The Sun Also Rises
Hemingway’s Style in the Sun Also Rises
“Fiesta; The Sun Also Rises” was published in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway. Hemmingway was around 25 when the book was published and being a part of the generation who were a part of World War One, he is associated with the “Lost Generation”. The Lost Generation is a generation who is morally and psychologically lost. They are often associated with drinking, dancing and going through life blindly. In addition is Hemingway’s way of writing, compared to an iceberg. There is only little information on the written lines, but there are much more behind them. This is one of the things that makes his style of writing being a part of the modernism movement.
“Fiesta; The Sun Also Rises” takes the reader through a man’s head, that desires a woman he can’t have. Through a man, is the reader introduced to life after war, and how people find meaning in alcohol, sex and parties.
Through the narrator in “Fiesta; The Sun Also Rises”, is the reader presented to the main character, Jake Barnes. Jake Barnes is both the narrator and the protagonist of the story, which means that the reader experiences the story though his desires and thoughts. The foundation of Jake Barnes is built before the events in the book. Jake Barnes way of describing his story, is simple, yet it leaves many questions. He hints at things, especially when it is about his life before the war. The representation of the lost generation is shown through how he and his companions go from bar to bar drinking and the endless wandering around. “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” (P. 10 l.10-11). This shows Barnes inner struggle with his place in life. Barnes became injured doing World War One and is now incapable of performing sexually. This prevents him to be with the love of his life, Lady Brett Ashley. The way Brett Ashley is presented makes her a siren. She is a woman who longer after independence. She affects the friendships between the men in the story and the way Hemingway presents Bret Ashley, is through lying and flirting.
Sex and bullfighting play a significance role in the story, and have symbolism behind it. The bulls themselves symbolise passion and freedom, which is shown when the bulls interact with the bull-fighters. The interaction between the animal and the fighter, is a pure act that ends up symbolising sex.
“She saw how Romero avoided every brusque movement and saved his bulls for last when wanted them, not winded and discomposed but smoothly worn down.” (P. 145 l. 24-26). This shows that just in the simplest act, is Barnes a passionate man. For him, each bullfight equals seduction, power and manipulation. Since he can’t have sex himself, is bullfighting an outlet to experience passion without having to perform it himself. He also mentions the bull-fighters in the begging of the book, “Nobody ever live their life all the way up except bull-fighters.” (P. 9 l.7-8) This shows that he is fascinated by them from the beginning and idolize them.
From the first chapter to the last, is there a big contrast. From the first chapter is the reader introduced to Robert Cohn. The first chapter has its focus on Robert Cohn which gives Barnes the opportunity to disappear into the background.
The turning point in the story, is when the fiesta starts. Barnes writes how things during the fiesta is unreal, and how it seemed out of place to think about consequences. “The things that happened could only have happened during a fiesta.” (P. 134 l. 15-16) This is where drinking, dancing and loving is in the air at every moment. This is the place where the friend group mix up and fights begin. This is the place in the book, where the characters say and do what their hearts wants.
The last chapter shows the reader what is left of the fiesta. As the fiesta ends, does Pamplona not gave a purpose, and it becomes clear for the characters that they no longer belong. Without the distraction a fiesta can provide, do they have to return to their lives, which include that money becomes the defining characteristics in their relationships. During the story return Jake to one of his old hotel rooms, but it doesn’t look or feel the same. This shows how the fiesta have changed him.
“Fiesta The Sun Also Rises” is Hemingway’s way to show how his generation coped with the post war life. Hemingway’s way of writing with gaps, everyday language and leaving things up to the imagination, is a classic representation of his modernism style. The way the lost generation is presented seems so simple, but behind the façade is there more to come after. Previous morals and traditions regarding the ethical aspects of life no longer applied. Virginia Woolf once stated, “sometime on or after December 1910 human character changed.”
Psychoanalysis in the Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway and Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sun Also Rises and Tender Is the Night are two books written between the 20s and 30s. Even if the story is different they have common characteristics. This essay will analyse the anxiety of the characters through the two books.
The Sun Also Rises written in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway is about a group of American and British expatriates. They travel from Paris to Pamplona where they are going to watch the bullfights. According to Jeffrey Meyers, The Sun Also Rises is recognized as Hemingway’s greatest work. The novel is considered as a roman à clef because it “has the extraliterary interest of portraying well-known real people more or less thinly disguised as fictional characters.” The birth of psychoanalysis began with the work of Sigmund Freud. It was initially used to diagnose neurotic conditions, but soon after the rise of post-structuralism the same methods were found useful in literary theory. Psychoanalytic theory also uses Freud’s work in connection with other theorists, such as Carl Jung, his student, in order to create the organized school of literary. The diagnostic practices of psychoanalysis allow critics to interpret literature that depends heavily on the mental processes of characters, such as the work of Ernest Hemingway. Thanks to Hemingway a better understanding of the human mind and the effects of trauma in the modern society have been observed. Using the work of some major theorists such as Sigmund Freud, Joseph Campbell, Lionel Trilling, and Jacques Lacan helped to analyze the general PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) that caused the alienation of WWI veterans that earned them the title of “the lost generation”. It also helped to understand the specific damages that hinder Hemingway’s protagonist, Jake Barnes, from living a normal life in post-war society. Famous Hemingway characters written into this novel serve as the perfect examples to analyze neurotic conditions induced by trauma that Freud’s original work was used to diagnose, and the psychoanalytic theory becomes the tool for diagnosis of the characters. According to Cole, “Hemingway’s novel primarily addresses the psychological trauma of WWI, and the effects on veterans that attempt to re-assimilate into post-war culture”. Individual damage is examined through Jake, who suffers from castration (to render impotent or deprive of vitality especially by psychological means) caused from a war injury. This prevents him from normal sexual relationships with his love interest, Lady Brett Ashley. Jake’s mental health brings up the question of the effects of realizing Freud’s theoretical castration anxiety, which manifests itself, among other things, in Jake’s obsession with Spanish bullfighting. The war has not stopped, and men and women have not only suffered physically but also mentally The increasing awareness of PTSD is the result of well-researched medical reports, but wide-spread publication of literature that addresses the lives of veterans attempting to assimilate back into American society reaches a larger audience. The interpretation of this literature through psychoanalytic theory helps to inform the public on the issues that continue to affect modern culture.
Tender is the night is the story, largely autobiographical, of the decomposition of a being made to be loved, too romantic to be able to resist its time, too tender, despite its apparent casualness, to know how to age wisely. It is more particularly the story of Dick and Nicole’s love, which we get to know through the amazed eyes of a young actress who cannot resist Dick’s charm. This very united couple hides a secret. Nicole was treated by Dick, a psychiatrist. Her love for Dick made their union a necessity.
But behind the pomp and union of this couple, hides a completely different reality. The second part of the novel illuminates the first by taking up the story of Nicole and Dick, by the very mouth of the latter. If Dick thus seems to us an inaccessible god at the beginning, he quickly becomes familiar and one quickly understands the generosity but also the fragility of this man who married a somewhat difficult woman.
Fitzgerald’s talent is not so much to tell a story – even if it is a beautiful love story, very sad – but to reproduce an atmosphere, that of excess, of money, mixed with creation and genius in France in the 1920s. Between Paris, Switzerland and the Riviera, the novel gives us a glimpse of the life of this lost generation, a generation of writers wandering across Europe seeking inspiration and oblivion. Inspiration for their works and forgetting the atrocities of the Great War.
Throughout the novel, we learn that Nicole was a patient of Dick’s, and things begin to fall apart. Dick becomes an alcoholic and Nicole falls in love with someone else. This novel has a very bleak outlook on psychiatry, much more than what we are prepared for. Dick is a terrible psychiatrist, renowned only for writing textbooks. He does not have a lot of interaction with his patients until Nicole arrives. He meets her while she is living at a clinic in Switzerland. He goes to talk to Dr. Franz Dangeu, a man who eventually becomes his partner in another clinic and meets her. She falls in love and writes him a series of letters, some of which are barely coherent. By the time he comes back to the clinic, Dr. Dangeu’s suggestion is that her transference to him is great and that they should get married. It’s completely irresponsible, and every mental health decision in the novel is like that. He sees his few patients as allegories and characters, not actual people. Even Nicole is not a real person, just an idea to protect. He never does any actual therapy with her (though we see it with Dr. Dangeu), and never actually helps her. The fact that he’s her therapist comes as a surprise to everyone in the story, and rightly so. Dick is not the best person to be her therapist because they confuse private life and professional life. Dick is supposed to be her doctor and not her partner. Since they’re a couple they should have picked another psychiatrist for Nicole, it’s better for her mental state. She’s a really interesting character, a complex but at the same time a complete person whose illness is only a small part of her.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s female characters are a projection of one or another side of Zelda, but that none of them can successfully portray his wife with veracity. Nicole Diver’s portrayal begins with her childhood history, when her father raped her after her mother’s death. She remains a child in the Diver marriage largely because she transfers her feelings of paternal authority to Dick Diver. Dick plays in some way two roles in the book, one of the partner and the other of the father. At the end of the novel, she seems to outgrow Dick. She is actually only placing herself in bondage to another, less worthy, man. She lives out the song which she plays to Dick on the hospital grounds before their marriage, for the lyrics conclude: “Just like a silver dollar goes from hand to hand, / A woman goes from man to man.”
Nicole Diver’s illness is drawn from Zelda Fitzgerald’s own case history, a fact which weakens her in many ways because Fitzgerald seems unable to distance himself sufficiently from his own wife to draw a credible fictional creation. Nicole is revealed first by her letters to Dick, letters which initially exhibit serious instability, then gradually lead to her confession that she would like someone to love her, a sign that she has improved because usually when a woman is raped she doesn’t feel anything for men anymore.
When Nicole has an affair with Tommy, she completely changes. The affair releases her sexual energy, and she approaches Dick for a major confrontation. At this point in the novel, Fitzgerald describes Nicole as being filled with arrogance because of her wealth and a detestation of Dick’s past attempts to minister to her, she has used Dick the physician, flaunting her wealth and beauty before him. What makes her character even more confusing is that after she has finally triumphed over Dick, she tries in the last Riviera scene to go back to him but is restrained by Tommy. Either she has not rejected Dick as completely as she thought she had or, what is more likely, she is an inveterate victim, a pawn of men who hand her, like a shining silver dollar, from one hand to the next.
Classic books are classic for a reason, and Tender is the Night certainly lives up to its reputation. It encapsulates one very biased viewpoint of psychiatry at one point in time, a very clear view of a very angry point of view. The novel is an interesting look at psychiatry from the upper class, white point of view in a time dominated by psychoanalysis, and for that, it’s worth reading.
Phenomenon of Hemingway and Faulkner
Hemingway and Faulkner’s Unique Writing Styles
Hemingway and Faulkner focus on the internal struggles of characters within their stories. In “The Sun Also Rises”, the main protagonist, Jake Barnes, goes on a physical and mental journey dealing with the loss of his genitals and in turn struggles with a woman that he fell in love with but will never have. In “As I Lay Dying”, the Bundren family struggles with the loss of their mother, and the very difficult venture to bury her. Faulkner provides very lengthy, informational explanations of each character’s actions, along with a long commentary as to what they are thinking. On the other hand, Hemingway provides the same amount of information and tone that Faulkner does, but with much less information. Hemingway and Faulkner both use unique styles of writing to guide the reader’s mind deeper in the layers of each individual character.
In the story “As I Lay Dying,” every member of the Bundren family endures an emotionally challenging situation. Although every person within this family is completely different, they all have one common mission, to bury their mother/wife. Addie Bundren stated, “I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.” (Faulkner 169). With this quotation, the readers are told that Addie is one of the more stable, yet pessimistic members of the Bundren family. Through this quote, Addie shows how life isn’t pure joy, so death is truly the best option. This quotation also shows the readers how Addie does not see her life is of any importance. Although rather morbid, Addie is not the only voice within the story that has this type of mindset. Vardaman also sees life how is truly is, and only thinks through a pessimistic standpoint. An entire chapter is even written dedicated to this view stating that “My mother is a fish” (Faulkner 84). Although very simple and unique, this simplified description is how Vardaman sees and attempts to comprehend his mother’s death. Much like every member of the Brunden family, Vardaman tries to deal with the loss of his mother in any way possible, even if he leaves out emotion and detail. Addie and Vardaman are not the only two characters who have this mindset, another character that has trouble dealing with this dreadful situation is Jewel. Jewel is another person that lives a very pessimistic yet straightforward life. While watching Cash build his Addie’s coffin through the window, Jewel says “It’s because he stays out there right under the window, hammering and sawing on that goddamn box. Where she’s got to see him” (Faulkner 14). Jewel believes that Cash is only creating the coffin where Addie can see it to show off his skills. Jewel sees the rest of the Bundren family as sitting ducks, as they all wait around for Addie’s passing. Jewel believes this due to the fact that he, in his eyes, seems to be the only one who truly cares about Addie. Also, much like Addie, believes that death is the best option for Addie. The only and final explanation as to why Jewel goes along with this journey to bury Addie willingly is because of the love he holds for his mother.
