Jake Barnes of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ Essay
Jake Barnes of ‘The Sun Also Rises’
Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway is an American veteran of World War I who lives and works in Paris as a newsman. Jake Barnes is the typical Hemingway Code Hero in this novel, but he does fail to meet certain aspects of the code. First, he is not a man in the traditional sense of the word. Due to a wound in WWI, he is essentially sexless. The Hemingway code hero indulges in all aspects of the word pleasure, mainly those of alcohol and women. Second, he breaks the Hemingway code by violating the trust of another man, especially when he violates it for a woman.
He introduces Brett Ashley to Pedro Romero, the famous bullfighter, against the wishes of his friend and fellow bullfighting afficionado, Montoya. However, in many ways, Jake Barnes does meet the standards of a code hero. He handles his liquor well, and he loves hunting, fishing, and the outdoors. He has faced death, and is not afraid of it. Jake is also disillusioned with life after surviving WWI, like many young adults after the First World War.
Behind the traditional concept of the code hero lies the disillusionment of the ‘lost generation’ of younger people, resulting from WWI. The code hero has to create a new set of values and concepts, because the traditional ones embedded in Christianity had not saved man from catastrophe. The Code hero had to find a place, then, that was not dominated by these precepts. Many members of the lost generation found this refuge in Paris, as did Jake Barnes. The spiritual values of code heros were not Christian; they essentially believed that there was no afterlife after death, so life must be experienced to the fullest. If facing total oblivion after death, the response of the Code hero is to enjoy all kinds of physical pleasures: to drink excessively, to have frequent affairs, to eat fine food, to indulge himself in any and all available sensuous pleasures. A code hero may drink, but he may never lose control of himself. Jake, even when drunk, is lucid and in control.. A sloppy drunk shows a lack of discipline, an essential characteristic of all code heroes.
The Hemingway man enjoyed outdoor sports, such as hunting, fishing, bullfighting. Jake enjoys all of these. After declining Robert Cohn’s invitation to South America, he mentions big game hunting in Africa. While vacationing in Spain, he and his friend Bill Gorton relax and fish along the Irati River in Basque before attending the bullfighting festival in Pamplona. During their time in Basque, they live close to the earth, fishing and hiking through the hills. This “roughing it” concept is also a characteristic of the code hero.
But one of the most defining aspects of the code hero, and Jake, is how he deals with death and dying. He must avoid death at all costs, because it means the end of life, but must not fear it. The test of a Hemingway hero is how he performs under pressure, or in deadly situations. Jake enlisted in the army, was shipped overseas and injured accidentally. He wasn’t hurt during a romantic battle against a ruthless foe, but during an accident. Jake sees this as a flaw, and it is one to the Hemingway design. According to the code, men must face death in extraordinary situations and overcome it.
Jake is not entirely a man, thus not making him entirely a true code hero. He is sexless, therefore not meeting the classical definintion of what it means to be manly.. He must find other ways to define himself by using moral pose, and to behave honorably and well. He fails to do this during the novel, betraying the trust of his friend Montoya, who asked Jake to keep the bullfighter Pedro Romano away from alcohol, women, and Americans. In order to give Brett what he believes is the perfect surrogate to himself he introduces two and leaves, feeling the shame of his actions as Montoya watched him. The innkeeper avoided him for the rest of the festival, signifying that their friendship was over. This failure makes Jake human, and gives him a chance at redemption.
In conclusion, the classic Hemingway code hero is defined by his views of death and how he reacts when facing it, and how he lives his life in response to his conception of death and the afterlife. Jake fits the mold the Hemingway code hero because he is of the lost generation and lives the Hemingway lifestyle : expressing yourself in actions, not words, writing, enjoying the outdoors, living life richly, but he diverges in certain aspects of loyalty to male companions and in the fact that he is not truly a man.