Literary Elements Used in Ernest Hemingway’s Novel The Sun Also Rises

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

Ernest Hemingway incorporated many elements of fiction and literary techniques to effectively develop meaning in the modernist novel The Sun Also Rises. Symbolism, setting, writing style, tone and his choice of the title are some of the major elements that enhanced the significance of the play.

To begin, there are many significant aspects of symbolism throughout the novel. Bullfighting, for example, is a critical symbol that represents passion, freedom, energy as well as sex. All the bullfights slightly signify the act of sex in that the fights involve manipulation and penetration by the “banderillas” as well as seduction. Bullfighting also has a significant relation to all the characters. In terms of Romero, as a bullfighter, it shows his passionate love as well as sex. Although the gore of bullfighting disturbed Robert, it did not affect Brett. She was, therefore, committed to be with Romero after watching his bullfighting. Jake’s relation to bullfighting is seen more as indirect sex, since he cannot physically have sex from the war. Jake is an aficionado so he begins to become passionate about bullfighting, as it allows him to confidently explain the concept to his lover, Brett. Lastly, Montoya is also connected to the bullfights due to the fact he sees them as a form of art rather than torture that surpasses love or physical beauty.

Overall, the bullfights correspond to each of the characters as well as events throughout the novel. Another significant symbol in The Sun Also Rises is water, which symbolizes purification. For example, on the fishing trip Jake and Bill went on, water soothed Jake’s issues when continuously drinking it while fishing. Most of the characters in the novel are alcoholics, as it is a method to escape their drawbacks and reality of purposelessness and lack of love. Hemingway portrays drunkenness as an outlet to avoid their personal issues rather than actually confronting them. Therefore, since there is a lot of alcohol involved with the characters, the water created a sort of relief and renewal that is contrasting with the alcoholic perspective of the novel. Brett also had a relation to this symbol of water in that she is always going to bathe herself. This can symbolize her want for purification rather than scandalous actions that she is usually associated with.

In addition to symbolism, Hemingway places the novel in unique settings where all the significant events take place. After World War I, Paris was a hub for authors from England or America. Therefore, Hemingway forms a plot around his own life by creating Jake as a character who is also a writer that moves to Paris with his friends and going to various clubs and cafes. The environment in Paris is portrayed as a thrilling, exciting place that can also be uneasy and exhausting, which is shown when Jake’s shelter was described as a newspaper office. The next three locations in the novel were in Spain. Burguete was where Jake and Bill go for their fishing trip. This city is specifically important due to the unique landscape and scenery, which Hemingway portrayed as pure and country, since other characters were not present during this trip. The second city was Pamplona, which was known for the bullfights. There was a significant shift in setting from countryside to fiesta. This parallels with Mike falling into bankruptcy since it was a sudden transition in his life. The fiesta is filled with alcohol and chaos, which highlights the contrast from a pure, natural scenery to a horrendous setting. Finally it is Madrid, which is the urban setting that Jake has come back to. Hemingway portrays him as emotionless in this city, since he feels guilty about Brett and Romero’s affair. Hemingway’s incorporation of this transition back to an urban setting is very significant, as it exemplifies the reason for Jake’s dreariness is his far distance from natural scenery.

Hemingway has a unique writing style that created meaning throughout the novel. Rather than forming long, complex sentences, he uses short, simple sentences that get straight to the point. His style is very terse with realistic dialogue that moves quickly between characters, aiding him in effectively getting his message across. This form a writing style allows the reader to genuinely feel each event in the novel as it occurs rather than prolonging the conversations causing impractical reading. In addition to his writing style, the tone throughout the novel is efficiently portrayed to develop meaning.

There is a contrast between cynical yet playful and comical in terms of the dialogue between characters. During the fiesta days, there seems to be increased pessimism, as relationships start to crumble and fall apart. Moreover, Hemingway created a unique title for his novel, as it comes from a verse in the Bible itself. It refers to the idea that humans are a small, short-lived portion of this big world. The earth will always persist in cycles and the sun will always rise and set even after humans are all gone. The title basically emphasizes Hemingway’s optimistic thought of this continuous cycle of life and death in human lives. He was part of a group of writers known as the “Lost Generation”, which makes the title have a perspective of despair, yet also hope in that the sun will rise the next day. Yet, the novel did not end with much hope, as Brett says to Jake, “…we could have had such a damned good time together.” Jake then responds with “Yes. Isn’t it pretty to think so?” This final dialogue highlights Hemingway’s hopelessness for what may have been the future, yet the continuous rise of the sun provides a sliver of hope for what is going to come.

Overall, throughout the novel The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway combines multiple literary elements, such as symbolism, setting, writing style, tone and a unique title, to develop meaning. These devices effectively enhance the work, creating a unique piece of literature that will continue to influence readers in future years to come


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