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The Sun Also Rises

Paper by S.Pieper

1. Hemingway's Biography

2. Historical Context Of The Novel

3. Synopsis

4. Style

5. Title, Theme and Structure

6. Paralells between Nick Carraway and Jake Barnes

7. Personal Remarks

1. Hemingway's Biography

In 1899 Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois. In 1961 he committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho. In 1917 he went to Italy to work for the Red Cross, where he was wounded. Later he joined the Italian infantry. About his experience in the war he wrote the novel A Farewell To Arms. He was war correspondent in the Near East, the Spanish Civil War and during the invasion of Normandy during World War II. He married 4 times and had three sons. He wrote 12 novels and numerous short stories. He lived in a number of different places; among them are Paris, Key West, Spain and Cuba, and he traveled throughout Europe and Africa. He received the Pulitzer Price for The Old Man And The Sea and the Nobel Price for his entire work.

Among the most important of his works are A Farewell To Arms, Death In The Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man And The Sea. In his novels he describes real events and real places, for example Spain, Paris, and Africa. Several of his novels deal with his war experiences. He also wrote the famous Nick Adams stories that are set in upper Michigan.

2. The Historical Context of the Novel

In 1921 Hemingway came to Paris. There he was not only to become part of the "lost" generation and of the "Jazz Age", but one of its speakers. This was the postwar generation, many members of which had been in the war like Hemingway himself. They did not believe in the old values any longer that had taken them into the war. The many Americans in Paris were renowned consumers of alcohol in the bars, since it was the time of prohibition in the US. The women of this generation wore short skirts and they were the first to smoke and drink in public. They were the first to vote and they were the first for whom divorce became a solution. Paris was the intellectual centre of the age in literature and the arts.

In 1925 Hemingway wrote the first version of "The Sun Also Rises" within 7 weeks mainly during a trip to Spain. He rewrote the whole novel while he was in Austria and France. It was finally published in 1926. The events the novel is based on took place in 1924 on a trip to the festival of Pamplona that Hemingway took with a group of other writers. All the characters in the novel resemble real people whom Hemingway knew. Some of the dialogues he wrote down from what he actually heard.

The novel, its theme, style and structure revolutionized the American literature of the time. It described and expressed the lifestyle of intellectuals like Hemingway and his friends who were revolting against tradition.

3. Synopsis

The story begins in Paris, where Jake Barnes, Robert Cohn and Lady Brett Ashley live. They belong to a group of writers, artists and journalists that leads a rather excessive life. They live in a world without real values. The only value that is left is money. One cannot tell exactly which year it is from the information that Hemingway gives in the book, because he maybe purposely confused some of the dates. So it must be either 1924 or 1925.

Jake Barnes is in his mid-20s and works as a journalist in Paris. One of his prime goals in life is to find how to live in the modern world. He is disillusioned and unsentimental. He is catholic but he does not believe in religion anymore. His life is only occasionally drawn away from the daily routine of work, heavy drinking and eating and watching people. In the war he was wounded. The reader is never told exactly what kind of wound it is. All we know is that it keeps him from having sexual relations. He is in love with Brett, but because of his wound all he can do, is watch her have affairs with his friends. He never shows his feelings, and he tries to be though.

Lady Brett Ashley is a beautiful woman who is married to some English Lord whom she wants to divorce. She is engaged to Mike Campbell and has numerous affairs at the same time. She has neither religion nor moral beliefs. Brett tries to act like the men she associates with. She likes to call herself "chap" and wears short hair.

Cohn is the son of rich, Jewish parents, who has been an outsider all his life. He often is the scapegoat for his friends. Cohn is a rather pathetic and often even ridiculous character. He falls in love with Brett. He is a romantic who still believes in true love and so he goes off to San Sebastian with Brett, who cannot be satisfied by Jake. He later pursues her even though she showed clearly that she does not want him. He believes in love and it takes him a long time to understand that Brett does not care.

Meanwhile Brett's fiancé Mike Campbell and Bill Gorton, a writer and an old friend of Jake's, arrive in Paris. Mike is a bankrupt Scot who is engaged to Brett. At most of his appearances in the novel he is terribly drunk. He is anti-semite and often when he is drunk he attacks Cohn one way or another. Like Mike, Bill drinks to much and he has a cynical wit that sometimes hurts people. He does not seem to believe in anything at all and he deals with life by mocking it. He is loyal to his friend Jake but arrogant and unkind to other people.

Jake and Bill have planned a trip to the famous bullfights of Pamplona. Jake goes there every year; he knows a hotel owner named Montoya and is regarded as an "aficionado" by Montoya; that is the reason why he is liked so well by Montoya. The whole group decides to go there. Before the festival Jake and Bill go to the mountains for a fishing trip. Nature has a calming influence on them. Here Bill proves that he is a real friend of Jake's who understands him and accepts him. The idyllic paradise ends when they head back to Pamplona to meet the others, who had been to San Sebastian. Since Brett is now surrounded by three men who are madly in love with her the situation becomes complicated. While Cohn follows Brett everywhere she goes, making a fool out of himself by displaying his love, Jake holds his feelings in and tries to appear tough. Brett however falls in love with Pedro Romero, a young bullfighter.

