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With a simple reading of the novel, Ernest Hemingway seemingly praises unemployed and irresponsible characters. Debauchery is normal and accepted. Everyone is a drunk and a sex addict. However, one shouldn’t look at The Sun Also Rises with the complacent, limited view of a late twentieth century person, but as a member of the "Lost Generation."

World War I was the most horrific and devastating war ever up to the time of the novel. Instead of the gallant and fantastic images of war depicted in traditional literature, the "Great War" signaled a complete change in the view of humanity. It wasn’t a war fought on principle, but on alliances. Armies would remain stagnant for weeks as they blindly fired at an unseeable enemy kilometers away. "Trench warfare" premiered and wiped out the optimistic images of valiant troops heroically charging the enemy on the battlefield (the American Civil War was just under fifty years before). Everything that the soldiers had learned about the world and humanity proved to be lies and fabrication. Even after the war, the world forgot the returning soldiers and tried to act as if the world continued as it always had. Turned off by humanity, this "Lost Generation" tried to find superficial pleasures to replace the previous methods of spiritual fulfillment.

Ernest Hemingway, a World War I veteran himself, beautifully and skillfully captures the difficulties of his generation. In The Sun Also Rises, he introduces a group of literary "friends"--all American and British expatriates living in Paris in the 1920s. The group traverses the city, visiting bars, dancing, and wooing the opposite sex. The lead character, Jacob Barnes, tells the story through the first person. In various interludes, we learn Jacob has affection for Lady Brett, an example of the Twenty’s "flapper" image that the media loved to exploit. However, every other man in the group also has fantasies of a relationship with Brett. Eager to fit her flapper role, Brett changes relationships quicker than she changes clothes. She is a "new woman" of her times--liberated from traditional conventions and representing a more liberal view of sexuality. In a general view, all the characters in this group reject pre-war notions and have desires for the superficial.

Hemingway’s terse and simple writing portrays their conduct very succinctly. His literary tales are so distinctive that critics have come to recognize it as the "Hemingway Style." Adjectives are rare in describing the group’s dialogues with one another. A simple nod of the head can tell the emotions of one of the characters. Hemingway contrasted starkly with the florid, overdone prose of his contemporaries. The lives of Jacob (Jake) Barnes, Lady Brett, and the others simply would not have fit conventional prose. However, some people take this to mean that the characters themselves were also simple, shallow, and unemotional humans. Nothing could be further from the truth--the Lost Generation’s members were protective, but also very complex.

The characters always find ways to talk around the problem. Of course these people have complicated emotions, but how can one put their thoughts into words? Hemingway’s writing fits perfectly in these situations. One of the characters will try to muster up the courage to say what he feels, but then become distracted and ask for another drink, or go for a walk, or leave the thought for another day. This is when some readers find the book idiotic and pointless. A conversation will go on for pages, but no obvious forward plot movement appears. But the fascination in these conversations comes from the psychology in the characters.

Jake is an "anti-protagonist." Literary analysts have attached a label to the lead male characters that always appear in Hemingway’s prose: the "code hero." The characters try to act macho, but underneath they are emotional wrecks. They drink their lives away while continually fretting about death and appearing effeminate. Jake possesses all these traits, and in addition is physically impotent from a wound he received in the war. Impotence has much significance in the literary arts, even in Hemingway’s other writings. In his short story "Hills Like White Elephants," the consequences of human fertility (deciding to have abortions) contrast with the beauty and natural fertility of the Spanish countryside. Jake’s impotence signifies emptiness and a lack of masculinity. Jake is not a lovable protagonist, but he is honest and--most of all--human.

How does the bull fight fit into all of this? Up until Pamplona, the story follows a monotonous pattern: eat, drink, date, drink, work, eat, drink . . . . The bull fight introduces a substantial change in the pace of the novel. In earlier years, Jake visited Pamplona numerous times to witness the bull fights and became a true "aficion"--or lover of the sport. Disenchanted with the world, Jake tries desperately to find "pure" satisfaction. Jake had just fought in the Great War and now had a disturbed view of the world. Therefore, he looked to the past. Western civilization has long glorified the Roman Empire. Simply look at Gladiator--a motion picture released in the spring of 2000--and we see that society still romanticizes warriors and their strength and glory. Such was the case with Jake Barnes. He longed for the world of tragedy and triumph that the war lacked. Barbaric as bull fighting is, it still pits man and beast against each other and the victor claims all honor. In the late twentieth century, bull fighting is merely a part of the Spanish culture--something to respect and honor. But for the Lost Generation, it embodied all that could fill their internal void. Only by placing oneself in the immediate post-World War I world can one understand the importance of bull fighting to the novel.

