all the others. Since Brett lives a promiscuous lifestyle and refuses to settle for any one man, an actual relationship with Jake would be impossible. Ultimately, Brett will remain alone, continuing her self-destructive cycle.The bullfighting scenes in The Sun Also Rises parallel the theme of sex and destruction. Like sex, bullfighting involves a connection between two separate entities. Like a matador, Brett draws the bulls close to her and then quickly backs away at the last minute. The bullfight ends when the matador stabs the bull through the heart, slaying it. Brett’s treatment of men and bullfighting both end in destruction. Even Jake himself notes the “sensation of coming tragedy” associated with the bullfights as he discusses the greatness of the matador Belmonte (218). Brett is also an excellent “matador” of sorts, able to continually fool men into falling in love with her before sending them away. The relationship between sex and bullfighting and the destruction which results from both exemplifies the destructive nature of sex in The Sun Also Rises.Were Jake not impotent, he would have become just another one of Brett’s toys. The only thing that sustains the relationship between Jake and Brett is their inability to consummate their relationship and introduce the destructive force of sex. To begin with, Jake’s attraction to Brett’s independence and Brett’s attraction to Jake’s innocence would both be shattered if they consummated their love. It is also unlikely that Brett would ever settle down, even for Jake. The parallels between intimacy and bullfighting exemplify the destructive nature of sex in The Sun Also Rises. It is the absence of sex, and the consequent longing for it, that keep Jake and Brett bound together in an emotional relationship.
In The Sun Also Rises, Earnest Hemingway depicts the independent Lady Brett Ashley, the main female character in the novel, as a selfish, careless, and superficial woman. She was perhaps once a compassionate woman: she was a nurse during the Great War, and was by Jake Barnes’ side during his recovery from his wound. However, the loss of her “true love” to dysentery during the war and Jake’s inability to physically love her are two factors that have left her disillusioned. She is just as unhappy and aimless as every other character in the novel; she drinks constantly, and sleeps with nearly every man she meets. Furthermore, like the sorceress Circe in Homer’s Odyssey, she “turns men into swine” (148). Often her mere presence is disruptive: on many occasions, she only has to appear, and the men will begin to fight among themselves about her.As she confides to Jake Barnes, “Oh, darling, I’ve been so miserable” (32), Brett is just as unhappy as the other characters in the novel, and her depression leads her to engage in self-destructive behavior. Just as the men in the novel aimlessly wander from bar to bar, trying to imbibe enough alcohol to forget their problems, Brett wanders from man to man, vainly using sex as a method of lifting her spirits. She often accompanies the men in their bar-hopping, drinking just as much as they do. Her engagement in these two destructive behaviors demonstrates her misery; Brett is arguably the most depressed character in the novel, second only to Jake. Her emotional agony has similar origins as that of the men in the novel: the Great War.Brett has not only been affected by the loss of her “true love” to dysentery, and an abusive marriage to Lord Ashley, but has also been mentally scarred by her experiences as a nurse. Although she did not fight in the filth-ridden trenches, Brett cared for the men who did. One can imagine that she had to soothe screaming men who were past any hope of survival, constantly telling them that they would live. It was during her time as a nurse that Brett met Jake, and therefore always knew about his wound. Despite this, they still fall in love. However, by the time the reader is acquainted with both Brett and Jake, he is aware that there is great tension between them because of their inability to physically love each other. During their time together in Paris, unable to do anything else, Brett and Jake drive aimlessly around in taxis; their wanderings serve as a metaphor for their directionless relationship and lives. Furthermore, Brett’s sexual promiscuity is her method of trying to convince herself that she is not deeply upset by her inability to physically love Jake.Although Brett is extraordinarily unhappy and disillusioned, she is also inexcusably careless, selfish and disruptive. As her fiance Mike observes, Brett, like Circe, “turns men into swine” (148). An extremely beautiful woman who knows how to show off her figure, Brett constantly attracts both positive and negative attention to herself. Men are instantly attracted to her, and she further reins them in with her charisma. Unfortunately, men are on their worst behavior when they are around her, constantly fighting over her. For example, whenever Brett appears at a restaurant or bar, quarrels ensue between men such as her alcoholic fiance Mike, and Robert Cohn, who is smitten with her. Brett never attempts to stop them, instead she sits and listens, passively absorbing all that is going on around her.Brett further “turns men into swine” by selfishly seducing and then abandoning them. She engages in a relationship with Pedro Romero, a promising young Spanish bullfighter, fifteen years her junior. Unlike Jake and his expatriate friends, Romero is completely honest and moral, drinking comparatively little, and spending most of his time concentrating on his bullfighting. However, Brett’s relationship with him is corruptive, and she drags him into her world of debauchery. A fight breaks out between Romero and Robert Cohn when Cohn finds the two lovers together. It is only after Romero has been beaten that Brett realizes that their relationship is unhealthy, and she breaks it off, citing later on that she is, “not going to be one of those bitches that ruins children” (247.) After Brett breaks off her relationship with Romero, one can sense that he has been irreversibly changed.Brett is as careless in everyday life as she is in her relationships with men. When Romero kills a special bull, its ears are cropped, and given to her as a gift. She takes this prize and throws it in the back of a drawer with her garbage, and this action is reflective of her thoughtless, selfish attitude, demonstrating that she feels no value for anything.As Brett confesses, she has “had a hell of a time” (245.) Despite her selfishness and immoral behavior, it is easy to pity Brett. She has survived an abusive marriage, the loss of her true love, nursing during the Great War, and the inability to physically love Jake. All this has left her depressed, and with a feeling of worthlessness.
