The biography on Ernest Hemingway disclosed that Hemingway seemed to be putting up a masculine front, as a defense for his insecurity over a lack of masculinity. He was strong, handsome, a great outdoorsman, and could drink a lot, but unfortunately the cruel and condescending judgement from his father made Hemingway feel as if he was incapable of living up to the masculine example set forth for him. What stemmed from this harsh judgement, was Hemingway’s insecurity about masculinity, which he expressed in The Sun Also Rises, by creating men who were also continuously bothered by their lack of masculinity.
Robert Cohn, a rich Jewish man that graduated from Princeton University was by far the most insecure in his relationships. Cohn’s persistent failure with boxing, creating prosperous novels, and social relationships left him feeling inferior and insecure. Frances, Cohn’s long term girlfriend stated to Jake, “Oh, he told everyone that we were going to be married, and now he doesn’t want to do it. ” “What’s the matter? ” asked Barns. “He says he hasn’t lived enough” replied Frances (53, Hemingway).
Cohn’s feelings that he had not achieved all that he aspired to do in his life, seemed to stem from his insecurity of failure. Hemingway expressed Cohn’s insecurity about masculinity when he wrote, “I watched him (Cohn) walk back to the cafe holding his paper. I rather liked him and evidently she lead him quite a life” (15, Hemingway). Even though Cohn was likable at the start of the novel, he was stripped of he masculinity, because he was completely controlled by his girlfriend. Frances was over-bearing, jealous, and dictated Robert Cohn’s every thought and action.
During that time period men were supposed to be the controlling sex, but in this relationship Frances thrived on Cohn’s insecurity, lack of masculinity, and submissiveness. Another example of lacking masculinity in The Sun Also Rises is Jakes castration in the war, along with this injury came the loss of his manhood. Jake’s conflict in The Sun Also Rises, was that he was unable to entertain a relationship with the woman he loved, Brett, because he could not satisfy her sexual desires.
It was inferred that Jake’s inability to function sexually continually pressed on him throughout the novel, and the feeling of inadequacy only peaked when he realized that his desire to be with Brett was simply impossible due to his weakened masculinity. Hemingway characterized his own insecurity about masculinity in Robert Cohn and Jake Barnes, by making his own biggest downfall theirs as well. A prominent theme in both the book and Hemingway’s life following the publication of The Sun Also Rises, was multiple partners and a lack of commitment to one person.
The text, “The Death of Love in The Sun Also Rises” states, “One of the most persistent themes of the 1920’s was the death of love in World War I” (33, Mark Spilka). In both Hemingway’s life, and the novel, the survival of love seemed to be simply a fantasy, although throughout Hemingway’s life there certainly was no a lack of romantic relationships. In The Sun Also Rises, Lady Brett Ashley fell in love with multiple men, but that was nothing compared to the four wives and countless mistresses Hemingway had.
Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson fell apart when he fell “in love” with a woman named Pauline Pfeiffer, and threatened suicide if he could not be with her. Hemingway could not devote himself to a single woman following Hadley, because he eventually realized that she was his true love. Hemingway’s inability to maintain satisfied with just one woman throughout his life, was mirrored in Lady Brett Ashley. Jake states, “Couldn’t we live together, Brett? Couldn’t we just live together? “I don’t think so. I’d just tromper you with everybody. You couldn’t stand it” (62, Hemingway). Throughout the book, Brett entertained sexual relationships with a multitude of men, and Jake seemed to be the only man that could provide her with solely a romantic relationship, but even so she admits that she would be unsatisfied and cheat on him. Throughout the novel Brett seemed to desire complete independence, but even though she achieved it Brett continued to express to Jake how unhappy she remained.
Jake stated that, “she can’t go anywhere alone” (107, Hemingway), so I question if the motive behind her behavior was truly independence. The last line of the book also reflects Hemingway’s lack of ability to settle down with one woman; it states. “Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together. ” To which Jake answered, “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so” (251, Hemingway). This quote shows Brett finally realizing that she should have settled down with Jake all along, just like Hemingway regretted leaving his first wife, Hadley.
At this point in the novel Jake gave up on harboring the fairytale that he could ever be with Brett, so he didn’t even have the desire to imagine how they’re life could have been together. The article by Mark Spilka states, “boredom has become more plausible than love” (35). An example of this from the text is when Brett stated, “Your getting damned romantic. ” and Jake replied, “No, bored” (31, Hemingway). This quote really puts the lasting damage of World War I into perspective.
These men have suffered such immense physical and emotional pain that they’re incapable of harboring the feeling of love, rather they feel boredom. Another similarity between Hemingway and The Sun Also Rises is that they both had a deep appreciation for the Spanish Culture. Ernest Hemingway appreciated their way of life and eventually moved to Cuba, took sides in the Spanish Civil war, and often set the scene of his writings in Spanish countries. Hemingway was amazed by the art of bullfighting and spent many years watching the sport.
He reflected this passion in the book by characterizing Jake as lover of the sport as well. Both Jake and Hemingway took a trip to Pamplona each year to watch the bull fights. Romero, a distinguished bullfighter in the novel, was highly revered by Jake and his crew, because of his young age, flawless bullfighting technique, and because of what he represented to the characters. The biography stated that Hemingway “viewed matadors as heroes,” which is exactly why he portrayed Romero so magnificently.
The article states, “Romero, the stalwart bullfighter, personifies the good life which will survive their (Brett’s relationships with both Jake Barnes and Robert Cohn) failure” (33, Mark Spilka). The reason he decided to make a Spanish bullfighter represent the “good life,” is not only because he adored the sport and wanted to shed a positive light upon it, but also because of the symbolism behind the animals and the sport. Shmoop. com states, “The bulls symbolize passion, physicality, energy, and freedom. As a combination of these factors, in their interactions with the bull-fighters, they also come to symbolize the act of sex. “
Courtney from Study Moose
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