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Disillusionment In Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises

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Ernest Hemingway‟s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926 is one of his best novels. The novel is widely regarded as the definitive account of the epoch that followed World War I. The Sun Also Rises tells the story of a group of expatriates mired in postwar disillusionment and despair.

The story centers on the narrator, Jake Barnes and his love interest, Lady Brett Ashley, with whom he is unable to sustain a romantic relationship due to a war injury that has rendered him impotent. According to W.M. Frohock, “Jake‟s physical disability is in large part a symbol for the general feeling of frustration and pointlessness of life” It portrays and celebrates the empty bohemianism of the „lost generation‟. It provides a peep into the life of restless American expatriates settled in Paris in the early 20s, and below the surface of the main textures runs yet another quest, that is, quest for meaning to relationships.

The mood of emotional impotence dominates the whole novel. According to David Savola, the novel ultimately celebrates the relationship between human kind and natural world. In support of his view he says, “The Sun Also Rises is profoundly concerned with ecological considerations, as the passage of Ecclesiastes echoed in its title. The novel presents the main characters as aimless, displaced persons without a secure sense of meaning or value and suggests that the characters could find that meaning and value in cultivating a more intimate connection with the natural environment.

The novel criticizes conventional depiction of nature and calls for a literature that offers a more complex picture of the connection between humanity and the natural world”. While making biographical study of the novel, Young asserts that, “The characters in The Sun Also Rises are recognizable people taken from real life and the hero has a peculiar psycho-biographical approach”.

Critics with biographical inclination towards Hemingway‟s works observed that there was a close affinity between Hemingway and hero. To quote Young again “The novel The Sun Also Rises 34 is an expression of Hemingway‟s obsession with the wound he had received during World War I. He views Jake as physically as well as psychologically wrecked who is humorless and passive”.

Philip Young terms Jake‟s wound as an “objective correlative” for a spiritually lost post war world. Thus, the reader might laugh at Jake and his friends. Young contends that “Despite a lot of fun The Sun Also Rises is still Hemingway‟s Wasteland, and Jake is Hemingway‟s Fisherking”. He was articulating, what has become a familiar—and in some quarters at least—an orthodox reading of the novel. It is widely held that The Sun Also Rises is a prose version of The Wasteland, its theme of the sterility of life in the modern world.

Jake Barnes is a representative victim of this world and his famous wound, received in the Great War, is a symbol of the general impotence of the times. Young stretches the psycho-biographical approach to its extremity when he observes that “Jake projects qualities of the man who created him, many of his experiences are still either literal or transformed autobiography and his wound is still the crucial fact about him”. Baker also focuses on the manhood prevalent in the novel but he also traces the symbols throughout the novel.

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According to Baker, much of the strength of The Sun Also Rises may be attributed to the complicated interplay between two points of view which it embodies. According to one of them the novel is a romantic study in sexual and ultimately in spiritual frustration. Besides this more or less orthodox view, however, must be placed with the idea, that it is a qualitative study of varying degree of physical and spiritual manhood, projected against a background of ennui and emotional exhaustion which is everywhere implicitly condemned.

Baker also traced the importance and significance of symbols in The Sun Also Rises. Rain is one of the symbols in the novel and while usually rain stands for life, for fertility, for vegetation and growth it stands for destruction or dislocation, for lost hopes and for bad weather in The Sun Also Rises. Apart from the masculine attributes and the presence of symbols, Carlos Baker praises Hemingway‟s truthful depiction of things in his works. In his own words Hemingway once stated “I only know that I have seen”. Thus Baker concludes “It is clear that the strongest conviction in 35 Hemingway the aesthetician—the principle underlying his sense of place and fact and scene, the principle supporting his discipline of double perception—is the importance of telling truth”.

Bhim S. Dahiya‟s main concern has also been focused on the hero but he successfully manages to detach the hero from all types of biographical attachments and finds him to be a developing fictional character. Dahiya states, “Jake is a developing character, and his self awareness as well as his awareness of Brett, is not a matter of sudden realization at the end: his development is built within the very structure of the novel. If he continues to show concern for Brett until the end, it is not because he has any illusion about her. He is fully aware both of Brett and of his own situation from the very beginning”. Dahiya praises the Hemingway hero and says, “The important thing to note in case of Hemingway hero is that his consciousness of death does not make him lose interest in life on the contrary, it makes him all the more hungry for life”. Dahiya deals with each and every aspect of the hero‟s life. But the predominantly accepted notion of the „code hero‟ is described as a misconception in his work.

James T. Farrell‟s critical evaluation of The Sun Also Rises chiefly revolves around the American society and America of twenties after the World War I. Farrell asserts “The mood and attitude of the main characters is that of people on vacation. They set out to do what people want to do on a vacation. They have love—affairs, they drink, go fishing and see new spectacles”. Farrell further says that the novel struck deeper chords in the youth of twenties, which Gertrude Stein called “lost generation”.

The mood of disillusionment portrayed in The Sun Also Rises had been the way of feeling and acting, in fact a social habit in twenties after the World War: “What‟s the matter? You sick?” “Yes” “Everybody‟s sick. I‟m sick too.” (The Sun Also Rises, 16) 36 Hemingway tries to express this mood through escapades, through drinking, fishing, bull fighting and sexual exploits. Hemingway‟s writing was exciting and possessed of an extraordinary power of suggestiveness, it was actually participating in the lives of very real man and woman.

Conrad Aiken reiterates about Hemingway‟s writing: “Hemingway clearly has the ability to make his story move and move with intensity, through his dialogues”. Hemingway maintains his choice of simple words in every aspect of the novel, whether it is the theme of the novel or a scene or facts regarding a character. His use of simple words, arranged in short and simple sentences, can be seen in the novel through out. He tends to express the theme in a nut shell manner : “You‟re an expatriate”, “You‟ve lost touch with the soil”, “You hang around café‟s” etc. Cornad believes that. “if there is better dialogue being written today I do not know where to find it…. It is in the dialogue almost entirely that Mr. Hemingway tells his story and makes people live and act”.

Michael Reynolds too asserts about Hemingway‟s skill of writing : “His writing is so incredible because he tried to show what had happened to him in his life and in his times”. He would take elements from his life and put them into writing. One of the most persistent themes of twenties, death of love in World War I, has been focussed on, in the essay The Death of Love in The Sun Also Rises, by Mark Spilka. Spilka cites : “all major writers recorded it, often in piecemeal manner as part of the larger post war scene, but only Hemingway seems to have caught it whole and delivered it in lasting fictional form”.

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Disillusionment In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. (2021, August 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 28, 2023, from
“Disillusionment In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.” Edubirdie, 31 Aug. 2021,
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