The destruction of WWI disillusioned an entire generation and accelerated the evolution of modernism — a culture that was ostensibly enlightened, irredeemable and confused. The emergence of 1920’s modernism allowed for a resurgence of feminist thinking, which moved away from the patriarchal Victorian standards of womanhood to the bawdy, irreverently empowered “new woman.” The “new woman’s” aversion to prudish inhibition abetted in the growing sense of uncertainty, conflict, and the erosion of society. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises typifies this insecurity procured from the ideological divergence between patriarchy and feminism — a symptomatic component of the cultural confusion of modernism. Hemingway’s ideologically conflicted portrayal of Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises both reinforces and subverts the traditional conceptions of patriarchy.Lady Brett Ashley highlights patriarchal ideology by perpetuating certain fundamental characteristics of traditional gender roles. She is irrational, nurturing, and weak from her dependence upon men, which allows them to distinguish her as property. She exemplifies her imprudence by impulsive emotion — she marries two different men whom she doesn’t love and is about to marry a third for no other reason but that “[h]e’s so damned nice.” Like her male counterparts she drinks often but only Brett remains so consistently drunk that it hinders her speech and daily physical activities. Her addiction to liquor leaves her especially weak and always requiring the assistance of men, specifically Jake whom she constantly calls on for emotional and financial support. Her susceptibility permits men to perceive her as their property, as Robert Cohn does when he follows her around insisting on her undivided attention or as Romero does when he asks to marry her so that he can guarantee she’ll “never go away from him.” When Cohn pummels Romero, Brett remains true to the Victorian ideal of a nurturing female, and nurses the bullfighter back to health — just as she did when she worked as a V.D.A. in a war hospital. Despite her fulfillment of traditional gender roles, Brett clearly embodies the role of the “new woman,” yet, evidently this progressive position does not appeal to Hemingway.Hemingway’s portrayal of her as a “new woman” is so repugnant and churlish that a case could easily be made concerning the inferiority of woman based on her depiction as the representative female. Brett personifies the “bad girl,” a sexually forward femme fatale who can be easily possessed or easily discarded. She uses men for impetuous sexual satisfaction then leaves them for her next smutty capture — conquests that render her anxious to bathe in an attempt to cleanse herself physically and psychologically. Her portrayal as the “bad girl” validates Hemingway’s chauvinistic attitude towards her and reinforces his preservation of patriarchal ideals. He evidently has no purpose for her other than to consistently disrupt the more legitimate and important male relationships with her sexual liaisons. He allocates more value and priority to scenes that demonstrate male bonding by elevating his style; for example, the most poetically written passages of the book like the fishing scenes between Jake and Bill occur without the presence of Brett. Regardless of the traditional roles Brett fulfills or the extremely negative representation of “new woman” feminism she signifies, Brett does demonstrate typically masculine qualities that undermine the patriarchal ideology at work.Lady Brett actively subverts the standards of cultural gendering and personifies a woman who, in many ways, perpetuates more masculine qualities than her male cohorts. She is assertive, empowered, and protective — all traditional patriarchal characteristics of masculinity. Brett easily asserts control over men, particularly the impotent and emasculated Jake, who cries for her at night when she leaves him and willingly disrupts his own activities to be at her beckoning call. While Hemingway depicts her and her promiscuity as a boorish component of feminist ideology, he fails to recognize and acknowledge that Brett’s use of sexuality is her only avenue to empowerment in an era where women are perceived as unequal and inferior. She owns her sexuality, which allows for her assertiveness and her strong sense of self and independence (qualities that she unfortunately hampers with alcohol). Romero thinks he can possess her and vows to marry her after she becomes “more womanly” by growing her hair out. She refuses the longer hair stipulation and the prospect of becoming “one of these bitches that ruins children.” Additionally, while she doesn’t particularly care for Cohn, only Brett stands up for him and attempts to silence Mike when he commences his cruel, verbally abusive rant against Cohn, suggesting her independent thinking and forcefulness.Contrary to the conventional Victorian expectations of dainty femininity, Brett is just “one of the boys” who demands equal treatment and unhindered participation in traditionally masculine activities. She drinks, smokes, and swears in public — activities that had been previously regarded as taboo for women before the 1920’s. Her name, Brett, is typically considered masculine. In addition she refers to people, including herself, as “chaps” — an indication that she regards everyone of the group, male and female, on equal terms. She also defies moral and social codes by accepting and maintaining friendly relationships with homosexuals whom she first appears with. Brett completely disregards the ideas of gendering and traditional femininity and redefines her role and essence as a woman.Brett’s brazen assertiveness and defiance of certain Victorian conceptions stipulated for women plainly challenges patriarchal ideology. Yet, her hesitance to abandon each and every Victorian conception as well as Hemingway’s negative portrayal of her also plainly reinforces the traditional ideology. Brett is nurturing and protective, weak yet strong, dependent yet independent, assertive yet emotionally irrational, slutty yet sexually empowered, masculine yet feminine. She exemplifies a plethora of contradictions and ideological conflicts. Lady Brett Ashley’s incongruous portrayal reflects the overall conflicts and confusion that originated from the cultural changes of modernism and the attempts of the “Lost Generation” of writers to resonate those changes and make sense of them.
I have been one acquainted with the night.I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.I have outwalked the further city light.I have looked down the saddest city lane.I have passed by the watchman on his beat.And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.-Robert FrostGertrude Stein summarized the psychological complexities of the post-World War II expatriate generation by calling them “lost.” While the 1920s seemed to be a time for decadence and reckless celebration, Stein’s statement reveals the sad truth of the era. The war was a distinct turning point for all corners of society, from lifestyle to fashion to intellect. Unfortunately, however, the war veteran’s mental and physical composure remained the most lasting casualty. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is an excellent showcase of the war’s widespread destruction. His young, American wanderers represent Gertrude Stein’s “lost” ones, their moral maturity stunted by the horrors of world war.Jake Barnes, in particular, suffers in a body rendered impotent and a mind void of emotion or vitality. As peacetime life greets Jake with a flow of people, parties, and travel, he struggles to retrieve his humanity from the clutches of war. Jake does not become Hemingway’s “code hero” until he re-identifies with his manhood and his moral stability. Once he finds control, the essence of human nature, then he is not lost anymore.Although Jake Barnes considers himself a “rotten Catholic,” his quest to take control over his life is actually quite spiritual in that it concerns his moral growth. Particularly through his nighttime introspection, his evident moral impotence outshines the literal impotence of his wound. At the outset he cannot even keep straight in his mind the concept of morality and immorality: “That was morality; things that made you disgusted afterward. No, that must be immorality. What a lot of bilge I could think up at night.”(149) Jake’s struggle for a set of morals is key in his desire for control; pondering life itself, Jake thinks, “I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.”(148) In a sense, Jake’s yearning for a plan to live life is a way for him to detour the world’s complexities. Jake saw the world during the war; now a controlled path will keep him safe from harm and out of moral danger.Jake’s sexual impotence is the ultimate symbol of the war’s destruction of his character. As a human male, Jake had possessed the height of control — the ability to produce life. After the war, Jake is left hardly human in spirit and hardly male in body. Having lost the physical essence of his manhood, he develops a serious inferiority complex with respect to his manhood and his admiration of Lady Brett Ashley. This is blatantly obvious in his hostility towards homosexuals, particularly those acquainted with his charming, yet preoccupied love interest Brett: “I was very angry. Somehow they always made me angry. I know they are supposed to be amusing, and you should be tolerant, but I wanted to swing on one, any one, anything to shatter that superior, simpering composure.”(20) The fact that Jake feels threatened by men who could never be sexually involved with Brett and senses from them an air of superiority simply because they are fertile exemplifies the height of his discontent.Jake turns the psychological bend toward spiritual clarity at the same moment he begins to taste control in his life. On the trip with Bill to Burguete, Jake enjoys a relaxing conversation based around the controlled, ritualistic process of fishing. Bill sees Jake’s situation as it is and puts him in his place, saying, “Fake European standards have ruined you … You’re an expatriate, see?”(115) This trip is the time where Jake begins to come to terms with aspects of himself. He speaks openly about his impotence with Bill and symbolically reinacts his own castration through the gutting of the fish, in a destruction of fertility. He also begins to separate himself from his reckless lifestyle with Brett through connecting the enjoyment of his day with the fact that “there was no word from Robert Cohn nor from Brett and Mike.”(125)The bull fighting chapters also represent Jake’s struggle with the issue of his impotence, particularly concerning his lack of control in his relationship with Brett. The image of the steer being gored by the bull precisely depicts Jake’s unconfident, inferior status under the shadow of Brett’s overbearing control and manipulation. The reader can clearly identify the time when Jake is no longer the steer in the relationship and no longer morally impotent. In one of Jake’s final thoughts at the end of the bull-fighting trip, he says, “The Norte station in Madrid is the end of the line.”(240) From there, it seems doubtful that he and Brett can “go on anywhere.”Hemingway’s symbolism in the last passage suggests heavily that control is what manifests itself in Jake’s character, and thereby Jake Barnes’ ultimate task is recovering himself from the depths of the war and its damage. To do this, he must find the control to recreate his moral character. During World War II, it is safe to say that Jake and his fellow veterans “looked down the saddest city lane,” as Robert Frost would put it. At a ripe young age, and just ready to explore life’s possibilities, Jake found himself head-on facing the epitome of the world’s despair. This early disillusionment, of course, made his return to “reality” confusing and disheartening. Jake came out of the fighting and “dropped his eyes, unwilling to explain.” In his mind, his wound had stripped him of his manhood. In the reader’s eye, the war had stripped him of his humanity. Post-war, Jake was stuck suspended between life and death, refusing to meet either one eye to eye. When Jake gains control over his moral mentality, his relationship with Brett, his physical condition, he is finally able to reach the new spiritual clarity foreshadowed by Hemingway’s title: The Sun Also Rises.
Often put off as a writer of supremely masculine literature, Earnest Hemingway has earned a top position in the literary canon of the modernist era. As a master of provocative understatement, Hemingway developed his reputation for addressing issues of gender and sexuality with prevailing themes of masculinity. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is a prime example of these typical masculine undertones. The analytic examiner has no trouble locating readings that describe The Sun Also Rises, or any other Hemingway work, in this much acknowledged, male-dominated variety. What is an uncommon investigation is the homosexual themes borne into the novel. Specific characterizations and Hemingway’s subtle language, when interpreted properly, reveal the irony of homosexuality suppressed in masculinity.The novel’s protagonist and narrator, Jake Barnes, embodies the simplest, most obvious homosexual characterization. As a soldier in World War I, Jakes was involved in an “accident” as Hemingway describes it, that leaves him impotent. Jake’s physical impotence renders him unable to perform any sexual act. This becomes a metaphor for Jake’s mental impotence; homosexuality that would forbid him from engaging in sexual acts with any woman. We see Jake expressing a certain frustration over his impotence in the way individuals, especially during the 1920’s, would find themselves outcast, or at least separated from the social norm. His impotence and metaphoric homosexuality are qualities that he keeps in the dark. These are qualities that he is ashamed of. Jake and Brett discuss war wounds with Count Mippipopolous who proudly displays the arrow wounds he received in Abyssinia: “And I have got arrow wounds. Have you ever seen arrow wounds?” (Hemingway, 61) Jake’s war wounds, although more brutal and impressive, remain an undiscovered, shameful part of Jake. Thus, the battle wounds that are often considered a very masculine aspect of the novel become a representation of Jake’s metaphoric, understated homosexuality.Considering a subject such as homosexuality makes the character Brett a fascinating one to contemplate. Both Jake and Robert Cohn find themselves directing great amounts of effort toward winning the love of this odd character. The most heterosexual action of both of these men becomes the clearest example of their symbolic homosexuality. It is arguable that Cohn and Jake have fallen in love with the most masculine character in the novel. To state the most glaring detail, Brett has a typically male name. During one of their earliest encounters that we see, Jake describes Brett as “damned good looking”, but goes on to describe her as having hair that is done “like a boy’s” and being “built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht.” (Hemingway, 22) Aside from Jake’s manly description of Brett’s handsome qualities, we find that Brett conducts herself in a very male way. She refers to herself and her male friends as “chaps”. Greeting them with a hearty “Hello, you chaps”, and presumptuously declaring, “Never going to get tight anymore. I say, give a chap a brandy and soda.” (Hemingway, 21-22) So aside from looking like a man, and talking like a man, Brett also drinks like a man. Of Brett, literary critic Leslie Fielder writes, “…she is presented not as an animal or as a nightmare but quite audaciously as a goddess, the bitch-goddess with boyish bob (Hemingway is rather fond of women who seem as much as boy as girl), the Lilith of the 20’s.” (Fielder, 89) Fielder describes Brett’s male personality further, quoting a line from her: “He wanted me to grow my hair out. Me, with long hair. I’d look so like Hell…. He said it would make me look more womanly. I’d look a fright.” (Fielder, 89) Along with being boyish, Fielder introduces a new term to the character of Brett. This idea of the “bitch-goddess” is certainly one that would have appeal to the homosexual inclination being expressed in Cohn and Jake. The notion of a goddess of beauty, power, and masculinity is exactly the type of deity that would be most appealing according to Hemingway’s homosexuals.Near the beginning of the novel, Jake finds himself at a dance where Brett arrives with a group of gay men. As they enter Jake notes “The policeman standing by the door looked at me and smiled.” (Hemingway, 20) Here, Hemingway identifies the common sarcastic attitude toward the gay populace and the discriminatory manner with which they are viewed. Jake’s reaction to their dancing provokes a number of possible interpretations. Jake reflects: “Somehow they always made me angry. I know they are supposed to be amusing, and you should be tolerant, but I wanted to swing on one, any one, anything to shatter that superior, simpering composure.” (Hemingway, 20) It could, obviously, be simple jealousy bringing about these feelings of anger. Jake feels threatened by their “superior, simpering composure” and is motivated by the primal instinct to do harm to the cause of his frustration. It is not unreasonable to think that Jake would feel threatened by these men who still possess their potency. However, it is not reasonable for us to imagine that Jake should feel jealous toward a group of gay men concerning the woman he is in love with. What is more likely is the recurrence of Jake’s frustration toward his own sexual impotence. Jake is all too familiar with the situation that these men have found themselves in. Like the men, Jake has all the qualities of personality that Brett seeks in a lover. However, with Jake, as with the group of men, Brett has no intention of ever consummating that love. As she puts it later, “Yes. Aren’t I? [sober] And when one’s with the crowd I’m with, one can drink in such safety, too.” (Hemingway, 22) Jake’s aggression toward the homosexuals is merely reflected upon his own state of dissatisfaction with himself. So again, the masculine aggression that is typical of Hemingway becomes another vestige of veiled homosexuality.The concept of the “bitch-goddess” becomes an idea revisited with Cohn’s ex-fiance, Frances. When Cohn decides that he cannot marry Frances (a woman with a slightly less masculine name than Brett), she releases onto him a torrent of sarcastic insults including his emotional nature, significant of his metaphoric homosexuality: “Don’t have scenes with your young ladies. Try not to. Because you can’t have scenes without crying, and then you pity yourself so much you can’t remember what the other person’s said.” (Hemingway, 50) All throughout her torment Cohn remains fairly silent, letting the insults sink in, interrupting only once to tell her to “shut up”. Cohn’s emotional, submissive nature combined with his violent past as a champion boxer further supports the idea of the manly homosexual.Hemingway does go beyond the idea of the homosexual within masculinity, and presents the plausibility of a paradise free of women. This idea will become more significant further on. The Spanish bullfighter Pedro Romero becomes a tool of Hemingway’s description of sex. The final moments of his bullfight are to be considered the climactic moments of intercourse. Backman writes:…as their swords go all the way in, the men leaning after—the men become