The characters within many of Hemingway’s novels often are subjected to mental and sometimes physical impairments that impact their lives. In the story, “The Sun Also Rises”, Jake enters the war and had to deal with the mental and physical drainage that came along with losing his penis while in combat. This injury plays a major role in digging the feeling of emptiness within Jake. This drainage affected not only Jake’s love life, but his daily life as well. After being asked to join Robert Cohn in a trip to South America, Jake responds by stating, “Listen Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried that all. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” (Hemingway 18). From this point forward, the reader already understands that Jake not only has been mentally disabled from this injury, but that he has tried to escape it. Shown within this quotation, Jake has attempted to travel around the world, but he can never escape his handicapped life. Along with his mentally handicapped side of the injury, Jake encounters a more physical side later in the novel. Jake falls deeply in love with a beautiful woman named Lady Brett. However, Brett declares that for a relationship, she will need sexual intercourse with her lover, and due to Jake’s injury, he can not give this to Brett. Due to this loss of a potential relationship, Jake ends up feeling as if he is missing a piece to his life, and truly feels empty without her. Witnessing Brett have sex with many of friends not only emotionally destroys him, but leads to a completely different problem. To forget his injury, and the loss of the love of his life, Jake takes to alcohol. Evidently, the one thing that makes Jake feel whole again is drinking alcohol. After hearing another character, Mike, discuss Brett, Jake states, “It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine, I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people.” (Hemingway 146). This quotation shows just how desperate Jake is and has always been to block up his feelings. Jake no longer copes with his emotions, he covers them with a thick layer of alcohol and never takes the time to assess any scenario. Jake withdraws from his own reality through the usage of alcohol to create a mindset where he truly is fond of his life. Later within the novel, Jake sobers up and finally comes to the realization that he will never have a meaningful relationship with Brett resulting to his final choice to give up on her. “As Barnes now sees, love itself is dead for their generation. Even without his wound, he would still be unmanly, and Brett unable to let her hair grow long.” (Spilka 4). This is the most important realization Jake could have made. He finally understands that his inability to love is not solely his fault, and although he found this answer through drinking, he made a discovery no sober man did.
Although the tone of both Faulkner and Hemingway’s writing is very similar, both of their styles of writing is unique. Faulkner’s style consists of what Hemingway’s writing does not include, “As a stylist, Faulkner’s name is associated with exceedingly long, unwieldy sentences.” (Murphy). Although this style takes the language used and makes it more dramatic, Faulkner uses it to show deep into the characters minds. This takes the readers underneath the character’s skin and shows not only what the character is physically doing, but how and why they are doing it. By writing with this style, the reader’s get to understand the characters at a more personal, level. Although Hemingway converys generally the same information, he does it through a realistic and more straightforward writing. Hemingway’s style of writing includes the usage of short sentences while keeping the discussion between two characters rather short. By keeping the thoughts and conversations short, Hemingway conveys the idea that the characters have a certain unwillingness to assess their problems within their life. In The Sun Also Rises, there is such small plot advancement, and yet it conveys itself as more realistic. Its banter, shorter sentences, incomplete thoughts, and small dialogues all work together in one coherent, realistic type of story. By leaving out metaphors, and complicated thoughts, the readers can connect with the characters by being able to put themselves within the story. “Like the notorious General Cambronne, Hemingway feels that one short spontaneous vulgarism is more honest than all those grandiloquent slogans which rhetoricians dream up long after the battle.” (Levin). Hemingway’s goal is not to create a long, meaningless novel, but rather to inform the readers with a clean, precise, and realistic take on a story.
The writing styles of Hemingway and Faulkner could not be any more different. Although the tone of their writing is very similar, their styles are completely unique in their own ways. Hemingway helps the readers along with a shorter, more realistic look. Faulkner takes the reader on a crazy journey, discussing random topics. Although both are completely stark contrasts of one another, both helped shape English literature into what it is today, and help audiences know that even though the styles may be completely opposite, tone and the overall message of a writing may be the same.
Drinking Habits in the Sun Also Rises
Jake, Brett, and Robert: Why Do They Drink and How Does it Affect Them?
One of the most prominent parts of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is the amount of drinking the characters do. They regularly have drinks in bars and cafes and very often indulge as a group. It appears that three of the main characters, Jake, Brett, and Robert, have the most compelling reasons for their habitual alcohol consumption, and seem to be affected by it the most. Of course, there are also reasons the group as a whole like to drink while they are together.
The main character and narrator of the book, Jake Barnes, is an expatriate living in Paris working as a journalist in the 1920s. Jake suffered a wound in WWI that has left him impotent, and arguably, this is his main reason for his excessive consumption of alcohol. Obviously, quite a bit of people use alcohol as a means to ‘drown’ their feelings and make them feel better about the situations they may find themselves in; for Jake, it would seem that he is drinking because of the impotence. The injury has made Jake painfully aware of his masculinity and most importantly, aware of the fact that he will never have an intimate relationship with Brett. At one point, Jake states: “under the wine I lost the disgusting feeling and was happy” (150). In the situation in which this line appears, it is assumed that Jake is speaking about the tensions between his friends, but the line could have also been regarding the situation with his masculinity. Jake not only enjoys drinking with his friends but also drinking alone, which is evidenced when he says, “I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was pleasant…to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company” (236). Here, Jake creates the impression that he can grow tired of his companions and the sense that he knows the wine will not judge him or his masculinity.
Brett Ashley is perhaps the most complex character of the book. A divorcee with a tendency to hop around from man to man, Brett is a woman who seems to thrive on attention and wants to just be one of the guys. Brett has no discernible career and conveys the impression that she lives off of the men she dates; therefore she has no real stability in her life. This alone could be reason enough for Brett to partake in so much drinking. In one scene, the count actually points out to Brett how much she drinks. He says, “You’re always drinking, my dear. Why don’t you just talk?” (65). Brett goes on to be defensive towards the count and winds up calling him a fool. However moments later, the count goes on to say, “My dear, you are charming when you are drunk” (66). Such comments could almost encourage Brett to get and stay drunk. Another reason that could lead to such excessive drinking is the fact that Brett wants to be one of the boys. She often refers to herself as a ‘chap’ and wears her hair slicked back. Brett’s male companions are always drinking together, and conceivably she feels as though she needs to drink as much as they do in order to be a ‘chap.’
Robert Cohn is the only main character in the book that does not drink, when he has maybe the best case for being a drunk. It is evident almost immediately that none the characters really like Robert. When he and Jake get into a minor spat, he tells Jake “You’re really about the best friend I have” and Jake responds by thinking “God help you” (47). Later on, Bill says about Robert: “he makes me sick, and he can go to hell” (108). The most obvious cause of the dislike towards him is the fact that he is Jewish, and a palpable disdain for Robert is shown by all of his friends at some point. It could be argued that such feelings of animosity would drive someone to drinking, but this is the exact opposite case for Robert. Mike even asks: “Why aren’t you drunk? Why aren’t you ever drunk, Robert?” (146). However, he just deflects the question totally and tells Mike to “go to hell” (147). Perhaps Robert does not drink because of personal or religious reasons, or maybe his ex-wife or Frances had something against it. Whatever the case may be, the character that could seemingly benefit the most from ‘drowning his sorrows,’ does no such thing.
As a collective group, Jake and his pals seem to use drinking as a way to avoid making real human connections. It is as if they are all so insecure of themselves, they really trust no one. Each member of the group seems to have a personally guarded secret about themselves, and no one wants to really get to know one another in fear of having to reveal said secrets, for example: Jake’s failing masculinity, Brett’s man-hopping, and Robert’s refusal to drink. On the surface, the group appears to be a happy bunch that enjoys having a good time, but underneath all of the drinking and party-going their true, very flawed, characters are revealed.
Stress and Mental Disorder in the Sun Also Rises
The Impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926)
“All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation…You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death.” ― Gertrude Stein
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the definition of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event”. Although this is what is known today about PTSD, it was not officially classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychological Association (APA) until 1980. Yet PTSD was a side effect of combat trauma long before. Though there was a vague term, “shell shock,” expected to explain all the psychological effects of war, it was not a diagnosis; it was a nickname. In Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, the characters are part of a “lost generation” in the early twentieth century, proving that the after-effect of war can make people try to escape the reality of things, which in turn leads to misbehavior.
During World War I, the psychological distress of soldiers was a result of concussions caused by the impact of shells; this effect was believed to disturb the brain and cause “shell shock.” According to the American Psychological Association, symptoms of “shell shock” included “fatigue, tremor, confusion, nightmares and impaired sight and hearing”. Additionally, it often served as the go-to diagnosis when a soldier was unable to function, and no obvious cause could be identified. Until 1980, when the APA added PTSD to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). During many years of research, the DSM-III criteria was revised several times. As a result, scientists and doctors now know a great deal about PTSD. For example, one is “most likely to develop symptoms of PTSD in the hours or days following a traumatic event, [but] it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear. There are four main types of symptoms: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions”. The significant change introduced by the concept of PTSD was that the cause of misbehavior was linked to a traumatic event, rather than an inherent individual weakness. Therefore, the key to understanding the causes and effects of PTSD was the concept of trauma.
In the novel, The Sun Also Rises, lots of characters are part of what is known as “The Lost Generation”. This term, coined by renowned American writer Gertrude Stein, means that the generation of men who took part in World War I is forever deprived of moral, emotional, spiritual and physical values. In the years following the war – the time when the book is set – many Americans were captivated by Paris. Writers, in particular, found greater artistic freedom there and a large circle of like-minded people who incidentally carried the same wounds from the war. This generation emerged from the war, spending most of the 1920’s taking advantage of every available opportunity to eat and drink its fill in order to compensate for the losses they had suffered. With no ideals to rely on, the “Lost Generation” lived an aimless, immoral existence, lacking true emotions.
Mike Campbell, Lady Brett Ashley’s fiancé, is a constantly drunk, short-tempered, Scottish war veteran. He has become bankrupt through his business associations with “false friends”. Furthermore, his insecurity regarding Brett’s sexual promiscuity provokes outbreaks of self-pity and anger that cause him to attack others. Additionally, Mike is obscene and his behavior is usually nothing short of inappropriate, especially when he is drunk: ‘”I’m rather drunk,” Mike said. “I think I’ll stay rather drunk. This is all awfully amusing, but it’s not too pleasant for me. It’s not too pleasant for me (205)”’. Eventually, Mike admitted that he is perfectly aware of his alcohol abuse and of its psychological reasons, yet he consciously chooses not to change anything. However, unlike Bill and Jake, Mike never truly moved past the war. Occasionally, he describes his adventures as a ridiculously unskilled soldier. Additionally, Mike says: “What times we had. How I wish those dear days were back (139)”. His questionable, sarcastic wish is quite telling. Maybe he wishes war had never ended, because it gave him a sense of purpose that he is lacking at the time of the novel. Mike is due to obtain a large inheritance one day. He has no focus in life nor any apparent employment and lives off the money his family gives him, as well as the generosity of his friends. Thus, until he gets his inheritance, he is aimlessly drifting through life, with the sudden disappearance of any sense of purpose, coinciding with the end of the war.
Lady Brett Ashley is a strong, largely independent woman. She exerts great power over men around her, as her charisma and beauty charms everyone she meets. Mike even compares her to Circe – a famous seductress in Greek mythology, who would lure men to her island and turn them into pigs – by saying that “she turns men into swine (148)”. Furthermore, she does not commit to any one man, which is probably the ultimate independence. As as a result, all of the male characters in the novel are in love with her, to various degrees. She is waiting to get divorced from the Count. Yet she is engaged to Mike, in love with Jake, has slept with Cohn, and is infatuated with Romeo. Brett is not old-fashioned at all: she has an admitted taste for parties, is unapologetically sexual and wildly promiscuous. Just like Jake and Mike, Brett is also a war veteran. Though she did not see combat, Brett served in a military hospital, an experience that was undoubtedly just as disturbing as that of male characters. Although she seems completely independent, she is still very unsatisfied with her life. She frequently complains to Jake about how aimless her life is: “I told the driver to go to the Parc Montsouris, and got in, and slammed the door. Brett was leaning back in the corner, her eyes closed. I sat beside her. The cab started with a jerk.
