The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway Essay

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The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

“The Sun Also Rises” was published in 1926 and immediately it became a bestseller and made its author famous. It is considered among Hemingway’s best novel. This novel has its origin in Hemingway’s personal life. “A Farewell To Arms” depicts the experience of an ambulance driver in the First World War whereas this novel is the story of Jake Barnes; he has been injured in the war and is now living in Paris. This novel is much more than the experience of a single individual because it is a powerful commentary on the life American expatriates living in Paris in the twenties. Djos has a different view about the novel and he (1995) is of the view that;

THE SUN ALSO RISES is a remarkable portrait of the pathology of the disease of alcoholism. As a description of the alcoholic mentality, it has none of the high drama and tragic despair of works like Days of Wine and Roses or Under the Volcano, but this makes the story all the more realistic and compelling. Indeed, like the disease of alcoholism itself, the plot may be quite deceptive because it presents no images of addictive self-destruction on a grandiose scale. (Djos, 1995)

Nick Adams is the prototype of Jake Barnes. Jake has been wounded in the genitals and he has become emasculated as a result of this injury. The middle class ways, which he had inherited from his parents, are no longer valid and he is alienated from the society. His life in Paris consists of a little work –he is journalist- and endless rounds of merry making, idle-gossiping and a hopeless sense of the futility of human existence. He moves among an international group of expatriates and all of who have been  “blown out of the paths of ordinary life by the war.” Gertrude stein has called them “lost generation” and in the novel “ The Sun Also Rises” Hemingway has immortalized them.

A few word about Hemingway’s style in this novel. In this work Hemingway’s style is fresh and sparkling. He continued the practice of getting away from the literariness of the English style. He used short sentences that are conspicuous for the absence of adjectives and adverbs and what a critic has called ‘metaphorical fat’. The attention of the reader is focused on the main event all the time and the side alleys do not distract the reader’s attention.

This novel is marvelously constructed and engineered. The novel is divided into three parts on the pattern of classical tragedy. The first part tells the dissolute life of the expatriates and the globetrotters, the second part discusses the problems, complexities and the expatriates’ experiences in Burguete and Pamplona and the third part throws light on the message of the book which may be described in these words, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity”. By using the first person narration i.e. by telling the story from jack’s point of view Hemingway involves the readers directly in the life and experiences of a character.

Now let us discuss the title of the novel “The Sun Also Rises”, its multidimensional and complex theme and the characters in detail. Hemingway is a very conscientious artist and most of his titles are chosen with the greatest care. “ The sun also rises” comes from a passage from Ecclesiastes, the biblical preacher. “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever..The sun also ariseth and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose …all the rivers run into the sea: yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again”.

The words in the sub-title ‘Une generation Perdue’ came from Gertrude Stein who had addressed them to a mechanic in a garage where she had gone to get her car repaired. Hemingway used it in the title page of ‘the Sun also Rises’ so as to counter it with what he thought of her pronouncement. In his opinion Gertrude Stein was a complainant but her complain, he thought, “was bullshit,” She had declared the post-war generation, especially the expatriates, as a lost generation but Hemingway did not wish to present a band of “pot-smoking nihilists wandering around looking for Mommy to lead them out of the dada wilderness”. Hemingway believe that the people abiding this novel are pretty decent people who had been disillusioned and lost the path on which their forefathers were treading previously.

In this novel Hemingway discusses death of pre-war values and of ‘love’. How? Let’s discuss it in detail. The nineteenth century came to an end with the beginning of the First World War. The post-war writers have on the one hand expressed their longing for a world that had come to an end or depicted the effect of violence on the lives of the post-war generation s. T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway are conspicuous in the writings of the twenties for they have highlighted the predicament of the modern man. Among the most persistent themes of the twenties is the death of love as a consequence of the First World War. “The Waste Land’ by T. S. Eliot celebrates the destruction of these values in detail.

Hemingway in “ the Sun Also Rises” has written his own version of the Waste Land. His protagonists are consciously shaped as allegorical figures. Jack Barnes is a casualty of the war physically as well as psychologically. Unlike Clifford Chatterley, he has not developed distaste for the flesh. He remembers at Pamplona, “it was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening “. In other words there is an implication that it is a predetermined universe and one is important to prevent anything from happening. Jack’s wound is a symbol for this impotence; he.

Therefore, cannot consummate his love. Jack wanted to learn the way of living in this world but the way he succeeded in discovering is the one that leads to hell as well. It is a rotten life that Jack lives and there does not seem to be any hope of salvation.  He cannot sleep at night because of his thoughts of Brett and the injury that he has received in the war. He feels disturbed all the time and when he returns to his flat he seems to suffer from a grudge against fate. His moral sense has suffered greatly when he played the role of Brett’s pimp and then went afterwards to rescue her after she has had her fling.

Mike Campbell who is also a casualty of the war is equally impotent. He is a bankrupt. His drunkenness is a public scandal. One cannot understand what sort of life he is going to lead with a woman like Brett. Brett’s lack of fidelity make him go to pieces and he takes it out in either drinks or with Robert Cohn who unfortunately becomes a scapegoat. He has no manhood left in him because unlike Robert Cohen he does not challenge the bullfighter, Pedro Romero.

He is pathetic in his reaction when he learns that Brett has gone off with the bullfighter. He is engaged to Brett but is helpless to prevent her from having affairs with men. He seeks consolation in the fact that Brett shows him the letters that she receives from her lovers. He makes a pathetic figure at Pamplona when he learns that Brett has gone off with the bullfighter. He seems to delight in Cohn’s discomfiture. He advises Jack, “….Get tight. Get over your damn depression.” he knows it was a bad thing to do and Brett should not have done it; still he cannot do a thing about it.