one with the bull, united for a single instant by death. This is the “moment of truth.” It is an intense, almost an ecstatic, moment of communion, involving an abnegation of self before the final merging. The only other experience analogous to this in Hemingway’s work is sexual union. (Backman, 249)Backman writes in reference to the passage concerning Romero’s slaughter of the bull: “…his left shoulder went forward between the horns as the sword went in, and for just an instant, he and the bull were one…” (Hemingway, 218) This passage, indeed, describes a very sexual insinuation: the sword being a very phallic device penetrating the bull causing them to be “one”. This is an accurate representation of Hemingway’s take on the purpose of women, and the etiquette of sex. The bullfight was simple. The bullfight was begun as simply as it ended and without the trials associated with relationships. It is perhaps a cynical comment on behalf of Hemingway to suggest that a successful sexual relationship is attainable, but only with a bull, rather than with a woman.Romero had had his face beaten by Cohn the day before the bullfight, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that it is because of the meddlesome nature of women that he endured the fight. We notice Romero cleansing himself of his female-inflicted wounds during his bullfight: “The fight with Cohn had not touched his spirit but his face had been smashed and his body hurt. He was wiping all that out now. Each thing that he did with this bull, wiped that out a little cleaner.” (Hemingway, 219) The simplicity of man and beast in a world free of women cleanses the mind of Romero. Again, the union of a great man and a great male beast brought together in a sexually cleansing experience negates the masculinity of the whole situation, and instead creates homoerotic innuendo.The fishing trip to Burguette with Bill and Jake provides further evidence of the whimsical paradise of men without women. Fielder puts the fishing trip quite eloquently: “What Hemingway’s emphasis on the ritual murder of fish conceals is that it is not so much the sport as the occasion for immersion which is essential to the holy marriage of males. Water is the symbol of the barrier between the Great Good Place and the busy world of women.” (Fielder, 92) It is here, in a place free of women, amidst the natural, simplistic state of things that Bill and Jake are allowed to be perfectly honest. Bill tells Jake, “Listen. You’re a hell of a good guy, and I’m fonder of you than anybody on Earth. I couldn’t tell you that in New York. It’d mean I was a faggot.” (Hemingway, 116) The manly pursuit that is fishing becomes a time for Bill to admit his tender, manly, love for his friend Jake.The understated themes of Hemingway’s literature are highly self-interpretable. It stands to reason, though, in the spirit of irony that a brilliant author like Earnest Hemingway would use themes like fishing, bullfighting, and beautiful, promiscuous women to promote the values of homosexuality.Works CitedBackman, Melvin, “Hemingway: The Matador and the Crucified”, Hemingway and His Critics, New York: Hill and Wang, 1966.Fielder, Leslie, “Men Without Women” Hemingway, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1962.Hemingway, Earnest, The Sun Also Rises, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1954.
Beneath Hemingwayâs graphic portrait of the lost and wounded post-World War I generation presented in The Sun Also Rises, a blatant anti-Semitic intent emerges. Whether Hemingway was merely a mouthpiece for the intolerant views of his contemporaries or allowed his personal prejudice to seep into the story line can not be ascertained, yet one of the main figures in The Sun Also Rises is consistently assaulted for his Judaic heritage.Robert Cohnâs scornful introduction occurs in the first few pages of the novel. The narrator, Jake Barnes, constructs a stereotypical image of Cohn, including a disfigured nose, a bought editorial byline in a magazine he helped finance, and a lackluster relationship, in which Cohn unwittingly succumbs to girlfriend Francesâ dominion. This contemptuous description correlates with the standard Jewish stereotype as presented by Edgar Rosenberg:The stereotype of the Jew is that of a fairly thoroughgoing materialist, a physical coward, an opportunist in money matters; secretive in his living habits, servile in his relations with Christians, whom he abominated,…an outlandish nose, an unpleasant odor, and a speech impediment also. He was a literalist…hardly qualified for tragedy. (56)Hemingway, via Jake Barnes, methodically illustrates each aforementioned attribute. For instance, Cohnâs stinginess is clearly evident as he entreats Jake to buy him a double-tapered fishing line, but insists on paying later rather than now. Moreover, as Cohn becomes enamored with Lady Ashley, he attempts to excise himself from Frances by buying her off, as she confesses that Cohn offered her a hundred pounds to visit friends in England. Frances, though, would not settle and so he bargained with her till they both agreed on two hundred pounds. However, it is Mike Campbell, Lady Ashleyâs fiancee, who reveals Cohnâs closefisted personality best. In drunken frenzy, he tells Bill to stay for âRobert Cohn is about to buy a drinkâ? (Hemingway 95), implying that, since Cohn seldom buys drinks, this event is too extraordinary for Bill to miss. All in all, Cohn consummates his role as the cheap Jewish type through âhis callous and opportunistic use of moneyâ? (Bloom 64).Further, Cohn fulfills the Jewish stereotype, as previously prescribed by Rosenberg, through his cuckold-like portrayal as a duped romantic figure, âwho was repeatedly defeated in sexual matters until defeat became his trademarkâ? (Knopf 125). To illustrate, Cohnâs first wife left him for a miniature-painter, which was âa very healthful shockâ? (Hemingway 4). His next relationship was also a failure, as he permitted the domineering Frances to control every aspect of his life. For example, when Jake suggests that Cohn should travel with him to Strasbourg, because he knows âa girl there that will show the townâ? (Hemingway 6), Cohn retorts in despondency, âYou know Frances. Any girl at all. I couldnât go that would be allâ? (Hemingway 6). However, his blind nobility to Frances vanishes after an encounter with Lady Ashley, whose beauty leaves Cohn stupefied. The narrator directly mocks this incident by rendering Cohn as looking a âgreat deal as his compatriot must have looked when he saw the promised landâ? (Hemingway 24). By equating Lady Ashley with Israel, Jake minimizes the gravity of Mosesâ journey and compares it to a meager lustful attraction. Perhaps William Vance discerns it best in the following statement,âThe impression of Cohn given in the first two chapters is unsympathetic, and the precipitate manner in which he falls in love in the third chapter is rendered satiricallyâ? (41).Since Cohn is rendered as a very superficial figure, he is immediately enthralled with Lady Ashley. Thus, when she takes up his invitation for a trip to San Sebastian, he misconstrues her amiable intentions. Inevitably, when Ashleyâs fiance arrives, she confesses