“Oh, darling, I’ve been so miserable,” Brett said. (32)”
War shaped Jake and his friends. In a similar fashion, it also played an essential part in forming Brett’s character. During the war, her true love died of dysentery. Her following actions, especially regarding men, can be interpreted as a desperate, subconscious search for this first love. Brett’s personal search represents the search that preoccupies the entire “Lost Generation”, looking for shattered pre-war values: love and romance.
Jake Barnes, the protagonist and narrator of The Sun Also Rises, is a young American expatriate who works in a newspaper office in Paris. He served in World War I and was injured while fighting in Italy. Although he does not directly say so, there are many moments in the novel when Jake implies that he is impotent as a result of his injury. Brett and Jake developed a relationship while in the war hospital, and they love each other. However, because of his physical condition and because Brett loves sex more than she loves Jake, they cannot be together since he will never be enough to satisfy her. Therefore Jake must sit back and watch her have affairs and relationships with other men. Just like his friends, he spends his days and nights living irresponsibly and drinking heavily. Jake’s physical ailment has psychological consequences as well. For example, he seems quite insecure about his own masculinity and is hostile towards Robert Cohn, because of his own feelings of inadequacy. Furthermore, a part of Jake’s character is a typical representation of the “Lost Generation”. Although he seems to be just like Mike and Brett, wandering through Paris, bar-hopping to dull his pain with alcohol, he is also quite different from other characters in the novel: he possesses an authentic passion and enthusiasm, which allow him to distance himself from the cynical world he lives in. This is shown through his love of bullfighting, fishing and the natural world. These differences allow Jake to see through the superficial attitudes and fragile relationships of the people around him. For example, he tells Cohn in Chapter II: “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another (19)”. Jake means that no matter where one travels to, one’s problems will remain the same. This quote shows that Jake is both an outsider and an insider. He views the world he lives in from its center, but with some objectivity as well. However, although Jake does identify issues in his life, he is either unwilling to or unable to resolve them, therefore he remains in a state of constant insatisfaction.
The novel The Sun Also Rises accurately describes the characters as a part of the “Lost Generation”. This proves that the after-effect of war can make people, like Mike, Brett, and Jake, try to escape the reality of things by indulging in hedonistic behavior. Are their lives likely to regain their meanings and significance in their post-war existence? Will they put together the pieces of their shattered ideals to shattered ideals to eliminate their memories of the war?
Masculine Power, Insecurities, and Gender Performance in The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway, the poster child of modernism’s lost generation, frequently tackles masculinity and manhood in the subjects of his novels, using characters that reflect parts of himself and the other men of this wasted generation to explore the psychosocial impacts of war and other struggles on men. The Sun Also Rises is no exception to the rule, with some scholars arguing that the “question of gender constitutes the basis of the story,” putting the importance of the masculine archetype into focus (Elliot 77). There are innumerable references to masculinity which occupy a position in stark contrast to the insecurities that most of the male characters have. Beyond the insights that Hemingway gives the reader into the thoughts and fears of these men, the reader can also glimpse into the author’s focus on masculinity in his descriptive style, and his choice of subjects. Hemingway appears fascinated, and perhaps disturbed by the masculinity and masculine insecurities that have so permeated his novel. What’s more, he frames masculinity through culture, which helps to establish how society is implicated in masculinity through gender performance.
Early on in the novel, Hemingway uses Jake as a vehicle to introduce the unrealistic and unattainable standards that society has established for masculinity. “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters” (18). As Robert Cohn attempts to convince Jake to embark on a South American adventure and airs concerns that he feels that his life is passing him by, Jake makes this succinct remark that is rich in its implications regarding masculinity. The topic of bullfighting alone is one steeped in macho masculine metaphor. An event in which a man, dressed and idolized in extravagant uniform, exerts his force over a gargantuan bull in a battle to the death represents the social expectations for men to be dominant, controlling, violent individuals who are at the top of the food chain, gastronomically, socially, and sexually. This comment demonstrates Jake’s negativity towards his own life, lacking in his ability to dominate sexually, and also suggests that if a man is not literally or otherwise grabbing a bull by its horns, he won’t live a fulfilled life. Robert’s response shows an interesting view to the contrary. “I’m not interested in bull-fighters. That’s an abnormal life” (10). Here, Robert is calling out this reflection of masculine expectations as warped, suggesting that the idolization of the bull-fighter and what he culturally and socially represents is not healthy.
The introduction of Robert as a character gives the reader a look at how gender derived inferiority is at play in the novel. First, the discussion of boxing and the way in which Cohn used it to counter the insecurities that he felt is the first coupling of masculinity with violence in the novel. He was made to feel inferior as a Jewish student at Princeton and resorts to violence as a defense. Next, he is shown to be inferior to Frances, his fiancee. “I watched him walk back to the café holding his paper. I rather liked him and evidently she led him quite a life” (7). This comment, from Jake’s point of view, suggests that Robert is incapable of leading Frances in life, that she is in control of the relationship. Robert appears to be aware of this inferiority as his realization that “he had not been everything to his first wife” is described in Chapter 2 (8). The inability to lead in romantic relationships is an issue that is repeatedly addressed throughout the novel, for many male characters. Jake cannot get Brett to commit to him because of his impotence and Mike cannot keep Brett from exploring other sexual relationships. While this takes an implied anti-feminist stance towards the submissive role of women in relationships, it does help highlight how each of these men feel inadequate in their masculinity.
Jake, our story’s narrator, is a dysfunctional product of socially-defined gender expectations. His self awareness and homophobia are highlighted early on in the novel. “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). In this statement, the reader is exposed to Jake’s homophobia and tendency to resort to violence while revealing society’s attitude towards homosexuality. This idea that homosexuals should be seen as funny and put up with is disgusting and intolerant, but Jake cannot even bring himself to think that kindly of them. The fact that he perceives them to be composing themselves in an affected, superior fashion seems to indicate a self awareness and inferiority that Jake may feel, due to his impotence.
Scholar Ira Elliott illuminates this instance, “Jake’s attitude toward the homosexuals—the way he degrades them and casts them as his rivals,” reveals, “the extent to which sexual categories and gender roles are cultural constructions” (78). He continues to explain that gender – not to be confused with biological sex – expressions of any kind are effectively performance art installments, with an individual mirroring the constructed views of what is masculine and what is feminine in their behavior. There is neither a cranial implant nor a gland sending messages that define the male or female, society sets those parameters. Elliott argues that we conform to expressions of socialized gender and perform and behave around those gender structures. He supports this contention by examining the ways in which Jake gathers his information in the encounter with the homosexuals. Jake deduces their sexual orientation based on the gestures and styles of the men. These behaviors and traits, such as clothing or hairstyle, are set against societal definitions of gender and sexuality. Mr. Barnes assumes their sexual preference based strictly on their behavior and appearance, which does seem to indicate that gender is a highly socialized cultural construct (Elliott 78). Operating within these understandings, Jake’s disgust likely stems from the idea that within this binary social structure of gender, there is no acceptable feminized male. Therefore, he perceives these men to be performing as female, which would cause some cognitive dissonance on Jake’s part and results in his negative feelings towards them.
James A. Puckett echoes the idea of gender performance being a social and cultural one and specifically references The Sun Also Rises. “Masculinity for Hemingway’s characters is under continuous negotiation and necessarily relies upon the judgment of others, holding no significance outside of a social context” (126). He supports this claim by analyzing the character Francis Macaomber, who struggles with cowardliness and fear and the way he is judged by his public audience – namely his wife – through societal lenses of appropriate and acceptable masculinity.
When Jake recounts his recovery in the Italian hospital in the war, he is reminded of the colonel who visited him. “I was all bandaged up. But they had told him about it. Then he made that wonderful speech: ‘You, a foreigner, an Englishman’ (any foreigner was an Englishman) ‘have given more than your life’” (31). In claiming that Jake’s erectile dysfunction is worse than death, the colonel speaks on behalf of a gendered community in which the ability to perform sexually has more social value than life or service. This is further demonstrative of the twisted priorities of the gendered social expectations for men. It’s important to note that the characters responsible for perpetuating these expectations are not just the men, but the women as well. Brett reinforces these warped values by refusing a commitment to Jake on account of his impotence.
Jake’s very impotence is a crucial facet in interpreting gender in The Sun Also Rises. It seems that if Hemingway truly adopted the hyper-masculinized expectations of society, that he would not have made his protagonist, Jake, impotent. That quality would not be one that he would want his readers to positively associate with the novel or himself, by extension. It begs readers to question that deliberate choice and its significance to the plot. New Jersey City University English professor David Blackmore offers this suggestion, “I would posit that Jake’s emasculation functions as a metaphor for the whole complex of his anxieties about masculinity and sexuality” (53). This argument seems perfectly reasonable and likely, given the frequency with which phallic imagery is met with anxiety from Jake. Blackmore focuses more closely on the nature of Jake’s impotence, pointing out that Hemingway cited Jake’s condition in a 1951 letter, ““Jake has lost his penis but not his testicles or spermatic cord – and therefore not his sexual desire” (66). Had Hemingway opted for the reversal of that, it would significantly change the interpretation of Jake and his situation. Blackmore explains, “if desire rather than behavior defines sexual identity, Jake need not perform heterosexually in order to be a heterosexual” (54). This idea of desire trumping performance in some way conflicts with the idea that Hemingway is playing with gender as performance. However, desire’s importance in modernist literature makes Blackmore’s case an interesting and important perspective that it would be unwise to dismiss.
Perhaps what first appears to be conflict between the ideas of sexual desire and gender identity that is observed in Jake’s character is actually another way in which Hemingway is fighting the confines of gender performance brought on by culture’s binary gender definitions. By choosing to juxtapose Jake’s disability with his heterosexual desire, the author discredits and dissolves the power of gender performance and the norms surrounding it.
Modernist scholar Greg Forter has his own view on male social power and male sexuality. Hemingway’s decision to divorce Jake and his physical manhood show how difficult it was for men in modernism to identify as men. Forter continues, “the wound cuts them off from the source of their own undoubted virility – a source that, in our cultural imaginary, is the root of male social power as well” (26). Once again, there is a suggestion that culture has dictated meaningless criteria for what constitutes masculinity and masculine power. However, Forter poses a fairly novel claim, stating that there is a duality to the impact of Jake’s affliction. Not only does the veteran lose the phallic, dominating power of the masculine male, but he also loses the “genteel, sentimental, and implicitly feminine masculinity,” which leaves him in a psycho-sexual limbo (26). When gender is forced into a male-female system in which there is a binary within each category – male masculinity and female masculinity – there is an empty space lying on a spectrum not represented by the binary system. Jake lies, if readers are to accept Forter’s argument, in that zone, which Hemingway seems to be aware of. Even Jake is arguably aware enough of his habitation in this no-man’s land, and his feeling out of place reveals itself in the implicit anxieties regarding masculinity that he displays throughout the novel.
In Paris, Jake walks past the statue of Marshal Ney, who appears to be a painful reminder of Jake’s impotence and associated lack of power. “He looked very fine, Marshal Ney in his top-boots, gesturing with his sword among the green new horse-chestnut leaves” (29) The pointing and directing actions and the sword itself speak to the phallic nature of the statue. The new green growth of the leaves suggests propagation, a reproductive act for which Jake is ill-equipped. It is important to note that this is an important figure of sexual masculinity, combined with a weapon. Hemingway more than once associates male sex imagery with control and violence or weaponry.
At the novel’s close, the reader sees the final interaction between Brett and Jake in the taxi in what is, again, filled with phallic imagery. “Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me” (247). The policeman is “mounted,” likely an intentional choice of words which has sexual connotations. Mounting an animal suggests a sexual dominance and power, which Jake lacks. The policeman and his baton, respectively representative of power and violence and male genitalia, is in further contrast to Jake’s impotence. They are pressed together, but only as the result of the control and power exerted by this policeman, not in reaction to Jake’s actions. The officer’s role, one of – at the time – masculine power and physical control, could be interpreted as another example of how gender performance manifests itself within a culture. Just as culture has assigned characteristics to gender which we mirror within society, those gender assignments and associated performances have historically extended themselves to the workplace, with different gendered performances being expected of certain professions, such as police work or military service, the latter being a role consistently presented in Hemingway’s works.
Hemingway’s own macho-presenting performance and his written fixation on violence and power could suggest that he may have looked unfavorably on men who didn’t fit the traditional masculine gender mold. However, with an impotent protagonist, it’s clear that he is more sympathetic to masculine insecurities that arise from the expectations that shape and fail the men in his stories. Furthermore, research suggests that Hemingway may have also viewed gender more complicatedly than one might assume, as he utilizes the social and cultural manifestations of gender to display and normalize male insecurities. In utilizing gender constructions and gender performance within this work, Hemingway is in a way putting the culture that designs these systems on trial, in a critique that does not align itself with the way Hemingway’s masculine persona and legacy have been continuously interpreted.
