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The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Updated on January 11, 2017

On the face of it, the sun also rises seems like a recorded account of few alcoholic friends who spent their days loitering around one cafe of Paris to another. They drink whiskey, gin, cognac, champagne, wine, and what else is there. Once the background is known, the reader comes to know that he is reading a great novel.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in 1899 in a Chicago suburb. When he was only 19, he volunteered to work as an ambulance driver in the first world war where he was twice badly wounded. He returned to America in 1921 and married Hadley Richardson – the first of his four wives. He was assigned the job of foreign correspondent in the Toronto Star, and the couple settled in Paris.

Hemingway is considered a literary genius who started a new style of novel writing. He loved the world-eventhough his novels were a tad tragic. A farewell to Arms was deeply tragic a novel. Nonetheless he loved the world around him and lived his life to the fullest. He loved going on adventurous expedition; he was a connoisseur of liquor and enjoyed food. It imparts a pang of irony to know this Hemingway committed suicide in 1961

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Paris was the adobe of modern artists and writers from all around the world. Hemingway became friends with expatriate American writers like Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. This novel, The sun also rises, is based on his experience of Paris days.

The sun also rises was written in 1926. It was based on his experience in Paris and his trip to the festival of San Fermin in the Spanish city of Pamplona to watch bull-fighting. In a sense, the novel reads like a travelogue with Spanish folk sports at its center; the travelers converging at the arenas.

The characters in the novel represent the lost generation: the generation that came of age during the first world war. This war upended the idea of societies working on firm rules and solid ideologies. The post war youth embraced a life style that reflected the frailty of societies. Ernest Hemingway fought in the war and it left an indelible impact on his mind. Like his counterparts, the war had changed his philosophy and the idea about the world. Many Americans, who were involved in the war, returned to Europe and filled Europe with the lost generation. The phrase was coined by Gertrude Stein and was made popular by Ernest Hemingway through this novel.

Contrary to the general idea of the world and the prevalent philosophies that drove it, the lost generation accepted an insouciant, hedonistic attitude towards life. Beneath this monotonous congregation in cafes was this simmering anxiety emerging out of passing of time worthlessly, and subsequently worthlessness of life itself.

The narrator is Jake Barnes who had served in the first world war during which an injury rendered him sexually impotent. Jake is living in Paris where Robert Cohn—a rich American jew—is coming to join him. Jake runs into Lady Brett Ashley at a café; a gorgeous divorced socialite woman who nursed Jake during the war and fell in love with Jake. Jake and Brett still loved each other but Brett had no intention to be committed to Jake and devoid herself of sex. Jake understood Brett’s quandary and presented himself to her as a good friend. When Cohn met Brett, he was smitten by this “damn good-looking woman” with sensuous curves. Later Jake tells Cohn that Brett is going to marry a Scottish veteran named Mike Campbell. Brett arrives at Jake’s place at night with a rich Greek count named Mippipopolous. Brett sends the count out for champagne and tells Jake that she is going to San Sebastian in Spain in a day or two. Another man—Bill Gorton, an American and a friend to Jake—arrives in Paris. Jake and Bill plan to attend the fiesta at Pamplona after staying for a while en route for fishing. Cohn promises Jake to meet at Pamplona.

All the friends meet at Pamplona. Cohn is exhilarated to find that Brett has also arrived in Pamplona from San Sebastian. The fiesta begins after a few days. People gathered in groups are reveling and so does Jake’s group. Over-intoxicated men and women are singing and dancing on folk tunes. Debauchery has polluted the minds of men and women who are making love in hotel rooms. On the first day of bullfighting, a bullfighter named Pedro Romero steals the show. He is nineteen and very handsome. Brett gets infatuated with Romero and wins his love. Once when Cohn finds Romero making love to Brett he loses his control over his temper and gets involved in a brawl with Romero.

Hemingway himself was a big fan of Bullfighting. The scenes involving bullfighting in the novel are so vividly described in detail that the reader feels he is among the crowd in the stands watching the matador, wearing gaudy and garish tight dress, waving the flag and the bull raging at him.

Except the bullfighting scenes, the novel is written in the typical Hemingway style – describing less and using long dialogues. Initially—as written above—the novel sounds monotonous and the scenes taking the story to nowhere. However, the latter part of the story is full of adventure and merry making, and once it draws the reader into the story, it does not let him escape; it is so interesting and exciting.

The novel expounds how adverse social conflicts such as war can have a deep-seated effect on the people as a whole. The impotency of the protagonist Jake Barnes is symbolic to the change in the idea of masculinity during the first world war. The war was fought in sludgy, dirty trenches in disgusting circumstances – bullet vs bullet. There was no gallantry of the ancient times when the soldier, sitting on his stallion charging at his enemy with his sword brandishing in his hand. Millions died in the first world war in a spiritless, unadventurous manner in gloomy circumstances. The novel effectively describes the wretchedness of those times.

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    • Parimalpolymath profile image
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      Prabhat Parimal 8 months ago from India

      Thank You lions44

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 8 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Great review. Interesting to hear a take on the novel from someone who is not American. Keep up the good work. Sharing everywhere.