Dividing history into epochs by generation began once the Great War concluded. Since then we’ve had the World War II generation, Baby Boomers, and Generation X. All too frequently, modern day readers of literature try to relate everything ever written to our times. This is a mistake and a bad habit. One has to assume the position of a person in the Lost Generation. Hemingway created a masterpiece attempting to be as universal as possible, but modern day readers try to reject it with petty nitpicking. The Sun Also Rises succeeds in telling what war does to humanity.

also titled:To Bitch or not to Bitch:

In 1926, Ernest Hemingway unleashed The Sun Also Rises, a controversial novel about a “burned out, hollow and smashed” group of expatriates who travel from Paris to the bull fights in Pamplona. Some of them sought to “truly live” while others simply wanted to escape from their lives and pasts. For the most part, they lack religion in any practical sense: it “never worked very well” (249). However, they do have a simple system for moral judgment: to live in relative peace with one’s neighbor, to not cause a fuss, to be full of “irony and pity” (118), to mind one’s own business. As Bret loved putting it: to not be a “bitch”. Hemingway illustrates the workability of this concept by setting up Bill and Jake as non-bitches, while Brett and Robert are.

It is first important to explore the moral grounds of this standard. What exactly constitutes a “bitch”? The American Heritage Dictionary defines “Bitch” as “A woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing” and, in verb form, “To complain; grumble”. Undue selfishness or complaining could qualify one as a bitch, as would bossiness. It would be better to simply “go with the flow” and not buck the system. Insults and dislikes are allowed, but only if carefully veiled. This ethical standard is interesting, because it deals more of what one must not be rather than how one should act. However, one should have, as Bill puts it, “irony and pity” (118). This is made up of a healthy dose of cynicism and jadedness. In Hemingway’s worldview, this not only was an acceptable means of judgment, but it had consequences. By the end of the novel, Bill is probably in the “happiest” position, while Brett and Robert are relatively poor off and dissatisfied.

Bill, and to a lesser extent Jake, personifies a “non-bitch”. Bill actually acts a “prophet” of this pseudo-religion, as he espouses the wisdom: “We should not question” (126). Although he suggests this tongue-in-cheek as a mockery of established religion, it applies equally well to not being a bitch: don’t question the actions of those around you, don’t impose your morality on others. He later rambles nonsensically, but this just drives home the key point that the philosophy is simple: any additional philosophy or interpretation of it is unnecessary and frivolous. Jake, the narrator, is also a non-bitch much of the time. He tolerates Brett’s sexual excursions without question or reprimand, simply accepting her for who she is and lending her an ear when she is upset. He even tolerates Cohen, the “steer” who is always sulking around. By not feeling a natural “right” to anything and by simply “going with the flow”, he is liked by most of the group and at the end of the novel is not completely miserable. Perhaps not being miserable is the suitable reward for not being a bitch, and is surely all the disillusioned expatriates can hope for.

Brett and Cohen, on the other hand, are bitches. Cohen “had a wonderful quality of bringing out the worst in anyone” (104) through his clinging to the group and his feeling that the world owed him something. He embodies the “bitch” attitude by refusing to believe that he doesn’t mean anything to Brett. By not minding his own business, he violates the simple rules of the “new morality”. He judges the actions of the other characters in the novel, calling Jake a “pimp” as well as other remarks. By doing this, he causes tension and disrupts the flow of the vacation. As a result, he ends the story miserable and alone, justified by the fact that, by being a bitch, he brought it on himself. Brett, too, is a “bitch”. However, she is much more subtle than Cohen. Rather than judging others or boss others around, she complicates everything by becoming a source of attention, attraction, and ultimately tension. She lords over the male’s emotions and draws them into conflict. However, she realizes the disharmony she causes and regrets it, so although she is nearly alone at the end of the novel, except for Jake, she is given a chance at redemption and returning to her old life with Michael.

Hemingway’s moral views conflicted heavily with the entrenched standards of the time. For him, there was no arbitrary “good” or “evil”, no final judge. But rather, life was a series of judgments, and there was not being a bitch “instead of God” (249). For Hemingway, this made sense. Not only was it something that could be applied, but it also had real consequences to the people who obeyed or disobeyed it.

Also a Brave Saint Saturn song from their second album, The Light of Things Hoped For. Lyrics follow:

The cord runs up the microphone
I flip the switch we’re going home
Transistors, right on time.
Resistors fall in line
Capacitors are at full
all engines good, no breach of hull

With all the hope that I could beg or borrow
I can’t wait, can’t wait for tomorrow

I believe the sun also rises
Dries our tears
Bringing the blue skies of day

I believe the sun also rises
Lighting our paths
Driving the darkness away
So far away
So far away

Microchips will pave the way
the circuitry will work okay

With all the hope that I could beg or borrow
I can’t wait, can’t wait for tomorrow

I believe the sun also rises
Dries our tears
Bringing the blue skies of day

I believe the sun also rises
Lighting our paths
Driving the darkness away
So far away
So far away

radio communication

I believe the sun also rises
Dries our tears
Bringing the blue skies of day

I believe the sun also rises
Lighting our paths
Driving the darkness away
So far away
So far away
So far away
So far away

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