Blackmore, David. ” ‘In New York It’d Mean I Was A…’ “: Masculinity Anxiety And Period Discourses Of Sexuality In “The Sun Also Rises.” Hemingway Review, vol. 18, no. 1, 1998, pp. 49-67. Academic Search Premier, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csupueblo.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=0de95728-eee1-44a8–8b97–986627bbdaf4%40sessionmgr105&vid=19&hid=112. Accessed 22 November 2016.
Elliot, Ira. “Performance Art: Jake Barnes And ‘Masculine’ Signification In The Sun Also Rises.” American Literature: A Journal Of Literary History, Criticism, And Bibliography, vol. 67, no. 1 1995, pp. 77-94. MLA International Bibliography, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csupueblo.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=22&sid=0de95728-eee1-44a8–8b97–986627bbdaf4%40sessionmgr105&hid=112. Accessed 22 November 2016.
Forter, Greg. “Melancholy Modernism: Gender And The Politics Of Mourning In The Sun Also Rises. (Articles).” The Hemingway Review, vol. 22, no. 1 2002. Literature Resource Center, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csupueblo.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=21&sid=0de95728-eee1-44a8–8b97–986627bbdaf4%40sessionmgr105&hid=112. Accessed 22 November 2016.
Puckett, James A. “Sex Explains It All.” Studies In American Naturalism, vol. 8, no.2, 2013, pp. 125-149. Academic Search Premier, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csupueblo.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=17&sid=0de95728-eee1-44a8–8b97–986627bbdaf4%40sessionmgr105&hid=112. Accessed 22 November 2016.
Strife at San Fermin: Bullfighting Symbolism in The Sun Also Rises
“Everything centers around the bull and the bullfighter. The bull can represent anything we choose: the unknown, the “other”, fear, money, sex, work, romantic relationships, etc. It is something that you have to see to understand. The most important thing isn’t in just killing the bull, but in how one kills it. And it’s the same with human experience. The most profound thing is how we live out our conflicts and problems.”
The portrayal of the ever-present conflicts for the characters in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises comes in an unexpected form: bullfighting. The group of American expatriates in Paris is forced to face their demons during a pivotal trip to Spain during the San Fermin festival with a strong bullfighting culture. The facets of bullfighting serve as symbols of the struggles the characters faced in post-World War I society. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises uses bullfighting as a symbol of sex, masculinity, and violence to illustrate the way sexuality and gender contribute to the tumultuous nature of the characters’ relationships.
Bullfighting, an historic symbol of sexuality, masculinity, and violence, is examined in detail during chapters XIII-XVIII when Hemingway and his group of friends take a trip to Pamplona for the festival of San Fermin, during which bullfighting is a tradition. Much like the characters in Hemingway’s novel, bullfighting has lead a troubled history. Viewed by some as a sport and others as a sadistic performance, it has been fought by governments and banned in many cities. In an article written for the Telegraph, the author states “I came to know the tension, fear, and the injuries suffered by these artists…One can see there is much in common with the troubled life of toreros” (Fiske-Harrison). This troubled life he describes for the bullfighters is not far off from the experiences of Jake and his group of friends in the novel. Defined by their common struggles, the bullfighters described by Fiske-Harrison and the group of expatriates in Hemingway’s novel share a common need to congregate based on like troubles.
During this trip, bullfighting is portrayed as a symbol of sex. Paco Pereda, a professor at the University of the Basque Country, interprets bullfighting as a symbol of sexuality in the following way: “In terms of sexuality, the effeminate costume the bullfighter wears represents the feminine; the penetration by spears and the subsequent wounding of the bull represent the moment when the bull and bullfighter reverse roles of male and female sexuality, with the bull “bleeding” and the bullfighter becoming the aggressor” (Pereda, Baker). Not only is bullfighting in general described in a sexual manner, and depicted as “beautiful”, but the bullfighter that the group encounters, Romero, is also highly sexualized. Brett, the main symbol of sexuality in the novel thus far, is riveted by bullfighting, and by Romero. Her physical attraction to Romero gives a tangible form to the sexuality of bullfighting. Furthermore, the San Fermin festival can also be seen as a time of great debauchery and indulgence. The frequent drinking and promiscuity that takes place show the inclination towards certain stimuli oftentimes considered unhealthy and indulgent. The emphasis on sex creates tension and discomfort among the male characters, who struggle with their masculinity.
Bullfighting is similarly depicted as an inherently masculine sport. It originates from an ancient rite of passage for boys, symbolizing their evolution into young men. The strong and powerful bull specifically is a symbol of masculinity, and its converse, the passive steer, is a symbol of de-masculinization. Throughout the book, the male characters struggle with their perception of masculinity and feel the need to compete with others in regards to how masculine they are. This can be seen near the very beginning of the novel, when the narrator, as Jake, immediately points out Cohn’s lack of masculinity. When seeing Cohn, Jake remarks, “I watched him walk back to the café holding his paper. I rather liked him and evidently she led him quite a life” (15). He indicates that Cohn’s is not very masculine due to the way his wife controls him. Jake can be seen as the castrated steers, since he is impotent. In regards to his implicit castration from a war injury, the liaison colonel tells him that he had given more than [his] life.” His insecurities in regards to masculinity are manifested in this chapter. Additionally, Cohn’s masculinity is also attacked by Mike, who compares him to a steer for his ineffectiveness and his habit of following Brett. It is clear through this passage that the characteristic of being masculine is something taken very seriously by the group.
The violence in bullfighting presents a metaphor for the volatile nature of the group. It ties together the themes of masculinity and sex, as the two are used to attack and hurt the others in the group. The complicated relationship between Brett and the men in the group and her penchant for promiscuity causes tension. The men lash out at each other due to their insecurities with Brett. Mike, in response to his own fear of losing Brett to Romero, yells to Cohn, ““Why don’t you see when you’re not wanted?” (140). Mike’s insecurity about his relationship with Brett causes him to attack Cohn in order to project the same feeling onto him. The violence in bullfighting represents yet another large source of conflict amongst the group members?World War I, where terrible violence was rampant. The war provides the deep tensions between those in the group, and these tensions manifest in attacks on the masculinity of certain characters. For example, Robert Cohn, the only non war veteran, is repeatedly attacked by others for his lack of masculinity. Mike accuses him of “follow[ing] Brett around like a steer all the time” (146). Additionally, Jake is castrated in a violent war injury, showing the very literal toll the violent war took on masculinity. The violence depicted in bullfighting provides a symbolic depiction of both the internal and external chaos that the characters faced due to insecurity and resentment.
The imagery of bullfighting in the novel provides a tangible description of the issues faced by the characters. The facets of sexuality, masculinity, and violence in bullfighting depicted in this section of the novel provide an important window into the characters respond to their own personal trauma and insecurities. Among members of the group, insecurities regarding sex and masculinity were rampant, and tensions were high. The use of the bullfighting metaphor in the context of this novel proves the large role that sexual and gender insecurity and resentment played into the chaotic nature of the group.
Grace Under Pressure: What Constitutes a Hero in The Sun Also Rises
In the despairing modernist world in which Ernest Hemingway’s characters exist, Romantic conventions are incompatible with the demoralized state of the world. Therefore, traditional ideals such as the “true hero” must be radically redefined in order to apply to his characters. The criteria for a hero in a modernist society consists of particular characteristics, as explained by Harry E. Hand in his essay, Transducers and Hemingway’s Heroes: “The Hemingway code, lived and acted but never verbalized by the hero, suggests the following concepts: love for a woman, honor…determination …resignation but not personal defeat…individual freedom from the demands of society”. In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a hero is one who is able to recognize and accept the cynical state of the world without letting that realization affect one’s dignity or strength of spirit. By these measures, it is worth contending that the matador Pedro Romero is the closest the novel comes to depicting a hero.
The concept of possessing “grace under pressure” truly defines the Hemingway hero (Hand 871). A person who can be considered heroic is one who does not fight against the hopelessness and mundanity of the world, but instead allows his circumstances to further his resolve. This is a person who remains undefeated due to their ability to adapt to a modernist world, while maintaining a strength of spirit. This is exemplified by Romero when he chooses to follow through on his scheduled bullfight, despite the fact that he had been brutalized by Robert Cohn the night before. “During Romero’s first bull his hurt face had been very noticeable. Everything he did showed it. All the concentration of the awkwardly delicate working with the bull that could not see well brought it out. 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” (SAR 222). Even though Romero had just been through a physical and emotional ordeal, that did not hamper his resolve, and he was still able to step into the ring with pride and dignity. He boasts a vitality and determination that none of the other characters in the novel possess.
While the main characters quit often and without shame when something becomes too difficult to deal with (physically or emotionally), Romero remains persistent and determined. This is proven by Romero’s response to Cohn’s vicious and unprovoked attack. When Cohn fought Jake and Mike earlier in the novel, not only were the two were quickly incapacitated, but they hardly made an effort to get back up after they were knocked down. Romero however, refuses to admit defeat and continues to get back up each time Cohn knocks him down. He does not stop fighting until he is able to finally land a punch on Cohn, when the man offers him a handshake. Romero, however, is not blind to the world he lives in. In fact, he possesses a remarkable ability to stride both worlds (the old world and the new modernist world).
Romero is one of the few characters in the novel who embodies many traditional values like chivalry, courage, and persistence, while also displaying a cunning and sophistry typical of a modernist character. Jake and Bret are undoubtedly partially responsible for this, and have a bad influence on him, the effect of which is seen when Romero reveals that he lies about being unable to speak English and later on when he takes a cheap shot at Cohn. However, though he begins displaying these less-than-noble characteristics after spending time with the two expatriates, he is never completely corrupted by their influence, and his soul remains pure. In addition, Romero is the only man in the novel who exudes a natural masculinity, or machismo. Machismo is considered the epitome of manhood and power; in a modernist society, this quality is that much more important and prized.
Therefore, in this novel, those who are idolized as heroes are people who are able to maintain power—over oneself and over others—in a world that seeks to make them powerless. Romero embodies these qualities. He has power over Brett, because he has a significant hold on her emotions, so much so that she actually admits to Jake that she is “a goner” and “mad about the Romero boy” (SAR 187). However, he provides a stark contrast to her other lovers, Mike and Cohn, in that he is able to maintain control over himself; even though he is in love with Brett and becomes her lover, his life does not revolve around her validation. This is illustrated by Romero’s actions while he is bullfighting. “Never once did he look up [at Brett]. He made it stronger that way, and did it for himself, too, as well as for her. Because he did not look up to ask if it pleased he did it all for himself inside, and it strengthened him, and yet he did it for her, too. But he did not do it for her at any loss to himself. He gained by it all through the afternoon” (SAR 218). Romero is able to exert his influence over Brett while still remaining true to himself. Unlike the other men Brett becomes romantically involved with, he doesn’t lose himself in her. His sense of self, his confidence, does not diminish. Romero’s confidence and his individuality are also heroic aspects that cause him to stand out from the others. Though he never fails to fulfill people’s expectations, and has a good understanding of his role in society, he does not conform to peer pressure nor cede to the demands of society. It is made very apparent in the novel that Romero is a symbol—for his people, and for his culture—and he embraces this duty wholeheartedly. However, he is not afraid to brush off social stigmas. Even though many Spaniards do not like the idea of him being romantically involved with an Englishwoman, especially a woman like Brett, he does not hesitate to give her public displays of affection. This is another of Hand’s criteria that Romero embodies. In the context of The Sun Also Rises, a hero is defined by their ability to accept and resign himself to the modernist world that he lives in, without letting the environment around him hamper his spirit. This fact speaks to the level of desperation that pervaded post-WWI culture. One is considered hero, who is able to truly function in this type of society, while simultaneously maintaining old world values, a rare quality in the bleak and hopeless world of Hemingway’s novels.
Hand, Harry E. “Transducers and Hemingway’s Heroes.” The English Journal 55.7 (1966): 870-72. Web.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner, 1996. Print.
World War 1 – America – PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- 1 1.1 Introduction:
- 2 According to Martin (1987):
- 3 Chapter 2
- 4 Life and Works of Ernest Hemingway
- 5 2.1 Birth and Parentage:
- 6 2.1.1 His Schooling:
- 7 2.1.2 Injuries of War:
- 8 2.1.3 Falls in Love with a Nurse:
- 9 2.1.4 Disappointment in Love:
- 10 2.1.5 Failure and Fame:
- 11 2.1.6 Reporting in Spain:
- 12 2.1.7 World War II:
- 13 2.1.8 The Nobel Prize:
- 14 2.1.9 A Life of Adventure:
- 15 2.1.10 Ill Health and Suicide:
- 16 2.2 His Works:
- 17 2.2.1 The Torrents of Spring (1926):
- 18 2.2.2 Hemingway’s First Great Novel:
- 19 2.2.3 Papa’s Second Great Novel:
- 20 2.2.4 Some Short Stories by Hemingway:
- 21 2.2.3 Hemingway on Social Issues:
- 22 2.2.4 The Longest Novel:
- 23 2.2.5 Award Wining Novel:
- 24 Chapter 3
- 25 The Lost Generation
- 26 Chapter 4
- 27 Post Traumatic Stress
When World War1 broke out in 1914, it ended almost 100 years of relative peace in Europe. America at that time adopted a policy of neutrality and isolation regarding war. This approach was fully supported by the people of America at that time but later, in 1917 the German submarines entered the US marine territories against which the US government finally had to break the ice.
So, as a reaction to German invasion America finally launched a counter attack and consequently the whole nation plunged into the great World War1. Unaware of the consequences America unwillingly had to participate in the greatest holocaust of the world known as the World War1.
America would never have become a part of World War1 and have stuck to its neutral policy but the German submarines defied the US marine laws and entered the US territories on January 9th, 1917. Woodrow Wilson the US president at that time finally asked congress to declare war on Germany and it was April 2nd, 1917. As a result of this legitimate order America joined the war along with the other Allies.
On the other hand the continent of Europe was under the attack of war where World War1 rose like a wall of blood red mountains. Despite having massive military and great weapons war killed ten million Europeans, most of them were young soldiers, nurses and subjects and all became the victims of ultimate death brought by heavy war weapons, flying jets and bullets swimming in the air. It was death’s command everywhere and when death comes to its empire it kills all what it finds.
Similar was the situation in America where men, women and children all were on the mercy of a single bullet. Four million American soldiers were killed in war and almost equal number of civilians got killed and injured men, women and children left homeless due to the great wreckage all around with the spread of epidemic disease that resulted in the cause of further deaths of many civilians.
It was a chaotic situation after the war ended in 1919. People were completely disillusioned and stunned by the aftermaths of the World War1. They were hopeless and unaware of their futures. The basic matrix of life was completely dissolved by the cruel war and human civilization became a victim of demolition. People lost their faith in basic norms and values of life as war took away with it their hopes, happiness and loved ones too. They seemed completely lost with having no basic aim behind being alive. Young men and women of America started living like herds of sheep and were spending life just for the sake of killing time.
Eventually the war ended but it left behind its impact on the mind of masses and its terror got stored into the minds of the post-war generations. People became mentally sick and even after the war was over they felt its aftershocks later on in their lives. World War1 was the greatest trauma of the lives of a great number of Americans who survived the brutal attack of the war. The post-war American race became a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental disorders which were the result of the shocks given by the World War1. PTSD is a severe kind of state of mind after a great shock or accident that leads a human being to become a patient of insomnia and several other mental retardations. Almost each community and every class in America’s post-war society became a victim of PTSD which became a cause of disbelief and disgracing of the traditional life style on part of American generation.
Watching all the above mentioned events and incidents in the midst of the battle fields and among the victims of the World War1 was present Ernest Hemingway, an American Red Cross ambulance driver who witnessed and used all these war events and post-war condition of the society as a backdrop of his literary works. Hemingway represented the American society and a post-war perturbed American generation which is known as the Lost Generation of America. Hemingway being a spokesman of the lost generation, masterly managed to give a unique account of events and incidents that took place in the war and changed the lives of millions of Americans. Hemingway’s main concern was the American society and its members who were suffering from a post-war disturbed psychological state of mind. Aiken (1926) writes in his essay as edited by Meyers (1982) as follows:
The half dozen characters, all of whom belong to the curious and sad little world of disillusioned and aimless expatriates who make what home they can in the cafes of Paris, are seen perfectly and unsentimentally by Mr. Hemingway and are put before us with a maximum of economy 1. (90)
As we know wars have always been a cause of destruction, devastation and demolition on a great scale since the descent of mankind on earth. There is no doubt that wars shatter the matrix of human civilization and bring forth despair, death and disease for mankind. Surpassing all the previous wars, the great World-Wars dismantled the hopes, dreams and races on a large scale and nations falling victims of disillusionment, aimlessness and mental stress and physical disorders. One of the greatest diseases that damage the brain after a war is ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, a severe state of human mind after a shock or a trauma. Durand and Barlow (2000) comment on PTSD as follows:
In recent years we have heard a great deal about the severe and long-lasting emotional disorders that can occur after a variety of traumatic events. Perhaps the most impressive traumatic event is war, but emotional disorders also occur after physical assault (particularly rape), car accidents, natural catastrophes, or the sudden death of a loved one. The emotional disorder that follows a trauma is known as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 2. (131)
Then I. Sarason and Sarason (2006) in their book on Abnormal Psychology comment:
PTSD involves an extreme experience, such as war, a natural catastrophe (for instance an earthquake), a physical assault, or a serious car crash. The traumas range from those that are directly experienced (e.g., being threatened with death) to those that are witnessed (e.g., family member being threatened with death). The onset of the clinical condition in posttraumatic disorders varies from soon after the trauma to long after it has occurred. Most studies have found higher rates among women than men. The prevalence of PTSD in the general population is about 0.5% in men and 1.2% in women (Andreasen and Black, 2001). Because life today is considered to be high in trauma for the population in general, it is estimated that Americans currently have a 5 to 10% chance of developing PTSD at sometime during their lifetimes. The combination of vulnerability factors and exposures earlier in life to traumatic experiences increases the likelihood of PTSD. For instance, having been abused as a child or have had other previous traumatic experiences increases the risk for PTSD, especially for individuals who generally have emotional difficulties, such as anxiety and depression 3. (256)
Now keeping in mind the American society which is the sole area of our research, we found the reason behind PTSD in American society and the characters introduced to us by Ernest Hemingway in his works. And that reason was the First World War and its aftermath. The lives of millions of people were badly influenced by World War I in America and in Europe as well. The great holocaust changed the whole concept of life by destroying the basic norms and traditional beliefs in all parts of the world.
Priestley (1962) comments on World War I as follows:
In the very middle of this age the First World War rises like a wall of blood-red mountains. Its frenzied butchery, indefensible even on a military basis, killed at least ten million Europeans, mostly young and free from obvious physical defects. After being dressed in uniform, fed and drilled, cheered and cried over before they were packed into their cattle-trunks, these ten million were then filled with hot lead, ripped apart by shell splinters, blown to bits, bayoneted in the belly, choked with poison gas, suffocated in mud, trampled to death or drowned, buried in collapsing dugouts, dropped out of burning aero planes, or allowed to die of diseases, after rotting to long in trenches that they shared with syphilitic rats and typhus-infested lice. Death, having come into his empire, demands the best, and got it 4. (321)
Almost all the works of Ernest Hemingway are a result of his first-hand experience of war and his staunch observation of life around him. Most of his works prove to be autobiographical in nature and Cooperman (1964) comments on autobiographical nature of Hemingway’s works as follows:
Three elements in Hemingway’s life shaped many of his attitudes, and indeed shaped much of his works: the fact that in World War I, he suffered a painful and terrible mortar wound, which made him conscious of the dread possibilities of the loss of manhood; the fact that his father committed suicide; and the fact of his growing old… and the fears created by old age itself. Similar to Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms, Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, and Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway was afflicted with the fear of letting go and the fear of thinking. The nightmare of chaos, of passivity, loss of will, loss of initiative, loss of masculine role was a terrible nightmare, and one to be avoided at all costs 5. (85-92)
It has already been observed that all the Hemingway fiction comes from his war experiences and the aftermath of the war. Many critics have commented on this experience-based technique of Ernest Hemingway. According to Putnam (2006), Tobias Wolff at the Hemingway centennial celebration said, “Hemingway’s great war work deals with aftermath. It deals with what happens to the soul in war and how people deal with that afterward.”
Putnam (2006) further comments:
No American writer is more associated with writing about war in the early 20th century than Ernest Hemingway. He experienced it firsthand, wrote dispatches from innumerable frontlines, and used war as a backdrop for many of his most memorable works 6.
Ernest Hemingway is best known as the representative of the “Lost Generation” of America. He as an artist and writer of literature selected characters from the post-war American society as he was himself a member of that society and he observed it staunchly. Most of his works are based on his personal experience of the society and that is why he is often himself present in his novels as a leading character. Asselineau (1980) comments on Hemingway’s fiction as follows:
It was indeed a “lost generation” in more senses than one. Yet, Hemingway among others survived the Great War for over forty years and, after appearing as the cynical and disillusioned Byron of twentieth century, ultimately turned into a new “teacher of athletes” and a “professeur d’ energie” a la Barres. A rather surprising change and a very spectacular recovery, which we can follow step by step in his works, since his novels make up an interminable Bildungsroman whose hero is always himself 7.
While going through the works of Ernest Hemingway one realizes that Hemingway has very skillfully managed to present before us a group of expatriates who had left their homeland America after getting disillusioned by the war and were living as useless people in different parts of Europe under a special code of life. Asselineau (1980) comments as follows:
All the veterans of foreign wars who appeared in Hemingway’s fiction are united by a common belief in an unwritten code. They are morally and physically very tough. They can take it. They keep a stiff upper lip. They grin and bear it. They refuse to discuss their own emotion and despise loquacious swaggerers like Robert Cohn. They hate gushing. They believe in self control and self imposed discipline. They have reached true wisdom in the etymological meaning of the word “wisdom”. They are those who know- who know that they are mortal and that sooner or later life ends in death. They know that man- whatever he does- will sooner or later be crushed by the hostile forces which surround him and is bound to be defeated- defeated, but not vanquished, for, like Pascal, they believe in the dignity of man, “a mere reed, and the weakest that can be found on earth, but even when the universe crushes him, man is still nobler than what kills him, for he knows that he is dying, while the advantage that the universe has over him, the universe is unaware of it.” 8 (1844)
High (1986) has also commented on the lost generation as follows:
Man young people the post-World War 1 period had “lost” their American ideals. At the same time America “lost” many fine young writers- like e.e. cummings and Hemingway- because they had moved to Paris. Fitz Gerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), describes this new generation. They had “grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.” Two concerns now filled their lives: “the fear of poverty and the worship of success.” 9 (143)
Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises proves to be the best of his works and it was also his first proper novel on lost generation of America. The novel stands as a monument over which the whole drama of the lost generation of America has been carved. It was Gertrude Stein the American authoress and Hemingway’s mentor who for the very first time told E. Hemingway: “You are all a lost generation.” Hemingway was struck by the comment and used it as an epigraph and also the theme of his first novel, Fiesta (called The Sun Also Rises in US. Ousby (1979) in his essay The Lost Generation comments as follows:
Today the ‘lost Generation’ has come to seem an over-worked catchphrase. Used indiscriminately in its own era, the title has been claimed by successive generations of writers and applied retrospectively to earlier schools, such as the American naturalists. Yet the term remains useful in discussing the novelists of 1920’s, if only because epitomizes the way they liked to see themselves. 10 (205)
Ousby (1979) further explains the characteristics of the writers of lost generation in following words:
Their unique and common experience was a disillusion bred by the First World War. They returned from that conflict to a society whose values seemed hollow and artificial by comparison with the harsh realities of the battle-field. Their alienation from America often took the form of exile and expatriation: Hemingway and Dos Passos spent most of their early adult lives in Europe, while Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe were frequent visitors. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Paris became the extra-parliamentary centre of American culture in 1920s. It was the shrine to which most ambitious young writers of the era made their pilgrimage. 11 (206)
Ousby (1979) in the same essay tells us the factors which affected the writings of the writers of lost generation in the following words:
Disillusioned with society in general and America in particular, the novelists of the Lost Generation cultivated a romantic self-absorption- a deliberate retreat into private emotion. They became precocious experts in tragedy, suffering and anguish. The early novels of Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald are peopled by sad, bitter young men who have lost all illusions at an early age; Amory Blaine of This Side of Paradise and Jake Barnes of Fiesta are the prime examples. They are haunted by war memories and by images of violence, cynical about idealism in any form, and given to only the most cryptic and laconic expressions of feeling. 12 (206)
Ousby (1979) also comments on the characters introduced to us by the writers of lost generation as follows:
The characters of Lost Generation novels live in restless pursuit of excitement and pleasure. Their Europe is not the gallery of cultural objects found in Hawthorne’s and James’s fiction: it is a Europe of elegant restaurants, picturesque bars and intriguing local customs. They delight in kicking over the conventional traces (and in the resultant cries of middle- class horror), indulging in heavy drinking and casual sex. 13 (207)
It was only Ernest Hemingway, who among the most famous writers of lost generation of America has been able to won the title of the avant-garde writer of the lost generation. His novel The Sun Also Rises was recommended all over the world as a true story featuring real people from the lost generation. This novel also made Hemingway a world-known celebrity. Nagel (1996) in his essay Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises comments:
This book made him, almost instantly, an international celebrity identified with an entire generation, torn by war and grieving throughout the Roaring Twenties for their lost romantic idealism. Although he was somewhat ill-suited for the role, because he was a hard-working young writer with a wife and a son to support, he came to be regarded as the spokesman for American expatriates, those disillusioned and disaffected artists, writers, and intellectuals who spent the decade on the Left Bank in Paris. 14 (87)
In his novel The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway uses Jake as a puppet, a narrator and also his famous code hero. Jake narrates the whole story which Hemingway’s eye saw sincerely. Nagel (1996) again in his essay Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises comments on the character of Jake Barnes as follows:
He is certainly one of the most isolated and vulnerable figures in American literature, and he narrates out of his disillusionment and pain, his grief evident throughout. As he says about himself, all he wants is to figure out how he can live in the world. It would seem that telling what happened is part of the process of learning how to live in the special circumstances of his world. 15 (90)
Nagel (1996) in his essay Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises comments on Jake being a representative of lost generation in following words:
Hemingway humanized this dichotomy in the character of Jake Barnes by creating a man who bears the wounds of the war in a profoundly personal way yet combines his disillusionment with traditional American values of hard work and just compensation. It is surely an oversimplification to see Jake as an uncompromised representative of lost generation radicalism, for he exhibits much of the midwestern values he sometimes satirizes… Above all, it is his judgment that provides the normative sensibility for assessing the people and events of the novel. But to grasp the meaning of what he relates, it is essential to understand the psychological context in which he tells it. 16 (91)
Lady Ashley Brett is another important character from the lost generation. She is pure nymphomaniac sort of a woman and is a true representative of the women of the early 20th century. According to Nagel (1996), “Brett is by no means the first representation of a sexually liberated, free-thinking woman in American literature but rather an embodiment of what became known as the “New Woman” in nineteenth-century fiction.”
Nagel (1996) further says:
Brett is not only a women but an extraordinary woman for the age, a point not clear unless she is considered in historical context. Form this perspective, the women in The Sun Also Rises might be regarded as more interesting then the men. The role of women in society had been changing with each decade for a century, always with a good deal of social conflict and ideological struggle. 17 (92)
Keeping in mind the agony of Jake due to his relation with Brett, we may easily nominate him as the most suffering person in the novel. His love with Brett makes him feel the pain of his wound which he got during the war, because he could not physically fulfill what he felt. According to Nagel (1996):
From the beginning, the world is out of sexual order, the social evening is a parody of erotic potential, and the deeper irony is that this pathology is at the very heart of Jake and Brett’s relationship. Their conversation in the taxi reveals the central problem of the novel: that they one another, that they feel that there is nothing they can do about it, that it is painful and destructive for them to be together. Whatever else happens is driven by this fact, and it is impossible for them to change it. The central dilemma for Jake is whether he can change the situation by finding some satisfaction in life. The problem for Brett is that she needs companionship of a man, and no one but Jake can offer her much beyond fleeting sexual pleasure. 18 (94)
Jake truly deserves pity because he is the one who lost the most he had during war and even afterwards. His love with Brett gives him nothing except pain and he is also unable to sleep at night due to the agony brought by his love for Brett. Nagel (1996) comments:
The “loss” in the “lost generation” is sustained primarily by him, and it makes for powerful fiction. The novel works, ultimately, because Jake, in anomalous circumstances, nevertheless presents a normative sensibility in the story he tells. He emerges as a man of intelligence, humor and good sense who lost more than he deserved in World War 1 but learned how to make a life for himself. 19 (105)
According to Martin (1987):
Jake Barnes and his friends- all of them- are a group because they share the same beliefs and experiences. Except for Robert Cohn, whose differences are less heinous than Jake sometimes thinks them to be, the displaced Americans and Britons are moving through a festival period in their lives, punctuating their aimless existence abroad with an organized visit to Spain for the bullfights. 20 (07)
The characters introduced to us by Hemingway live under a peculiar but yet an extraordinary code of life. They behave like a community of people sharing similar set of thoughts and beliefs. Martin (1987) in her New Essays on The Sun Also Rises says:
A key theme is the notion of community: These are people who understand each other, the rules they live by, and the reasons for their choices. Only someone outside that community will have difficulty with the social code. Count Mippipopolous may be a stranger to the group, but he understands the code and fits into the society. Robert Cohn, although he spends much time with the members of the group and thinks himself a special friend of both Jake and Brett, never manages to assimilate the rules. Jake, however, is clearly in charge- of the plans, the guest list, the activities, and the emotional nuance. He is the apparent hero of the novel, and his approval or disapproval sets the pattern for the other character’s reaction to things. 20 (08)
All the characters in the novel The Sun Also Rises seem dissatisfied and unhappy and most of the time they feel themselves useless. Martin (1987) comments on this condition of the characters in following words:
There are many reasons for these characters’ unhappiness. To dwell on “irony and pity” is just a pastime; the real issues are the lack of alignment between profession and occupation, between lovers, between vacation and work, between ideals of Spain and France, between nature and the commercial. As full of disjunctures as a picture puzzle, The Sun Also Rises still presents a story whole, its fragments necessarily scattered throughout the narrative, and readers accept the fragmentation as one the marks of Hemingway’s truth. They seize on the purity of Pedro Romero, the wit of the bemused Mike Campbell, the taciturn acceptances of Jake Barnes, the flip bravado of Brett Ashley as the symbols of the characters who survive the onslaught of real life. 21 (16)
Life and Works of Ernest Hemingway
2.1 Birth and Parentage:
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21st, 1899. His father was a doctor. He spent much of his time in his early days roaming about in the woods, rifle on his shoulders, or rowing out across the water of a large lake in quest of big fish. Although his family owned a cottage on a lake, he usually slept outside in a tent, the dim light of a kerosene lantern flickering long hours into the night over his temporary cot as he laid reading.
2.1.1 His Schooling:
In June 1917, Hemingway graduated from Oak Park High School toward the bottom of his class. Meanwhile, war had broken out in Europe and, preferring fighting to college, he tried to get enlisted in the army but was rejected because of poor eyesight. Frustrated, he went away to live with an uncle in Kansas City where he found a job as a reporter in a newspaper. He liked his writing job, but he still had a compelling urge to get into the war, and the opportunity came soon afterwards. On learning that Italy was recruiting ambulance drivers to serve on the Italian front; he gave up his job and became an ambulance driver in Italy.
2.1.2 Injuries of War:
Hemingway had been driving behind the lines for only a few days when he found that his work was too safe, in fact, dull. He wanted to serve on the frontlines in the thick of things. So he volunteered for canteen service and was soon riding a bicycle, handing out mail, tobacco, and chocolates to soldiers in the trenches. On his tenth day in Italy as he was handing a chocolate bar to a soldier, a large mortar shell fell near by. Hemingway was almost buried. His body was filled below the waist with over 250 pieces of shrapnel, but after regaining consciousness, he rescued a badly wounded Italian soldier and was turning to help others when he was hit again, with a machine-gun bullet, below the left knee.
2.1.3 Falls in Love with a Nurse:
He spent several weeks in a Red Cross hospital and there he fell in love with an English Nurse Agnes. While in Europe, he received several medals for bravery, and then was sent home, limping on a cane. The Hemingway who went back to America was different person from the young man who had left. War, death, suffering, new people, a new language and love had all been crowded into a short period of time.
2.1.4 Disappointment in Love:
While his feet and legs healed, he read a lot and impatiently watched the mail until, one day after receiving a letter, he suddenly became ill. He retired into seclusion and for days hardly left his room. Finally, on being repeatedly asked by his family, he revealed that the letter has came form Agnes informing him that she was not coming to America and that she had married an Italian army major.
2.1.5 Failure and Fame:
Sad and disappointed, Hemingway went to Paris for study and to make a living by writing. There, he met and became friendly with some of the world’s greatest literary figures of that day- James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and others. But despite their advice and help, he could not sell his literary attempts. Manuscript after manuscript kept coming back from editors, usually without a single word of encouragement, and with only a printed rejection slip. One day, he was sitting at a side walk café on the Left Bank in Paris and complaining to a friend about his ill luck. The friend observed that perhaps the reason why Hemingway’s writings did not sell was that he had not suffered enough and that he did not know misery. Hemingway bitterly replied, “So I have not known misery! So that’s what you think!” Then at first seemingly lost in memory, he narrated the story of his lost love, Agnes, the English nurse. He told his friend about the suffering he had endured in World War 1. Later, he put the story on paper in the form of a novel, A Farewell to Arms. The book proved to be immensely popular and Hemingway found himself famous. We could probably say that an unhappy love affair and his unhappy experiences in war were the motivating factor which made him being a great author.
2.1.6 Reporting in Spain:
He went on writing and was now a successful and established writer. He traveled extensively, hunting in Africa and the Far East, fishing in numerous oceans and seas. He felt greatly attracted by bull-fighting in Spain and spent several years in that country. He covered the Spanish Civil War for American newspapers and could not resist getting into the fight in Madrid. By then, he was known as “Papa”, a bearded huge figure of a man who joked and swore with the best of the soldiers.
2.1.7 World War II:
When World War II began, Hemingway, then living in Cuba, armed his own boat as a submarine chaser and patrolled the Atlantic Coast off the United States. But in 1942, he was in the thick of battle again as a magazine correspondent. He flew from England on bombing missions and became an expert on German rockets. Near the end of the war, he was among the first wave of troops to storm the Normandy beach in 1944. After the war, he retired to Cuba to fish and write. One book proved a failure, and his critics remarked that Papa’s carrier was over.
2.1.8 The Nobel Prize:
Then, in 1952, after years of work, he brought out The Old Man and the Sea, a tale of the struggle of a single, old fisherman against the powers of fate and the ocean. It was the story he had been trying to write all his life, and it brought him the Pulitzer Prize for 1953. In the following year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Suffering from injuries in plane crashes while hunting wild game in Africa, Hemingway could not go to Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize but in a letter to the Academy he declared that the writer’s life was a lonely one, and that if he shed his loneliness, his work would deteriorate. Still living in Cuba, Hemingway continued writing short stories, novels, and magazine articles. But he also began to take life easier, spending more time on his fishing boat with his wife, whom he called Miss Mary. “No one can work everyday in these hot months without going stale,” he wrote during this period. “To break up the pattern of work, we fish the Gulf Stream in the spring and summer months and in the fall.’
2.1.9 A Life of Adventure:
Hemingway’s sixty-two years were packed with excitement. Living through adventure after adventure, he told stories of his life and love on jungles, the two World Wars in which he played a part in Europe, and a giant 1000-pound fish he battled off the Coast of Cuba. But his writing was more than just adventure stories; he helped to set the style for the modern novel. His lean, muscular prose and dramatic plots have, perhaps, been copied more than any other modern author’s and his work has been translated into all the world’s major languages.
2.1.10 Ill Health and Suicide:
But Hemingway was growing old. His hair and beard had turned white. His old wounds were bothering him. He had to keep standing while writing, and he was frequently unwell. Then Castro took over in Cuba, and Hemingway and Miss Mary returned to America, living in Idaho. He spent a few months in hospitals, began losing weight, and saw his creative ability declining. Early one morning on July 1961, he slipped on the stairs in his home and, not wishing to prolong his suffering, killed himself with a gun. Perhaps he had concluded, like the old fisherman in his novel, that he had no luck anymore.
2.2 His Works:
Influenced by Ezra Pound and particularly by Gertrude Stein whose style strongly affected him, Hemingway published Three Stories and Ten Poems in 1923 and In Our Time (a collection of short stories) in 1925. These early stories exhibited the attitude of mind and technique for which Hemingway later became famous. As the leading spokesman for the “lost generation”, he expressed the feelings of war-wounded people disillusioned by the loss of faith and hope, and so thoroughly defeated by the collapse of former values that they could turn only to a stoic acceptance of primal emotions. The stories are mainly concerned with “tough” people, both intelligent men and women who have dropped into an exhausted cynicism or such primitives as frontiers-men, Indians, and professional athletes whose essential courage and honesty are implicitly contrasted with the brutality of civilized society. Emotion is neglected while bare happenings are recorded, and emphasis is obtained by sarcasm and spare dialogue.
2.2.1 The Torrents of Spring (1926):
It is hardly ever read nowadays. At the time, however, it attracted considerable attention. It is a satirical book in which Hemingway mocks at Sherwood Anderson, Henry James, H.L. Mencken, Gertrude Stein and D.H. Lawrence. The book earned him some enemies. Anderson was hurt and puzzled to find his supposed pupil turning on him: he probably had not realized that Hemingway had never been an uncritical hero-worshipper. Gertrude Stein attacked him in her autobiography declaring that Hemingway was jealous because she and Anderson had taught him all the new about writing, about bullfighting and boxing. To this charge Hemingway subsequently replied in his novel The Green Hills of Africa in which he declared that it was a pity to see Gertrude Stein’s talent having been devoted to malice, nonsense, and self praise.
2.2.2 Hemingway’s First Great Novel:
Hemingway adopted the style and attitude of his short stories into his first great novel, The Sun Also Rises 1926. This book tells about the moral collapse of a group of expatriated Americans and Englishmen broken by the war, who turned toward escape through all possible violent diversions.
2.2.3 Papa’s Second Great Novel:
Success in fictional craftsmanship and in portraying the mind of an era was again achieved in A Farewell to Arms 1927, the tragic love story of an English nurse and an American ambulance driver during the war.
2.2.4 Some Short Stories by Hemingway:
After publishing further distinguished collections of short stories, Men without Women and Winner Take Nothing, he wrote two books Death In The Afternoon 1932, a book on bullfighting, and Green Hills of Africa 1935, an account of his hunting experiences in Africa. With digressions only literary matters these books show a further cultivation of the primitive and brutal levels, contrasted with the hollow culture that had cheated Hemingway’s generation.
2.2.3 Hemingway on Social Issues:
In To Have and Have Not 1937, Hemingway for the first time showed his interest in a possible solution of social problems through collective action. He continued this attitude in newspaper articles from Spain about the Civil War there. Then he wrote The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories 1938, in which appeared two of his finest stories: The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
2.2.4 The Longest Novel:
For Whom the Bell Tolls 1944 is the longest novel by Hemingway and is based on an incident in the Spanish Civil War, has universality in its theme that the loss of liberty is loss of everything.
2.2.5 Award Wining Novel:
The Old Man and The Sea written in 1952 was the last and perhaps the finest novel ever written by Ernest Hemingway. It’s an allegorical novel in which man fights against nature for his luck and survival. The theme of the novel is no doubt the aim of Hemingway’s own life that a man can be destroyed but cannot be defeated.
The Lost Generation
The Sun Also Rises was aimed by Hemingway at his own generation. He says so in its two epigraphs, one is from Ecclesiastes: One generation passes away and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever. The other is Gertrude Stein’s re-echoed judgment: ‘You are all a lost generation.’ In the novel The Sun Also Rises are exhibited all the European pleasures which Hemingway and Fitzgerald were presenting. Going to bars, spending night in drinking alcohol and having fervent sexual activities was the greatest part of the lives of the generation called the ‘lost generation’ by Gertrude Stein.
Hemingway brings before us a group of unhappy US expatriates living in different parts of Europe. As no one in the novel The Sun Also Rises seems happy except Pedro Romero, the handsome young bullfighter and Lady Brett Ashley who adds him to her sex circle. Jake Barnes the narrator of the The Sun Also Rises is a real suffering man and the code hero of the story is emasculated by a war wound. We can say that all the characters taken as the representatives of the lost generation are desperate people. They all hide their desperation behind drinking and talking and being rude to those who do not know the code (the code of life).
Throughout the novel The Sun Also Rises we see a number of young people making the rounds of the bars in Paris and resorts in Spain, talking, drinking, fishing, attending bullfights and making love. According to Gorman (1926):
Through this group and through a shift of scene from the Left Bank in Paris to Pamplona in Spain during fiesta- time, Hemingway manages to achieve a vitriolic albeit manifestly impartial portrait of what might be called the over-nerved and over-sophisticated colony of expatriates in Europe. 1
The lost generation also refers to the time period from the end of the World War1 to the beginning of the Great Depression. Moreover, the term is often used for the generation of young people coming of age in the United States during and shortly after the World War1.
It has been already mentioned that it was Gertrude Stein who for the very first time who named the generation that came of age during the World War 1 as the “lost generation”. This phrase spread quickly throughout the whole world as a trade mark of the generation of the early 20th century in America. The world adopted it as an accurate description of the age as most of them spent their adulthood in working, fighting and dying in war. They did not really get time for enjoying and making spree, as war attacked them suddenly and badly. The horrible conflict took them so suddenly they did not even realize that it has taken away their each and everything. The Great War set new standards for death and immortality in war. The war shattered all the beliefs in traditional values of love, faith and manhood.
It happened directly after the war that all the illusion got vanished from the minds of the Americans. They came to realize that death is the worst in all mysteries and the greatest of all the secrets of the world, when it reveals itself. And death is the truest and the most bitter of all the truths of the life. Young men, enthusiastic soldiers and juvenile teenagers like Ernest Hemingway deliberately offered themselves for the country because of the illusion of bravery they had over their minds.
They thought they were strong and were the men of war. But all their illusions washed away when most of them, in fact a large number of them killed by the first bullet which pierced their chests. It was the time when the sense of pain, anguish and prevailing death struck the fragile sheet of illusion and shattered it into innumerable fragments. It was the point where they realized that they were immortal and death is for everyone. This was the stage where weapons took lead over manhood and the power of the muscles on which the American men felt proud but nothing proved worth in war. The powerful men, enthusiastic soldiers and juvenile teenagers were all on the mercy of a single bullet. Most of them got killed and others got physically and psychologically hurt.
With the loss of man power and different body organs they were no-men and that’s why they have been represented by the character of an impotent Jake. Even after the war the war veterans were scared and psychologically suffering as the war memories haunted their minds constantly. And due to the sense of physically weak and being handicaps they lost their remaining interests in life which lead them to become a lost generation. Hemingway (1979) comments in Men at War as follows:
When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. It can happen to other people; but not to you. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured it out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. 2
Drinking, dancing, having sex and sleepless nights became the most important sectors of the lives of men and women of the post-war American society. They refused to follow; in fact they rebelled against the traditional concepts of social code of American life. They adapted a new code, a self-made code, n new way of living where there was no space for spiritual and religious values, no charm for married life, no respect for tradition and customs and no regard for any old pattern of life. They became morally and mentally sick. Most of the time they remained drunk and used to have fervent sex.
Hemingway by writing his novel The Sun Also Rises brings before the readers the new changes that took place in the post-war new American generation which Gertrude Stein named the lost generation. First of all Hemingway with the help of his puppets Jake and Brett describes the impact of war on sex. Jake has been shown impotent by Hemingway for two reasons. First of all his impotency is the symmbol of the impotency of the men who took part in the war. The world “man” means more than a male figure to Hemingway. A man is a symbol of power, dignity and sexual energy. To Hemingway a man means soldiers, a fighter and a worshipper of true norms and values of life. Hemingway’s man is not made for defeat. But Jake is a true loser, he lost is manhood, he lost his illusions, in fact he lost everything in war and even afterwards he loses his beloved Brett. Next, Jake stands as a symbol of destructiveness of sex by war. Hemingway taunts and teaches his lost generation who has become a victim of illegal sexual relations and is destroying the other sectors of its social life by being involved in frequent sex. Both men and women violated sex. The reason behind such frequent sex lies in the mass killing of male members of the American society during World War 1. A huge number of American women became widows as their husbands got killed or in other words sacrificed their lives for their country during war. Brett is a true example of such women as she also lost her husband in war. Brett consequently turned nymphomaniac due to starving sexual emotions and similar was the case with most of the post-war American women who due to the feelings of being insecure and man-less turned bitches like Brett does in the novel The Sun Also Rises. The sexual thirst also lead the male characters like Cohn to violate his code of ethics and he attacks Jake, Mike and Romero as well. It has also been seen that Brett’s desire for sex prevents her from entering into a proper relation with Jake, although she loves him. Hence we can conclude that it is sex that undermines Cohn’s respect and Brett-Jake relation. Gorman (1926) comments:
The structure of the book is easily outlined. It is concerned with the effect of Lady Ashley on four men: Jake Barnes, who tells the story; Robert Cohn, a young Jew; Michael Campbell, engaged to Lady Ashley, and Romero, a young bullfighter. 3
Lady Brett is the factor that is resulting in the negative consequences of sex and is also resulting in the destruction of relations and the code of life. Brett is representing the liberated women of post-war American society who did not hesitate to have sexual relations with multiple men. Brett by having multiplex sexual relations with different men bred envy and jealousy among them which always results in disaster. By portraying the character of Brett in such fashion Hemingway shows his hatred for the nymphomaniac women of his age and he is also teaching a lesson to the male members of the society by taunting the cruel and vicious women. According to Nagel (1996), “Brett is by no means the first representation of a sexually liberated, free-thinking woman in American literature but rather an embodiment of what became known as the “New Woman” in nineteenth-century fiction.” 4
The war in a true sense revealed upon the American men that what it meant to be masculine. The pre-war idea of being brave and fighting as a soldier was totally crushed by the brutal war. Survival depended just upon one’s luck rather than bravery. The traditional concepts of what I meant to be a man were completely undermined by the realities of war. Jake in the novel represents the new man of post-war America. In fact he is a man apparently, but inwardly war has rendered him impotent which in other words means unmanly. He carries the burden of being impotent and feels he is less of a man than he was before war. Through this masculine insecurity of Jake, Hemingway puts before us the insecurity felt by the war veterans who felt insecure in their manhood. Hemingway doest not state this fact directly but shows it in Cohn’s pursuit of Brett. This behavior of Cohn is regarded unmanly by Hemingway as Brett is not a real woman but a nymphomaniac. Similarly Hemingway presents Brett a woman, who is manlier as compared to other male characters. She is a very liberal minded and a physically strong woman. She has a boyish haircut and she is sexually independent and does sex with any male of her choice. However, on the other hand the male characters are running after her as her pets.
Another characteristic behavior of the lost generation of Hemingway shown in The Sun Also Rises is that they were anti-Semitists. Anti-Semitism is a behavior or belief hostile towards Jews. In the novel we see most of the time Robert Cohn is seen with extreme hatred by the other characters. Jake is apparently is his friend but hates him inwardly and even while narrating the story and introducing Cohn he seems unhappy and unimpressed although he knows that Cohn was a superb boxer. There are two reasons behind hating Jews on part of Americans and British people at that time. First they were Jews by religion and in Christian religious teachings it is taught to the Christian to hate the Jews. Through a Christian’s point of view Jews are inferior and should be abominated. Secondly, Jews were being hated due to their German background. Everyone knows that it was Germany who launched war by attacking several parts of the world specially America and England. So that’s why Cohn was the center of hatred of Americans and Britons. W.H. Auden states a similar kind of theme in his poem “Say This City has Ten Million Souls”. The sense of the poem is the estrangement of the immigrants which were Jews of German origin which they faced in a new country (America). The poet laments at the inhuman treatment which the immigrants met at the hands of the local people. The refugees did not enjoy any sense of respect and honor even in a country like America. The poet refers to the case of Jews who migrated to America during the war but they were not treated well by the local population. They were refused to have new passports to go back to their country. They were not given any place of shelter to live. Auden satirizes by saying that Americans have a spared place for their pets but not for us (Jews).
Hemingway though he never explicitly states that Jake and his fellow men and women were a lost generation and were living an aimless life and that their aimlessness was a result of war. He implies these ideas through his portrayal of the characters’ emotional and psychological lives. They were no longer able to believe and rely upon the traditional American beliefs which gave meaning to life. Those men and women who experienced the war became psychologically and morally lost and like the characters of The Sun Also Rises they wandered here and there in search of happiness and rest. Their activities were drinking, traveling, and debauchery which show their aimlessness and disillusionment. They wanted to escape from their meaningless lives. But they were nevertheless helpless and unable to escape their misery as war had rendered them handicaps and impotent.
In short the post-war American society served as a blinker for Ernest Hemingway through which he focused on the suffering lost generation of America. Hemingway, as he was a part of the society and a member of the lost generation, had a lot of pity for his fellow men who suffered at hands of war. He by writing an account of brutalities and impacts of war on his people exhibited the effect of war on the society and the new norms and values set after the World War 1. Hemingway realized from his own war wounds the pain felt by his fellow men. He learnt from his own restlessness and aimlessness that his generation was suffering a great deal. He shows his sincerity with his generation and his love for his traditional values of life by taunting and criticizing the follies and faults of his society. He is no less than a saint for his people because he taught them the negative consequences of war and the illusion they had on their minds. He taught them the lesson that all human beings are immortal and war is not the solution of everything. To conclude we may say that his preaching is based on hatred for war and love for humanity and values and norms of life.
