Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway

So my quick and dirty review of The Sun Also Rises: Blah, blah blah, blah, great description of a bull fight, blah blah, blah, the end.
I read Old Man and The Sea in high school and don't remember anything about it. I added 3 Hemmingway novels to my FITG list because I felt I should try to read a few of them.
The story follows Jake and his friends while they vacation/live in Paris and go to bull fights in Spain. Honestly none of the characters caught me as interesting. All rich, somewhat unhappy folks. Maybe if I had more back story I might have been more interested. I got bored about 100 pages in. I kept at it since I heard Hemmingway starts slow and finishes strong. And I got to it around page 200, a beautiful description of a bullfight. I didn't need the 200 pages before it though.
I think this book went over my head. I missed the point.


moonrat said...

Oof. This is on my list, too--I read A FAREWELL TO ARMS a couple months ago, though, and really enjoyed it (in spite of the misogyny). Oh well--I'll let you know how it goes for me.

M. said...

"I think this book went over my head. I missed the point."

That seems to happen to a lot of people when they read Hemingway, actually. For those of you who haven't read the novel yet, be warned that there are plenty of spoilers from hereon out.

First of all, you have to remember that he's writing at least partly about the aftereffects of World War I. The expatriates in The Sun Also Rises are aimless, depressed, and drunk not because that's just the way they get their kicks, but because the war broke them all on some fundamental level. In fact, The Sun Also Rises is considered the iconic depiction of the WWI generation (otherwise known as the "lost generation"). If you're having trouble seeing them as anything more than "rich, somewhat unhappy folks," it's because you weren't thinking about why they're all so unhappy.

You'll notice that no one seems to talk about emotions in the novel, because again no one wants to deal with what they're feeling. Instead, they focus on things they can see and touch: alcohol, bullfighting, etc. Which isn't to say that we can't guess at their emotions -- Hemingway tried very hard in The Sun Also Rises to depict what his characters were feeling solely through their words and actions, mainly because he felt that stating what they were feeling outright (i.e., "so-and-so was sad/angry/etc.") was too easy.

Jake's impotence, which is hinted at but never confirmed outright, is a more physical manifestation of the damage WWI inflicted on everyone, but it still has the same effect as everyone's psychological wounds in that it isolates him from Brett's affections and makes impossible the relationship the two so obviously want with each other. Wanting to be in a relationship with someone you love is the most natural thing in the world, but they're all so damaged that even that small modicum of normalcy is denied them.

Speaking of brokenness, flip back through the book and look at how the other characters treat Robert Cohn. Yes, he's a Jew, but they don't ridicule him because they're all anti-semites. Rather, they ridicule him because he didn't serve in WWI. Ridicule becomes their way of expressing jealousy; they're jealous because he managed to avoid the psychological trauma they're all dealing with.

If I remember correctly, Hemingway once said that Cohn was the "hero" of the book. Make of that what you will.

I've always thought the title of the novel was interestingly hopeful, considering the overall bleakness of the story. Yes, life sucks for everyone throughout, but no matter how dark things get "The Sun Also Rises." Granted, it wasn't Hemingway's choice for the title, and outside of the U.S. the novel was published under its original title Fiesta, but I still like the effect of it.

Leigh Russell said...

I seem to have lost my way - looking for Emily Cross. Where has the purple hair gone?
Thank you for dropping by my blog, Emily. I'm really excited about the launch of my second book and promise to post about the traumas of prepublication (like having my photo in the book... !) and my surprising feelings about it all, very soon. I had a backlog of other posts to do first.

Leigh Russell said...

I find Hemmingway is like so many other authors, such as Steinbeck or Golding. On the face of it, the story telling seems quite simple, but there are depths and then more depths. These are authors you can read on many levels and I find I understand more - and, paradoxically, am more aware of how little I understand - as I reread these authors from a position of greater maturity (OK as I grow older.)

Anonymous said...


Briony said...

I've only ever read The Old Man and the Sea, which I didn't mind although I did find it more difficult to get through than I thought.

Hannah Stoneham said...

Lovely to discover your blog and read this latest post. My book group has The Sun Also Rises coming up nest and although I haven't opened it yet, it has arrived from Amazon and is looking all tempting!

thanks indeed for sharing your thoughts


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I love the comments here...very interesting and good knowledge shared by all.