to love-blinded Cohn that she only took up his invitation because she âwanted to get out of town [Paris] and she canât go anywhere aloneâ? (Hemingway 102). Cohn, being the ultimate cuckold, is still assured that Ashley loves him deeply; on this pretense, he follows Ashley and her fiancee around Europe in what ends up to be a disastrous turn of events.Moreover, as the only Jew within the novel, Cohn is treated with a double standard. Barnes is impartial when the count requests the Ladyâs hand in marriage nor is he angry at Bill for ostentatiously flirting with her. Notably, Barnes even arranges the first meeting between Ashley and Romero, which ends in a torrid affair between the two. However, Cohnâs affections for Lady Ashley annoy Barnes considerably. Simply because Cohn is Jewish, he is subject to an unwritten law denying Jews admission into the ex-patriate circle; he is condemned to be a bystander, who can not participate nor have a woman from their group. Strikingly, even Lady Ashley admits that going to San Sebastian with Cohn was the lowest thing she has ever done and that ânobody else [except Cohn] would behave as badlyâ? (Hemingway 182).The narrator is very thorough in shaping his stereotype, he doesnât overlook any modest details that appear in Rosenbergâs model of a Jewish stereotype. To illustrate, Lady Ashley continually expresses her need for a bath and demystifies this need by alluding that Cohn left a residue behind and she used the baths and Romero to âwipe out that damned Jewâ? ( Hemingway 246). Interestingly, this residue is closely related to the pungent odor ascribed by Rosenbergâs mold.Accordingly, the stereotypical Jew is also prone to tragedy as evidenced by the cruel remarks of Lady Ashleyâs group. Cohn is constantly reminded of his âsad Jewish faceâ? that âdepresses them soâ? and âdoesnât add much to the gaietyâ? (Hemingway 182). Cohn, however, just waves the insults away, undisparaged. Consequently, the characters resort to derogatory ridicule; Bill calls Cohn a âkikeâ? and comments that âall their Jewish friends are a pain to have aroundâ? ( Hemingway 163).All in all, The Sun Also Rises is a host to an army of Anti-Semitic themes aimed at Robert Cohn, a stereotyped Jewish character forced to endure insult and outsider status due to his religion. This rampant bias diminishes the value of the story significantly and suggests that âthe traits of meanness, corruption, and weakness are somehow bound up with Jewishnessâ? ( Wagner-Martin 171).Works CitedBloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations âThe Sun Also Rises. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishing, 1987.Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York, NY: Charles Scribnerâs Sons, 1926.Knopf, Josephine. âMeyer Wolfsheim and Robert Cohn: A Study of Jewish Type and Stereotype. Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought no.3 (1969): 123-127.Rosenberg, Edgar. From Shylock To Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction. New York: Doubleday, 1965.Vance, William. Twenties, Poetry and Prose: Twenty Critical Essays. Columbus, Ohio: Merril 1966.Wagner-Martin, Linda. Ernest Hemingway: Five Decades of Criticism. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State
In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway seeks to address changes of life and attitudes following World War I through the disjointed lens of the narrator, Jake Barnes. Told through his stream of consciousness, the novel investigates psychological aimlessness and alienation resulting from a tangible sense of trauma as well as its problematic means of repeating itself. The sense of loss, disjointedness, and wandering in conjunction with a challenge of pre-war ideas is central to Hemingway’s work and ultimately classifies it as a Modernist text. Jake exposes the activities of his group of “friends” within the Parisian expatriate society, characterized by their constant drinking and mindless travel from place to place. Both by literal and situational means, Hemingway’s masculinity (or lack thereof) asserts itself boldly through Jake in both his prose and micro-aggressions towards other characters. Juxtaposed to Jake’s self-loathing and feminine atrophy is Lady Brett Ashley, the central female antagonist with arguably some of the most “masculine” behaviors. Specifically, Brett depicts the “New Woman” in response to shell shock, or post-traumatic stress disorder, both exemplifying and challenging changing gender and sexual ideals.
Brett embodies the gray area between the divergence of patriarchal values and rising feminism. She sleeps with men when she desires to but implicates she eventually wants to fall in love and settle down. She is the sole female in a male group of expatriates and dominates the conversation with her bold personality and beauty. After a long night of drinking and gallivanting around Paris, she confides in Jake “Oh darling, I’ve been so miserable” (Hemingway 32). In a scene where it seems like Brett should be enjoying herself, she admits to Jake that she is depressed, exposing her use of alcohol as a coping mechanism and giving a sense of the emptiness resulting from wandering around Paris’s cafes. Brett’s partying and radically sexual activity serve as solely a distraction from her inner turmoil rather than a means to enjoying herself. This component of Brett exhibits patriarchal values, portraying her as if she is a “wayward” woman, resulting from her seeming lack of values, promiscuous behavior, and drinking habits. While Hemingway seems to condemn Brett for her behavior and the way it hurts Jake, he also admires her for her controlling presence and personality, perhaps because she contains a masculinity that is lacking in himself.
Modernist literature seeks to investigate stereotypical masculine and feminine behavior, and Brett behaves as one of the most masculine characters in the novel. Her hair is cut short in a bob-style fashion, and she often refers to herself and her friends as “chap,” challenging the pre-set standards of femininity in the pattern of the “New Woman.” Hemingway’s most prominent allegory in The Sun Also Rises characterizes the bull-fights in the rings of San Sebastian as a parallel to the events of the characters themselves. In this way, Brett acts as the character of the bull-fighter, constantly manipulating and teasing the men she encounters for sport. When the men think that watching the bull-fights will be too violent for her, she surprises them by paying rapt attention and describes her passion for it: “They do have some rather awful things happen to them…I couldn’t look away, though” (Hemingway 170). Both captivated by the concept of the bull-fighter and Pedro Romero’s technique specifically, Brett is self-aware of the effect she has on people and her keen ability to both manipulate men and string them along. While evolving sexual ideals allowed her to do as she pleased, a constant old-world ideal looms behind her, exemplified through Robert Cohn’s inability to accept that she does not want him despite their prior sexual relationship. As she experiences post-war stress, she quickly rejects these pre-war ideals to numb herself from facing her trauma.
