I finished The Sun Also Rises today and I have more to say about this book (See my other The Sun Also Rises article here). The ending is haunting and it really made me think about what the themes of The Sun Also Rises are. Hemingway had a lot to say and I want to explore a few of the themes I noticed in my latest reading.
Here are the themes of The Sun Also Rises.
The Lost Generation
The first lines of the book are a quote from the great Gertrude Stein: “You are all a lost generation.” Hemingway was a member of this lost generation and his characters in The Sun Also Rises are all lost. They all float through life aimlessly. Letting their passions and desires take them from country to country and cafe to cafe.
These people lived and fought through World War 1. No war had affected the world as this war did. These were also the years after the Spanish Flu. It left the young adults of this generation wanting peace and freedom. It set the stage for the roaring twenties, there was finally peace and economic development. Consumerism and materialism became the norm.
The characters in The Sun Also Rises appear to be having fun on the surface in the book. It seems like they are living great lives. They are young and living in one of the world’s greatest cities. They party and drink and seem to have only frivolous cares.
This may be best described as them appearing to have freedom. Freedom to do whatever they wanted whenever they want. But this is not the case. By the end of the novel, we know they don’t actually have freedom.
Paris in the 1920s
The majority of this generation may be “lost,” but another major theme of the book was to showcase Paris and the artists who lived there. Paris in the 1920s was a magnet for creatives. Along with Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, here are a few of the artists you would find in France during this time:
- Pablo Picasso
- Coco Chanel
- James Joyce
- F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
- Igor Stravinsky, and many more.
Hemingway fills The Sun Also Rises with great geographic detail. We know the names of the cafes, clubs, roads, and hotels these characters travel through. This was no accident. Hemingway wanted to showcase these Paris landmarks. You feel like you are actually walking the streets down to Café Le Select as you read. No American writer captured Paris in the 1920s like Hemingway.
This one was interesting. In the movie Midnight in Paris, Hemingway is portrayed as very manly. We know he was an adventurer in real life. He fought the bulls, went deep sea fishing, and was an avid hunter.
Jake Barnes, the protagonist, was injured in the war. He is left impotent, and it is implied that he physically might not be as manly as he used to be. Throughout the book, he repeatedly pursues “manly” activities. He is obsessed with bullfighting and loves fishing. Of all the characters, he is one of the few who actually loves the sport of bullfighting. He knows it and studies it. Yet, the girl he loves, Brett, easily falls for the more “manly” men. She is first involved with a boxer and then an actual matador, leaving Jake behind.
This might play into the lost generation theme. Jake has physically lost something which has many implications in the novel.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway