Hemingway’s Lost Generation

August 22, 2019 by Essay Writer

In the words of Herbert Hoover, “Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath.” War disfigures and tears away precious lives. Its horrors embed themselves like an infectious disease in the minds of the survivors, who, when left to salvage the pieces of their former existences, are brushed into obscurity by the individuals attempting to justify the annihilation of the world that was. The era following World War I epitomizes the inheritance of tribulation and sorrow for the generation that remains to retrieve some form of happiness – the lost generation. These are the poor souls who suffer for mankind and endure abandonment by a world that wants to forget suffering. This generation of the 1920’s is often featured in the literature of the era, particularly the work of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is one such example in which he portrays the social dislocation of the members of the Lost Generation and illustrates his own inner torment as a member of this collection of outcasts. Hemingway’s lost generation consists of society’s misfits, the unwanted pariahs that exist in every part of the globe. They, like their creator, seek a new peace and a permanent escape route from the cruelties of living. This group of “untouchables” includes Jake, Brett, Cohn, Bill, and Mike. Although each of them has earned his place in society in a different fashion, they find themselves captives of the same injustice of society and form a camaraderie that brings them security and companionship in a cruel world. They fully realize their estrangement from society and recognize others in the same situation. For example, Brett says of Count Mippipopolous, “He’s one of us, though. Oh quite. No doubt. One can always tell.”‘ Despite their fast-living, European lifestyle designed to numb their emotional and spiritual pain, the members of this branch of the lost generation continue to suffer. Jake says in a moment of painful reflection, “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.'” The demons of the night haunt the group, particularly Jake, because night is a time of quiet and solitude. Once the bars close and the restaurants shut down for the evening, no more distractions exist to prevent the onslaught of memories and painful thoughts. Jake says at a later time, ” There is no reason why because it is dark you should look at things differently from when it is light. The hell there isn’t.”‘ The unfortunate members of this lost generation are truly estranged from their mother countries. They feel as if society has led them astray, with no means of return, similar to a scene that Jake observes in Spain: “In the square a man, bent over, was playing on a reed-pipe, and a crowd of children were following him shouting, and pulling at his clothes. He came out of the square, the children following him, and piped them past the cafÈ and down a side street. We saw his blank pock marked face as he went by, piping, the children close behind him shouting and pulling at him.” This image of the pied piper leading the children blindly at his whim is analogous to the situation of Jake and his friends, who see themselves as victims led like sheep during the war by their homelands. They blindly follow orders and society and suddenly find themselves on the outskirts of a world that they once thought they knew. Now they are without a country and without a purpose. These expatriates are groping in the dark shadows of this world for some semblance of morals or values. Jake and his fellow outcasts are living in a world comparable to Plato’s allegory of the cave, where they are trapped, kept out of the light, and the only world they know is what they see reflected by the shadows. They have no success in the realm of emotion or spirituality. Even though they continuously thrust themselves into the fires of experience, they are still isolated from the world in which they long to be. Jake is the only religious character in the novel, but his spiritual attempts are futile; he calls himself a “rotten Catholic” and wishes for a time when he can actually feel religious. Bill has one brief spiritual moment when he says, ” We should not question. Our stay on earth is not for long. Let us rejoice and believe and give thanks.”‘ However, religion is not an integral part of his life or the lives of the other characters. Jake remains the one spiritual pillar of the group. The members of this lost generation seek the worlds of Paris and Spain to find a niche where they can exist happily and successfully. Hemingway, himself an expatriate, is a part of this unfortunate group. Jake’s world parallels Hemingway’s. He, like his creator, moves from place to place and moment to moment in search of release, though he realizes that “[y]ou can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” Hemingway and his characters live in a world where discrimination and neglect are normal standards. They are merely struggling to survive and stand out from the background that blurs in the vision of society. Jake has accepted his extraction from American society and is attempting to carve out a niche for himself in Paris. He is frightened by Bill’s revelation: ‘”You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You’re an expatriate, see? You hang around cafés.”‘ His acceptance of Europe as his new home increases gradually as the novel progresses, although he continues to yearn for a place in society. He declares that “[it is] always pleasant crossing bridges in Paris,” demonstrating that he is slowly evolving in his acceptance of his new life. He also begins to see positive aspects of his new land, where “it is so simple to make people happy.” Hemingway also calls Europe his new home, particularly Spain. Although they are “lost,” the members of Hemingway’s lost generation long for a group to which they can belong. They realize that society has cast them out, but Jake and his friends continue to fear complete ostracism from the world. They yearn to be a part of a society that has closed its doors on them. Bill pleads, ” Don’t you ever detach me from the herd, Mike”‘ in a moment of complete insecurity, demonstrating the fear that lingers in his mind of being severed from society with no lifeline. He and the others are wandering without knowing their destination. Fate has cut the ties that bind humans to one another and to society and has left them to form a new herd and discover their own means of survival. The idea of being “lost” is a demon that lurks in the shadows of both the novel and Hemingway’s mind. Hemingway expresses his fears of the consequences resulting from being an expatriate through the insight of his characters. When Bill says to Jake, “You’re only a newspaper man. An expatriated newspaper man. You ought to be ironical the minute you get out of bed. You ought to wake up with your mouth full of pity,” he is demonstrating the common contempt in society toward expatriates. He voices concerns of Hemingway when he follows by saying, “Nobody that ever left their own country ever wrote anything worth printing. Not even in the newspapers.” Hemingway and Jake Barnes, both expatriate writers, are essentially one entity. Hemingway’s concerns are Jake’s and vice versa. Hemingway’s dissatisfaction with society prompts him to create characters that share his difficulties, partially to laugh at the world, and partially to console himself. His literature makes certain that others in the world are aware of the dangers of society and the sorrows of the outcasts. He molds men and women in the likeness of himself, providing them a world in which to flounder and blindly grope through moral and social darkness to illustrate the cruel nature of the world and provide examples of the unfortunate results of discrimination and neglect. Like Jake, Brett, Cohn, Bill, Georgette, Harrison, Count Mippipopolous, and Mike, Hemingway is a forsaken member of thousands who have become the lost generation.

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