Romero is a 19 year old professional bullfighter passionately devoted to his art. He knows his art to well to care for showing off. Romero believes believes in his work with a passion that the others lack. Like Cohn he falls in love with Brett. Yet even in loving her, he never loses his dignity. He stands apart from the rest of the characters and represents the values the others have lost. Sacrificing his position as an insider with Montoya Jake arranges for Brett and Romero to get together. When somehow Cohn finds the two of them, he beats Romero black and blue. Romero however performs excellently on the last day of the festival. Cohn feels guilty, apologizes to Jake and leaves Pamplona.

After the festival everyone else leaves: Brett goes to Madrid with Romero; Mike goes to Saint Jean de Luz where he has credit at a bar. Bill returns to Paris and Jake decides to spend another week in San Sebastian. He tries to relax, when he suddenly receives a telegram from Brett. She is still in Madrid. Jake finds out that Romero wanted to marry her and she turned him down, for fear that she would corrupt him. Somehow she feels that she needs Jake now to help her come over her loneliness but nevertheless she would never fall in love with him.

4. Style

Hemingway tries to put down the things he sees and feels in the simplest possible way. He does not use metaphors, similes, adjectives and adverbs very often. He uses only simple nouns and verbs as well to keep the focus on the subject. Irony is one of the stylistic devices he regularly uses.

Another stylistic feature of his is that he says as little as possible about the subject. Sometimes his dialogues become so cryptic that it is hard to find out what he really means to say. Hemingway uses even simplest statements for drawing his characters. There are quite a few signs in the book; ordinary statements that tell us a lot about the people. The reader will only see one eighth of what there really is; he will have to guess the rest. Hemingways simple, lean style is therefore a challenge for the reader. Hemingway never copied anyone else; he developed his personal style with great discipline. He was influenced by writers like Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein and Henry James.

5. Title, Theme and Structure

The title "The Sun Also Rises" is taken from the bible. The first epitaph quotes Gertrude Stein: "You are all a lost generation!" The title itself is quoted from the second epitaph which is a bible quotation. It describes the circuits of nature; even if one generation is lost, there will always be a next generation. Nature repeats itself endlessly. The two epitaphs give us title and theme of the novel.

The novel is one of the first to deal with the life-style of this "lost generation". It is about a group of young American expatriates who came to live in Paris after the Armistice. The experiences they made in the war destroyed their traditional values and now they are trying to find a way to live in an unrecognizable world. The ones that did not die in the war walk around wounded: Jake with his wound, Brett with her lack of self-control and Mike with his compulsive drinking. The novel does not have one hero or one central character, even though one comes to thinking that Jake, the narrator, may be the hero or rather the anti-hero.

The novel does not have the classical structure of exposition, rising action, climax and falling action. It is divided into 3 distinct parts. Book I takes place in Paris. The major characters and their relationships are introduced. Book II describes their trip to Spain. Book III is more or less the epilog of the book. Some loose ends are tied up and we end up in another big city: Madrid. There are however quite a few unanswered questions at the end of the novel. What will happen to Brett and Mike? Was Romero corrupted? Where did Robert Cohn go?

6. Parallels between Nick Carraway and Jake Barnes

The Sun Also Rises was written shortly after the publication of the Great Gatsby. Hemingway did indeed like Fitzgerald's novel and so it is not surprising that we can to find some parallels not only in the theme of both novels but as well in the structure. Jake is the first person narrator. Like we have to listen to Nick in "The Great Gatsby", we have to listen to Jake's judgments. We have to look at the world through his eyes always remembering that he is biased like everyone else.

Both are minor characters who act as first person narrators. They tell us a story about the lives of others but essentially they both tell the reader about themselves. Both of them are fascinated by a woman they cannot have. Nick by Daisy, Jake by Brett. Both arrange for their woman to get together with another man: Gatsby and Pedro Romero. In the end both characters are left alone to clean up the mess the others left behind. Both Nick and Jake are different from the other characters. They stand out, because they are somewhat more "normal" and less "lost" than the others. Both of them seem to be the only ones who seriously work in order to make a living.

The same way money seems to be so all important to Gatsby, it appears to be the only thing Jake and his friends place value on. Money is one of the important issues of both books. Other values do not exist anymore. The others are a "rotten crowd" and belong to a "lost generation".

7. Personal Remarks

There are several reasons, why I did enjoy reading the novel very much. For one thing Hemingway's writing style is very smooth and so the novel was very comfortable to read. The time Hemingway writes about - the Twenties - interests me personally very much. Yet I prefer The Sun Also Rises to The Great Gatsby even though both books are set during this time.

Hemingway writes about places I know and I like very much. It is always interesting to find out what other people think about places that one has seen. The realistic way he describes Paris, Spain and the bullfights is simply outstanding. One wants to be right there with Jake and the others.

Hemingway tells us about a way of life that may seem fascinating especially to young people. Everything seems to be so easygoing, but the remarkable fact is that this impression is altogether superficial. Under the surface the characters of the novel do have problems that surpass those most of us have. Yet Hemingway manages somehow to make the reader care for these people who have so many bad qualities.

Last but not least there is the enticing plot of the novel. The complicated network of relationships among the characters intrigues the reader and one is more than curious for the outcome. Yet on the other hand Hemingway spares us everything that is not absolutely necessary to the plot. Maybe it is not easy to understand Hemingway's message but that is what made me think about the novel.

Author: S|S