Brett is a confirmed nymphomaniac and she admits that her nerves are rotten. “She is a rotten love”. As Jake says she seems to collect loves as people collect stamps. She feels no pricks of conscience when she attacks a nineteen-year-old lad.  She feels that she cannot help it. “ I can’t help it. I’ve never been able to help anything.” She is also scared that Pedro would make woman of her. She preferred Mike because according to her Mike is of her sort. She has never been comfortable with god nor can she pray in a church.

She tries to sink her sorrow in drink time and again. She knows that she is a bitch and still she continues being a bitch. Hers is the feminine version of male impotence. Perhaps she represents the newly emancipated woman. The sanctity of love and marriage is nowhere to be seen in the novel. Brett, the glimpse of modern woman, passes on from Jack to Robert Cohn to Pedro Romero and back to Jack again in the end of the novel. She drinks, indulges in unprincipled sex, roam about the globe aimlessly. She is a perfect example of rootless individual.

 Robert Cohn is a romantic young man and is still entangled in the life and culture of nineteenth century. He does not understand the code of lost generation. His love for Brett is romantic and chivalric. Because of his inability to comprehend that Brett is a nymphomaniac he comes to a sad end. He also does not understand the code of the bullfighters against whom he is pitched in the novel and therefore he becomes a laughing stock.  The romantic lover Cohn is like the last chivalric hero belonging to an age that has come to an end. The absurdity of his behavior represent that romantic love is dead and the old chivalric code is no longer valid.

With the decline of Cohn’s code one would normally expect that a new code would emerge but it does not among the expatriates, at least.  If any code is to be found it is in the conduct and performance of Pedro Romero, but he is also a failure in love. His example too proves that genuine conjugal love or even romantic love has come to an end.

Pedro Romero is the shining star in this otherwise degenerated band of young men and women. He is a young nineteen –year old bullfighter who is being hailed as a messiah and who has come to save bull fighting from decadence. He faces danger and makes a living out of it. By his artistry and skill he dominates the bull so perfectly that the bull looks harmless. In Pedro’s performance, during the fights with the bulls, there is an assertion of manhood that the expatriates lack badly. In Pedro Romero, Hemingway seems to present the new sort of hero and a new sort of heroism.

Pedro Romero may also be called as Hemingway’s code hero. Someone like the hero, Santiago, of Hemingway’s other novel “ The Old Man and the Sea”. Code hero is the man who teaches others how to live in the world. He is an experienced and man. Who is master of his profession and know how to beat others in the field. He also knows ‘endurance’, practice it himself and makes other follow it through his example. He preaches the moral ‘ grace under pressure’. Pedro Romero also demonstrates and preaches the same lesson.

He was hit by a number of times by a strong boxer but after every punch he stand upon his feet and face the man boldly. He did not let the injuries hinder his performance in the ring. He is a master of his field and thus performs greatly there. He demonstrates that one need not surrender to the determinism of the world because man can assert his manhood in his chosen walk of life and be dignified even in the face of death. He has shown that by facing death practically everyday of his life, he has learnt how to live to the full. The good things of life are there to be enjoyed but they are sideshows and one can realize one’s identity in work and in upholding one’s values.

In the ritual of the bull ring and the performance of the two matadors only can Jake find a new code of behavior. It is here that he learns that pain does not matter to a man, a sentiment verbalized by Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. The public may be indifferent or ignorant or downright critical of one’s actions that it does not matter because only one’s conscience can justify or condemn an individual for his actions. This is the code that Hemingway has enunciated and his later heroes will follow. The code also implies that only in the face of death can one realize oneself and know one’ potentialities.

At the end of the novel nothing seems to have changed except that Jake Barnes has realized the limitations of his existence. Brett is as unsatisfied and disturbed as before. It can also be stated that there is nothing different and special that happens in this novel. It is a hopeless situation because nothing leads any where in the book and from this situation the author draws the title of this novel, The Sun Also Rises, “only to hasten to the place where it arose”. The course of life will kept on flowing according to the old pattern. The protagonists of this noel may not be the Jake, Robert Cohn or Pedro Romero but the earth. For it will live and endure forever. The sun shall continue to rise without caring for the problems and miseries happening in the world. Earth will keep on moving around the sun and the problems of man are no comparison to this gigantic movement of earth.

            The moral of the story is that life is futile and human actions however heroic or disgraceful do not really matter. Since in the scheme of things human action and values have no significant placeman faces the insuperable difficulty: how to guide one’s life. It is not a lesson in nihilism because the book forces the reader to evolve, or at least make an effort to evolve, a hierarchy of values that must be based on one’s experiences.  In “ Death in the Afternoon” Hemingway writes, “So far, about morals, I know only that what is moralist what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after…”. These expatriates seem to exemplify this particular code.

Though “The Sun Also Rises” is Hemingway’s first novel but it is a great work of art. Almost all the themes that are discussed in his later works are present in this novel, particularly the themes related with violence and war, we also find here the introduction of all the characters that he created later and a beautiful style and superb craftsmanship. This novel, like A Farewell to Arms is a best-constructed novel. This novel depicts in a masterly way the spirit of twenties and the spiritual tensions and frustrations of man beautifully.

Works Cited

Baker, Sheridan   Ernest Hemingway: an introduction and interpretation. New York: Holt,1967.

Beach, Joseph Warren.   American fiction,   1920-1940. New York:  Russell 1940.

Djos, Matts. Alcoholism in Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’: A Wine and Roses

            Perspective on the Lost Generation. The Hemingway Review. Vol. 14. 1995

Frohock, Wilber Merrill. The novel of violence in America.   Second ed.   London: a barker,

            1959.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Reconsideration.  University p Park :  Pennsylvania  Stat University Press

            , 1966.

Hemingway, Ernest. The sun also rises. New York; Scribner, 1926.

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