Post Traumatic Stress
In this chapter we will have an insight into the main cause of the disillusionment of the post-war American society. This chapter will mainly deal with the impact and effect of World War 1 on the psychology of the American people and also the psychology of Ernest Hemingway. It has already been observed that Ernest Hemingway’s main concern was the post-war American society and the psychological state of the suffering minds of the people. Hemingway presents before us a generation of people who were completely lost and disillusioned by the aftermath of the World War 1 and hence this generation got named the lost generation. The marked features of this generation were aimlessness, restlessness, wandering place to place in search of pleasure and going to bars for drinking and sex.
Now the reason behind such activities of human beings lies in the psychological study of mind and human behavior in daily life. The first thing to keep in mind is the effects of war on human mind. The war serves as a trauma for human mind causing anxiety, fear, restlessness and lack of sleep (insomnia) to those who somehow become a part of war. The war incidents and after-war memories of those incidents cause a lot of stress over human mind making it impossible for the person victimized by the war.
The similar thing happened to the America’s lost generation, because they participated in the World War 1 as soldiers, drivers and nurses. The horrific conflict made
them suffer a lot during and after the war. Most of them got killed by the brutal war while others got sever injuries. But those who survived the war were no less than psycho patients. Most of the remaining members of the post-war American society felt victims to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental disease caused by the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. PTSD is a sever kind of state of mind in which the patient suffers due to a trauma or a shock which he had in his previous life. Trauma or shock can be delivered by an accident, fight with someone, war, rape, etc. The patient suffering with PTSD shows the symptoms of insomnia (lack of sleep), excessive intake of sleeping pills, drinking alcohol, lack of confidence, etc. Now coming back to the post-war American society and keeping an eye over the characters introduced to us by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises we see a lot of war victims, after being crushed by the war felt victims to PTSD. First of all we see the most suffering character in all characters that is Jake Barnes. He served his country in World War 1 and got injury in his genitals which emasculated him. Jake despite being an active and a responsible person of the society shows the symptoms of PTSD in him. He could not sleep at night and is most of the time haunted by the war memories. We see him in a very agonizing state of mind due to two main reasons. First of all he lost all he had in war as war rendered him impotent. The consequences of this impotency badly effected his love relation with Brett because he was unable to consummate his love. Although love is self-destructive force but Jake’s agony is the worst because he feels sexual urge for Brett but could not fulfill it due to having no erection. All these factors make Jake a real suffering PTSD patient. Then we have Robert Cohn as a victim of PTSD. He despite having a reputation as an athlete and a boxer was suffering from lack of confidence. He is totally out casted by the society just because he is a Jew. We see him feeling himself inferior to other characters. Due to this he starts running after such women who show a little courtesy towards him. Cohn though is not much affected by war but still shows some traits of characters which put him in list of PTSD victims. Then is the character of the war-nurse Lady Ashley Brett. She is also a victim of war-trauma because she lost her husband in war. The effects of PTSD are also very harsh on her and she turns nymphomaniac. Having the feelings of loneliness and man-less she creates the character of 20th century liberated woman. She represents the ‘new women’ of 20th century who were sexually independent. Brett had multiplex sex relations and she could have sex with any man of her choice.
Now watching these characters from Hemingway’s point of view we find that all of these characters are type characters and are depiction of psychological state of mind of the PTSD suffering lost generation. Each character, whether Jake, Cohn or Brett, represents a particular group of people who suffered the trauma of war. And it is Hemingway’s staunch observation and his involvement in his society and the analysis of the psychological behavior of his members of society that he presents them truly before us.
Hemingway’s works are an exhibition of his confessions and his exposure to his society. It often happens that we find him within the story walking along his characters. As a soldier in World War 1 he himself got injured and recollected the war-memories afterwards. It will not be false to say that Hemingway himself was a victim of PTSD and war memories and fears haunted him as well. His own illusions got shattered due to the brutal effects of war and war injuries and that is why he created an impotent Jake as a hero of his novel. Jake is actually Hemingway himself, whose philosophy and mentality is entirely based upon ‘Nada’ that means nothing. For Hemingway man is born into a real world that is natural and has a physical shape but this world is totally indifferent towards mankind. He believes that all the forces in the universe are trying to crush man but the man is always undefeated. Hemingway believes that this is a world without purpose, order, meaning or value and there is no God like thing at all. Darkness to Hemingway is equal to death and this is the reason why Hemingway and his heroes are sleepless at night due to the fear of death. Light is a symbol of hope for Hemingway and his heroes and that’s why they are always in search of a luminous place.
Mankind according to Hemingway’s point of view is victim of irrational accidents like wars, death, loss and destruction of universe. To Hemingway man is born with many illusions and his belief upon God is his greatest illusion because this is a Godless universe. For Hemingway, all traditional, religious and philosophical explanations of the universe are false illusions which turn to disillusion when man is victimized by an irrational disaster or a calamity and then man finds peace and rest in activities which give him immediate pleasure (good food, drink, sex, etc). To Hemingway this universe is a place where only the fittest and the toughest can survive as the disastrous powers of universe are all the time trying to crush civilization and mankind.
Hemingway’s aim of life and his philosophy’s main theme is that a man can be destroyed but can not be defeated. Similar is his point of view about the human civilization which is fighting against the powers of universe. He says that universe is always destroying the generations after generations of mankind but a man should always remain optimistic in his approach towards life. If one generation goes, then another generation comes and the earth abides forever.
This is the lesson for the readers from Hemingway that despite all the calamities and the despair, one should be optimistic in his approach towards life and one should always be hopeful.
Sense Of Nostalgia In Hemingway’s Novel
Hills Like White Elephants is a short story by Ernest Hemingway that offers a brief glimpse into the lives of expatriates during the pre- World War 1 time-frame. Hemingway’s personal experience as an expatriate living in Europe during the 1920s can be seen throughout the images so keenly described in his short story Hills Like White Elephants and is an accurate piece of literature based on experiences that were common amongst other expatriates of that generation – this story reflects many trends popular with expatriates who had traveled to post-WWI Europe. The story can be interpreted through the exploration of the cause of those trends and ideals held by that (lost) generation.
Through this opening passage we are able to understand the location of where our characters are traveling. The beginning of our story sets a scene for the reader:
The hills across the valley of the Ebro’ were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies (Hemingway).
The Ebro is a river in Spain Northeast of Madrid, much closer to the border of France. The two characters of the story, the American and the girl are traveling towards Madrid, the central hub of Spain, a place that could solve problem they are having. We understand towards the end of the story, that the couple is discussing the possibility of an abortion, something that was highly illegal in the 1920r’s, especially in a catholic country such as Spain. To understand the mentality, outlook and understanding of life the characters have, presented to us through dialogue, we must first understand the life that an expatriate experienced in the early 20th century. The reason we can rely on this story as one that is accurate to the real experiences of an expatriate in Europe is because the writer, Ernest Hemingway, was an expatriate himself.
Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1899. At the age of eighteen he volunteered as a Red Cross ambulance driver during World War 1 and was sent to France. This choice is what gave Ernest much insight and relation that helped him develop his works later in life. A large reason of expatriates in Europe during the 1920r’s is due to the result of World War 1 and the exposure that many young Americans experienced when there. In Matthew Boltonr’s essay on Hemingway as an expatriate, he states:
In the wake of World War I, a combination of cultural and economic factors conspired to make the city an attractive destination for footloose Americans. The United States involvement in the war meant that some five million young men had been exposed to life in Europe. With the war over, some of these veterans found that France held far more attraction for them than did their American hometowns (Bolton).
We understand that, World War I resulted in a cultural movement, exposing many Americans to the expatriate life of Europe – the added effects of the war resulted in the generation that fought it to be lost to Europe – the lost generation. The reactionary decade that followed the war gave way to many institutions to American culture that dissuaded much of the lost generation to return to American.
Prohibition noble experiment in outlawing the manufacture and sale of alcohol, had gone into effect in January of 1920. Mainstream American culture, and the legal apparatus that supported it, was resolutely bent on reintegrating the veterans of the Great War into a life of temperance, family values, and the Protestant work ethic (Bolton).
Following Hemingwayr’s understanding of post-World War I America, we can
expect that the writer did not want to return to a land of ?…godliness, propriety, and respectability were of paramount importance (Bolton). The buying power of the dollar to the Franc also was a large deciding factor to the average expatriate. In an article Hemingway wrote to the Toronto Star, for which he worked as a foreign correspondent in Paris, he stated: An American or Canadian can live comfortably, eat at attractive restaurants and find amusement for a total expenditure of two and one half to three dollars a day (Reynolds 5).
Hemingway was an expatriate himself and through the experiences he gained through World War I, as well as working as a foreign correspondent – among many other things and experiences throughout his life – we are able to peer into the life of an expatriate (the life of an expatriate is divulged less through Hills Like White Elephants than it is through Hemingwayr’s other works, such as The Sun Also Rises, but if we can understand the author’s background, or have at least read any of his other works, we are able to acknowledge the meaning of the story and the underlying stories that are not written).
The story of Hills Like White Elephants is one that is built on the curiosity of the reader. The subject of abortion in the story is never directly divulged by the characters, but is hinted upon throughout. The main characters, only known as the American and the girl, are seen to be expatriates experiencing a life of exploration through Europe – them presently being in Spain. They are in a train junction and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went on to Madrid (Hemingway). The full written story takes only eight or so minutes to read and at the end of the story we read that “…the train comes in five minutes (Hemingway). This shows us, through the lack of information and the state-of-fact writing that Hemingway is praised for, that there was much silence during that time period. This helps us understand the setting further. The man in the story seems to push for the girl to receive the procedure. The girl is reluctant, but through the setting we can say that, though reluctant, the girl is also unsure of what to do because they are at a junction – which tells us that the couple has travelled this far already in order to get to Madrid where this procedure could be done.
The man in the story is very matter-of-fact, realistic, and shows a lack of remorse towards the situation. The girl, someone he says he loves, is the opposite. Because of the manr’s pressure, she is considering to not proceed with the abortion. The choice of the man is reason enough for her to understand that this is the life that the man chooses to proceed with a life of adventure, experience and excitement – not one that involves starting a family and taking care of a child. As an expatriate, experiencing a life that is freeing and exciting is something that is expected, but through the story we can see that even if this life is something that the man wants – and maybe it was something that the woman wanted at a certain point – it is not that same now. In the text, we read:
“That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us
The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of
two of the strings of beads.
“And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.”
” I know we will. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people
that have done it (Hemingway).
In this excerpt, we see that the man still believes that through this procedure happiness will return. The idea that happiness will return is something that is frequent in the ideals of an expatriate, the belief that after devastation, there will always come happiness – after the abortion, happiness will return. This can relate back to World War I and how many young soldiers found comfort in the aftermath and the beauty of Europe, while back in America, the country was bracing for the aftermath of many young Americans returning home.
Throughout the short story of Hills Like White Elephants we are provided with little informational text aside from descriptive elements of setting and such. We are required to rely on our own understanding in order to decipher the subject and meaning of the story. Through the research, explanation and understanding of the trends of expatriates in Europe – and what cause so many young people to decide on a life as an expatriate we can understand the story better. It seems to be one that shares with us the mentality of expatriates. Many focusing on the good life, the freedom and expressionistic ideals that are not present in America this plays a huge roll on the choices of many expatriates in Europe.
In conclusion, a work like Hills Like White Elephants is one that evokes a sense of nostalgia and melancholy once we understand the trends and ideals of the subjects involved. The life of freedom, happiness, wealth, adventure and relaxation is a powerful pursuit and one that, once held, is something that is hard to let go of. With an understanding of life in the post-war 20th century, we are able to relate to a lifestyle that we have dreamt of one we have imagined to be just a fantasy but one that is not simply happiness and comfort. The depths achievable by man in pursuit of self-discovery and freedom may be deep but the heights that can come may be worth the turmoil and risk. This story explains that through less than enough words and we are the ones who need to unearth the true meaning of the work.
Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants. The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction.
Ed. R.V. Cassill. New York: Norton & Company, 1995. 443-447.
Bolton, Matthew J. “An American in Paris: Hemingway and the Expatriate Life.” Critical Insights: The Sun Also Rises, edited by Keith Newlin, Salem, 2010. Salem Online.
Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Paris Years. 1989. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.
Kennedy, J. Gerald.Imagining Paris: Exile, Writing, and American Identity. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1993.