With The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway creates an aimless tale exemplifying the often harmful behaviors of expatriates to themselves and others. By never removing themselves from the site of their trauma, they are constantly doomed to repeat it, numbing their experiences of these emotions through constant drinking in different exotic locations. Masculinity is challenged and proves itself to be more fragile in the coming age, but it still always present in the narrative and many of the characters’ activities. Brett Ashley perpetuates some masculine behaviors that challenge gender norms – but not healthily. Rather than using her masculine behavior to create further independence for other women, she manipulates the men in her life and avoids dealing with any of her past experiences. While a breakdown of sexual norms is welcomed by modern reader, the stringent meaninglessness, aimlessness, and rejection of history make A Sun Also Rises a very complex read despite its minimalist prose. Hemingway uses literary Modernism to masterfully convey the attitudes and feelings of the time, allowing the reader to feel alienated and question their purpose alongside the experiences of the troubled characters.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York City: Scribner, 2006.
Ernest Hemingway is widely regarded as one of the finest modernist literary minds, and his first novel The Sun Also Rises (also known as Fiesta) is held in as high regard. It is based on real events in Hemingway’s life, ones which he novelized even as he was experiencing them, and is centered around the running of the bulls ceremony in Pamplona, Spain. Hemingway, having worked as a journalist in the years preceding the publication of his novel, employed an emerging writing style (known by some as ‘hard-boiled’ writing) which featured a stripped-down and stark nature, eschewing the use of florid descriptive words. This essay will show, by using The Sun Also Rises as an example, that this style was influenced by journalism, and that the basic elements of the novel itself were highly dependent on Hemingway’s journalistic background.
One of the most obvious ways in which The Sun Also Rises is related to journalism is that it was written practically extemporaneously, with Hemingway working on the novel as events unfolded in his own life. At first, it featured the characters’ real-life names, with Hemingway the protagonist simply called “Hem” (Hays, 2011, p.2). He took extensive notes throughout this period and began working on the novel itself later; according to Linda Wagner-Martin, in Ernest Hemingway: A Literary Life, “It is a matter of literary history that Hemingway took notes… even while the roman a clef was occurring” (Wagner-Martin, 2007, p.52). What emerged from these notes was a novel, crafted afterwards by Hemingway in editing and rewriting. The novel has special significance as Hemingway originally did not intend to write something of that length, but rather to write about the festivities in Pamplona, a subject he thought worthy of study as it was unknown to many Americans. It could be argued that Hemingway’s journalistic background was entirely necessary for his presence in Pamplona (since he wanted to break away from it and write a novel about the Fiesta), and likewise that journalism’s focus on comprehensive note-taking made it possible for a novel to be hewed from the resulting information. There is a sense of urgency throughout the novel which is produced by many factors, but the fact that it is an account of real-life events (more or less) and recorded practically ‘in the moment’ no doubt added realism to the work. His sentences are short and factual, especially during any scenes of action – a relevant example is this account of the running of the bulls: “Then people commenced to come running. A drunk slipped and fell. Two policemen grabbed him and rushed him over to the fence. The crowd were running fast now” (Hemingway, 1926, p.103). This account is a running commentary, so to speak, and is reminiscent of what a journalist might record or write while watching action take place. This whole descriptive section is devoid of emotive words and reads like an up to the minute news broadcast. This is a remnant of his journalistic training at the Toronto Star: “[the newspaper’s] first commandment was ‘use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs.’” (Underwood, 2013, p.127). Whether or not it adds realism to the work is of course a subjective question, but in this instance it emulates the type of micro-reporting one sees in live-blogging, reporting factual sight after factual sight. In this way, one could view it as more realistic as it is presented in a way in which we are accustomed to receiving news, or factual information.
This brings up the topic of Hemingway’s writing style, another major part of The Sun Also Rises which was influenced by his background in journalism. His terse, reticent prose withholds much of the ancillary information from the reader, and any authorial representation of emotion which might influence the way the reader views the presented information. Take this section as an example:
“I say, weren’t you there?” Mike asked. “Ring for some beer, Bill.”
“What a morning!” Bill said. He mopped off his face. “My God! what a morning! And here’s old Jake. Old Jake, the human punching-bag.”
“What happened inside?”
“Good God!” Bill said, “what happened, Mike?”
“There were these bulls coming in,” Mike said. “Just ahead of them was the crowd, and some chap tripped and brought the whole lot of them down.”
“And the bulls all came in right over them,” Bill said.
“I heard them yell.” (Hemingway, 1926, p.105)
This passage has the characters discussing important things, but there is an utter lack of detail outside the dialogue to indicate that. Even ‘said’, being a sort of ‘invisible’ word when representing dialogue, is used incredibly sparingly. Every action described – and again, these are extremely sparse – is conveyed neutrally, without being imbued with an emotion or even a description. Throughout the book, there are plenty of other examples of this sort of brevity of representation, and it adds up to a fly on the wall view of these characters, as if the reader is simply watching them. This lends an aspect of truth to the novel, as ‘truth’ to any one person could be defined as what they themselves saw or heard. Examining the influence of journalism on the plot of The Sun Also Rises brings up an interesting point: as one of the tenets of journalism is to represent reality, Hemingway was precocious to note the literary appeal of writing about his own life, and to convey his reality.
As put by critic Peter L. Hays, “Hemingway never states but tries to suggest a character’s emotion” (Hays, 2011, p.59) which is done in the aforementioned style, reminiscent of factual reporting, and allowing the reader to freely extract whatever they want from the dialogue. The characters speak their emotions clearly enough, but by avoiding connecting adverbs and adjectives with the dialogue, Hemingway doesn’t represent his characters; he lets each represent him- or herself. Again, this adds realism to the work; in real life, unless we are directly told, we must infer a person’s state of mind by examining their behavior. This is exactly what Hemingway gives the reader the chance to do in The Sun Also Rises, and is one of the more salient reasons why it is realistic. In The Undeclared War Between Journalism and Fiction, Doug Underwood says that “in The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s technique was to merge the artist with the reporter by allowing Jake to present a journalist’s account of the festival’s drama and his friends’ interactions—but to do it in a way that invites us to see beyond the surface elements of his narrative” (Underwood, 2013, p.129). This is perhaps the most realistic way of creating a narrative, using a stripped-down version of first-person perspective which is so devoid of description that it invites it from the reader. This is, in a sense, ironic; Hemingway altered, removed or combined certain characters and changed dialogue and events in order to create a more rounded story. This again was a major factor in the realism of the novel itself; by presenting a semi-fictionalized story so starkly that it seemed more real than reality. Journalism’s modus operandi is to be truthful, but Hemingway wanted the reality of the story to exceed simple prose and become symbolic. This point leads directly to another influence journalism had on The Sun Also Rises; Hemingway’s rebellion against it.
