In the book The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, the three main characters deal with some form of alienation. The characters who are alienated would be Jake, Brett, and Robert and each of them are dealing with a different type. Jake would be going through powerlessness where he doesn’t have any control over his problem as well as cultural estrangement. Brett is also dealing with powerlessness but also socially isolated. Robert is battling social isolation, normlessness and meaninglessness. This novel is one where the most important characters are set apart from each other due to problems that they encounter.
Jake Barnes is not only one of the most important characters of the book but also the one who tell the story and tell the audience what is happening from his point of view. The fact that he is impotent is the root of his alienation.
He is unable to have a relationship with women but more specifically, Brett. The only women he truly loves will not come into a relationship with him because he will not be able to satisfy her sexual needs.
Jake is also dealing with cultural estrangement which means he is not one with his generation. Being an expatriate of World War I, Jake is part of what Hemingway calls the “lost generation”. His experiences have led to a demise of his confidence in his masculinity and love. He is alienated from ever being physically involved with a women.
Likewise, Brett is alienated from satisfying her love. Brett is a promiscuous woman and has to have her sexual desires fulfilled. The love of her life, Jake is impotent and incapable of giving her what she wants. Even if she were to try to pursue a relationship with him, it would not work because he would not be able to please her and she would cheat on him in order to try and feel the same love she has for him with another man. She would not be able to truly satisfy her love mainly because of the way she is. She is an independent person and isn’t able to stay in a relationship with one person for a long time. Jake is the only one who she really wants to be with but since he is incapable of having sex, she won’t commit to a relationship with him.
Lastly, Robert Cohn has never been one to fit in with anyone. He is socially isolated in that no one really wants to talk to him or get to know him. “That moron” (Hemingway 50) is how Harvey Stone chooses to acknowledge Robert. He is constantly harassed by Mike in their trip to Spain and is never really invited anywhere, he just comes. He simply isn’t interesting in a way that people would like associate with him.
His issue with normlessness is that he is just bland. There nothing anyone wants to find out about him even though he is a nice guy and is friendly. When it comes to the matter of meaningless, Robert Cohn also is dealing with this issue. His life has no meaning or purpose to it. He doesn’t seem to know what he want in life or doesn’t seem to have any concrete goals or achievements that he would like to meet. In essence, there is no more than what meets the eye with Robert Cohn.
The story of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway shows members of a lost generation living out the remainders of their lives and the problems they face that get in the way of them living as if they were about to die. The three main characters of this novel, Jake, Brett, and Robert all are dealing with some sort of alienation. Jake has problems with powerlessness in addition to cultural estrangement. Similarly, Brett deals with powerlessness and socially isolated. Lastly, Robert Cohn battles meaninglessness, normlessness, and social isolation. All these characters are alienated due to problems with themselves, others, or things that they have no control over. Alienation seems to be a common issue amongst these three main characters.