The Sun Also Rises, a novel written by Ernest Hemingway (an admired American writer and journalist), wrote this book for the “lost generation” impacted by WWI and its aftermath. As the plot is divided into three sections, I’ll split the review as per this format! Note: this book addresses mature topics that might make certain readers uncomfortable.
Book 1: Main characters Jake Barnes and Brett Ashly are introduced with injured yet carefree qualities. For one, they each played a role in WWI, both stationed on the front lines for different reasons (Barnes as a soldier and Ashley as a nurse). However, either have no qualms taking risks, as they often drink, make love, and celebrate. In turn, Hemingway demonstrates war’s unquestionable force, strong enough to arouse reckless behavior when one feels as though death is so near. In addition, while the plot is still sparse and unclear, certain love interests (which stem from various side characters) and fallouts are revealed. Their friends, despite their minor roles, are rather important in setting up tension as they compete for attention, romance, and passion. For the most part, their interactions take place in Paris, although Barnes eventually takes a trip to Spain with Brett and their colleagues to watch the famous bullfights.
Book 2: As one would expect, this part is dedicated to how characters interact and are shaped by the present culture (in this case, the Spanish customs they face upon arriving in Spain). Likewise, the main tradition Hemingway points out is bullfighting. Hence, it leads Brett to fall in love with a matador, which raises conflict between the other male characters when they fight to win back (or remain with) Brett. Thus, Hemingway illustrates friendship’s destruction at the hands of love, even when the attraction is shallow or is shaped through pressure, competition, or spite. In all, the events take place during a week-long spanish fiesta, with glamours that include dances, music, and drinks.
Book 3: In Hemingways’s last chapter, little more is accomplished; it serves to end the work. As a result, it leaves room for theme exploration and expansion. For example, a common topic revolves around morality, as Jake, Brett, and the others seem to have an empty lifestyle, and so fill their time with repetitive and menial activities, such as drinking, conversing, and dancing. In this, readers are forced not only to face the aimless goals and hostilities between the characters, but must realize that these attitudes were the norm in a time when war damaged individuals and communities both psychologically and morally.
In short, The Sun Also Rises opens our eyes to a world ravaged by violence, allowing us to appreciate life as is.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.