This rebellion was inherently part of the creation of The Sun Also Rises, as it was Hemingway’s attempt to break free from journalism. At this point in his life, he wanted to write a novel and become a respected writer (2007, Wagner-Martin, p.52), which he felt could only be done by leaving behind his journalistic roots. He spoke out more than once against the limitations of journalism; the power of editors over his creativity, the family-friendly focus of newspapers at the time, and how stunted, formulaic and disposable journalistic work seemed to him (2013, Underwood, p.132). The Sun Also Rises was his attempt to contravene the regulations which had held back his work so far, and one of the major ways in which this was done was to take creative license with the plot and characters. According to Doug Underwood, in The Undeclared War Between Journalism and Fiction, “If scenes, people, and dialogue could not be refashioned—if only slightly—Hemingway believed that he would have been hampered from expressing the deeper “truths” of human interactions that his artist’s instincts told him were where the core dynamics of life take place” (2013, Underwood, p.129). In changing the names and adjusting the story and dialogue, Hemingway laid a thin veil of fiction over real, complex and profound characters, carefully crafting each moment in an attempt to represent truth more truthfully than journalism. He said “[a writer’s] standard of fidelity to the truth must be so high that his invention [which comes] out of his experience, should produce a truer account than anything factual can be” (2013, Underwood, 2013, p.127). So the relationship of journalism to The Sun Also Rises could be characterized as antagonistic; Hemingway willfully attempted to transcend its limitations and convey real life as he saw it.
One of the ways in which this was done is by addressing issues which would have been controversial at the time, and most certainly would not have been acceptable in a family-friendly newspaper. Homosexuality is one example; Jake gets angry at two gay men, saying “I know they are supposed to be amusing, and you should be tolerant, but I wanted to swing on one… to shatter that superior, simpering composure”. Jake is also impotent, a result of an injury obtained in the war, which is another subject – one, incidentally, with interesting interpretive depth – that would be considered impolite or taboo to discuss. This is even said by Bill, who states “Never mention that… that’s the sort of thing that can’t be spoken of” (Hemingway, 1926, p.). Even the arguable main point of the story, Jake’s inability to consummate his love with Brett, would be a taboo subject at the time. Therefore the novel is, itself, a rebellion against journalistic censorship. These issues might be considered relatively commonplace today, but considered within the social context, the reality was new and explosively controversial. Therefore, the addressing of taboo social issues such as these had a massive impact on the realism of the novel, rendering it as close to real life as had ever been represented at the time.
As mentioned earlier, Hemingway’s main writing precepts were developed during his time at the Toronto Star, the two primarily being, according to biographer and critic Charles A. Fenton in his book The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway, “short sentences and vigorous English” (Fenton, 1954, p.32). This ethos clearly stuck with Ernest Hemingway, and plenty of examples of it can be found in the novel. While Jake and Bill are going to the fishing spot, Hemingway describes the surroundings: “The road came out from the shadow of the woods into the hot sun. Ahead was a river-valley. Beyond the river was a steep hill. There was a field of buckwheat on the hill. We saw a white house under some trees on the hillside. It was very hot and we stopped under some trees beside a dam that crossed the river” (Hemingway, 1926, p.60). The care with which the story is arranged – Hemingway working out exactly how much information to leave out for interpretive reasons – was also a result of his work at the Toronto Star. Hemingway credits the assistant city editor of that newspaper with teaching him how to do this, and extends further credit to Lionel Calhoun Moise, who gave the advice “pure objective writing… is the only true form of storytelling” (Fenton, 1954, p.41). There is an undeniable connection between that advice and Hemingway’s writing style, and another way in which the foundation of Hemingway’s writing was influenced by journalism. Without his time at the Toronto Star, he would never have met these people and learned to write concisely, objectively and precisely.
Comparing all the basic tenets and techniques of journalism with The Sun Also Rises is extremely enlightening, and shows how closely linked the two are. The Universal Journalist, by David Randall, lists several basic characteristics of good journalism (Randall, 2011, p.164); comparing them with The Sun Also Rises shows that Hemingway’s novel sticks quite closely to basic journalistic convention. It features construction (Hemingway was known to agonize even over the structure of a single-paragraph piece (Fenton, 1954, p.41)); clarity, efficiency and precision – Hemingway’s terse style being a prime example of each; honesty – one of Hemingway’s motivations in writing the novel; finally, suitability – the backdrop of the Pamplona ceremony often mirrors events in the narrative, satisfying this condition.
It can be concluded from all these examples that Hemingway’s career as a journalist was intrinsically intertwined with the construction of The Sun Also Rises. The novel presents a barebones approach to storytelling, stylistically descended from the various rules to which Hemingway was subject at the Toronto Star, and ultimately appears objective and truthful. Without his very specific training and the contacts he made while working there, he might not have learned how to do this. In addition, he might not have noticed that his own life had literary worth. So it can safely be said that journalism and The Sun Also Rises have a close, if not symbiotic, relationship. And, indeed, that in Hemingway’s case, the foundations of journalism were the key to producing a truly durable and timeless novel.
Hemingway, E. (1926). The Sun Also Rises. Accessed at http://www.24grammata.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Hemingway-TheSunAlsoRises-24grammata.pdf on 02/12/14.
Fenton, C. A. (1954). The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway: The Early Years. American Book-Stratford Press, Inc., New York
Underwood, D. (2013). The Undeclared War Between Journalism and Fiction: Journalists as Genre Benders in Literary History. Palgrave-Macmillan, New York.
Wagner-Martin, L. (2007). Ernest Hemingway: A Literary Life. Palgrave-Macmillan, New York.
Randall, D. (2011). The Universal Journalist, 4th Ed. Palgrave-Macmillan, New York.
Hays, P. L. (2011). The Critical Reception of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Boydell & Brewer Inc., Suffolk.
Hallengren, A (2001). A Case of Identity: Ernest Hemingway. Accessed at http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1954/hemingway-article.html on 04/12/14.
In The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, a moody and reflective tone with an ironic undertone is used effectively alongside formal, concrete diction, simple syntax and antithesis, expressive figurative language, and numerous allusions to the Bible and irony that allow the reader to experience the tumultuous emotions felt by the characters of the novel and enhancing the theme of the suffering of war that continues off of the battlefield. The book contains a chain reaction of broken and dysfunctional relationships in the central characters’ search for wisdom, subsequently leading to a plethora of inappropriate behavior that was prevalent in Paris during the early 1920’s and following World War I. Soldiers who survived the bloody conflict returned home only to face new challenges and horrors that hadn’t been previously anticipated.
Jake Barnes narrates the novel with a moody, depressed, and reflective tone. He acts as an observer, noting and interpreting the scenery and events around him. He is deeply depressed since his return for from the war because an injury left him impotent and unable to have relations with the woman he loves, Lady Brett Ashley. Jake is part of the group, but he remains separate from the others, as supported by the tone. The sad, reflective tone can be observed in the passage on page 25:
“’Don’t touch me,’ she said. ‘Please don’t touch me.’
‘What’s the matter?’
‘You musn’t. You must know. I can’t stand it, that’s all. Oh, darling, please understand!’
‘Don’t you love me?’
‘Love you? I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me.’
‘Isn’t there anything we can do about it?’
She was sitting up now. My arm was around her and she was leaning back against me, and we were quite calm. She was looking into my eyes with that way she had of looking that made you wonder whether she really saw out of her own eyes. They would look on and on after everyone else’s eyes in the world would have stopped looking.” (Hemingway 25)
In this quotation, Jake’s inner struggle is tangible, he expresses obvious love from Brett, and he is unable to have a relationship with her. The prevailing longing and sadness in the tone of is ironic, when one considers the title of the novel, The Sun Also Rises. The name suggests that for every downturn; every time the sun goes down, it comes up. In the novel, however, this doesn’t occur. The book ended on the same melancholy, depressed note on which it began. The sad, questioning, and reflective tone is also supported by the epigraph from the Bible in the beginning of the book. The epigraph is from Ecclesiastes 1:3-6. The opening sentences of the book summarize the tone of The Sun Also Rises, “’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The actions of the characters throughout the novel support this; excessive drinking and reckless behavior suggest that they are trying to fill an otherwise meaningless existence. Jake’s questioning attitude and depressed, moody tone is driven by formal, yet simple, diction.
Hemingway use formal language with very little colloquial or vernacular allows the reader to understand the main concepts of the story without having to decode a plethora of complex language. In Jake’s description of scenes and events, straightforward language is used, with few double entendres or euphemisms.
“By that time, though, he had other things to worry about. He had been taken in hand by a lady who hoped to rise with the magazine. She was very forceful, and Cohn never had a chance of not being taken in hand. Also he was sure that he loved her. When this lady saw that the magazine was not going to rise, she became a little disgusted with Cohn and decided that she might as well get what there was to get while there was still something available, so she urged that they go to Europe, where the lady had been educated, and stayed three years.” (Hemingway 5).
This passage exemplifies the simple diction used, and how it doesn’t interfere with the integral message of the story. In conjunction, Hemingway chooses mainly monosyllabic words. Finally, Jake’s reflective tone is apparent through the abundant descriptions he offers throughout the text. The diction in The Sun Also Rises is further supported by simple and periodic syntax.
Simple sentences make up the vast majority of the novel. Despite the name, the meaning that they convey is far from simple. For instance, the following passage consists of mainly simple sentences, but conveys the rhetorical question that seems to haunt Jake and Brett for the entirety of the story.
“We sat close against each other. I put my arm around her and she rested against me comfortably. It was very hot and bright, and the houses looked sharply white. We turned out on the Gran Via.
‘Oh, Jake,’ Brett said, ‘we could have had such a damned good time together.’
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
‘Yes.’ I said. ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so?’ (Hemingway 247).
In addition to being constituted primarily of simple sentences, this passage contains a rhetorical question. “’Isn’t it pretty to think so?’” is the essential question of the novel. What if Jake wasn’t impotent? Would their lives be less meaningless if they were able to be together? In addition, the description of Romero’s bullfighting provides antithesis, because he appears to be the only character with meaning in his life.
“The dampened, mud-weighted cape swung open and full as a sail fills, and Romero pivoted with it just ahead of the bull. At the end of the pass they were facing each other again. Romero smiled. The bull wanted it again, and Romero’s cape filled again, this time on the other side. Each time he let the bull pass so close that the man and the bull were all one sharply etched mass. It was all so slow and so controlled. It was as though he were rocking the bull to sleep. He made four veronicas like that, and finished with a half-veronica that turned his back on the bull and came away toward the applause, his hand on his hip, his cape on his arm, and the bull watching his back going away.” (Hemingway 217).
The presence of Romero near the conclusion of the novel creates a schism in the group of friends because he is apparently the only one who has achieved what is described in Ecclesiastes, purpose and meaning. The vast majority of Romero’s interactions occur within the bull ring, in contrast to the group of friends; the ring does not allow for fake or meaningless actions because they will lead to death. This sureness captures the group’s attention; they envy his seemingly togetherness and meaning. This syntax contributes to the irony in The Sun Also Rises.
Hemingway makes effective use of irony in several different scenarios. Additionally, the aforementioned title creates irony in comparison to the verses of Ecclesiastes. In addition to this, the plot contains situational irony in regard to Jake’s impotence. He goes to war, like most men, in an attempt to prove his manliness, but as a result loses the use of the very organ that could be referred to as “his manhood.” In addition, the use and reference to the bible used to create this effect is also allusion. Hemingway’s inclusion of the epigraph and Jake’s name allude to the Holy Bible, and further enhance the questioning, depressed, and reflective tone. “Brett smiled at him. ‘I’ve promised to dance with this Jacob,’ she laughed. ‘You’ve a hell of a biblical name, Jake.’” (Hemingway 22). Another biblical allusion is present during the fiesta; it lasted seven days, like the biblical creation of the Earth. As previously mentioned, a significant theme in The Sun Also Rises is the search for meaning. Several of the characters question both internally and aloud whether religion could be the answer.
“’Listen, Jake,’ he said, ‘are you really a Catholic?’
‘What does that mean?’
‘I don’t know.’ (Hemingway 124)
This quotation illustrates the questioning of conventional religious beliefs and their impact on the search for meaning in one’s life. After visiting the church in Spain, Brett and Jake have a conversation that affirms this assentation.
“’Oh, rot,’ said Brett. ‘Maybe it works for some people, though. You don’t look very religious, Jake.’
‘I’m pretty religious.’
‘Oh, rot,’ said Brett. ‘Don’t start proselyting to-day. To-day’s going to bad enough as it is.’” (Hemingway 209).
The search for wisdom is the central emotional catharsis of The Sun Also Rises.
In The Sun Also Rises, a moody tone highlighting the situational irony is used in conjunction with simple diction, syntax and antithesis, and with allusions to the Bible and situational irony that permit the reader to experience the unbridled emotions felt by the characters in the story. They also augment the theme of horrors of war never really leaving you, despite being off the battlefield. The search for wisdom and meaning is what leads the characters to the situations which they encounter during the time frame in which the story takes place.