The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Jake Barnes, an expatriate journalist living in Paris, loves Lady Brett Ashley, a twice-married woman who has has several love affairs since the war. However, Jake is impotent due to a wound suffered in World War I, and the two are unable to be together. In Book II, Jake and Bill Gorton travel to Spain for a fishing trip. Robert Cohen, who was supposed to meet them in Pamplona, leaves the pair to meet Brett for a tryst. After enjoying five days of tranquil fishing, Jake and Bill meet up with Robert, Brett, and Mike Campbell, Brett’s fiancé, in Pamplona to watch the fiesta and enjoy drinking, eating, running with the bulls, and watching the bullfight. Tension builds between all the men as they want to own Brett’s affection and attention; Mike is jealous, Jake is jealous, Robert is jealous, and all of this builds to Brett running off with a young bullfighter, Pedro Romero.

My mom and I are trying something new this semester; because I so sorely miss having discussions about books with my classmates, she’s reading along with my Critical Approaches to Literature class. The first book we read for this class, which is focusing on gender and identity in modernism and postmodernism literature, was Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and although I tried to warn my mom away from reading, she decided to dive right in in. Her assessment?

“It is the most boring book I have ever read.  I feel like I’m reading a bunch of disjointed Facebook posts about what people did, ate, saw today, except that there is no cleverness whatsoever to the writing.   It just sounds like a bunch of bored rich kids.

I don’t know how you’re managing to plow through it.”

Well, it helped when I switched to reading along with the audiobook and the essay at the end always provides an added incentive to actually read the novel. Plus, the last half of Part II does produce some interesting, beautiful passages like this one, but I wouldn’t say my assessment of Hemingway’s novel, which was originally published in 1926, is any better than her’s.

The constant and heavy drinking and the “fiesta-ing” mmade the exploration of what is means to be masculine into one big joke, one big party. I hated Hemingway’s prose; his short, simple sentences lead me to just gloss over the story and not pay attention to the importance of his word choice and style. And when I tried to correct this by reading along with the audiobook, I was bored to tears. This is a novel that has been criticized for its racist and antisemitic remarks and chauvinistic plot, but what The Sun Also Rises should be criticized for is it lifeless, self-absorbed characters.

Will I read more Hemingway? That remains to be seen as I’ve heard great things, including from my dad, about For Whom the Bells Toll and Farewell to Arms, but I certainly will not getting to any more of Hemingway’s work anytime soon because right now we aren’t friends.

Book Mentioned:

  • Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner, 1995. Print. 256 pgs. ISBN: 9780684800714. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Scribner. Retrieved: February 11, 2010.
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5 thoughts on “The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

  1. I read “For Whom the Bell Tolls” back in highschool and I don’t remember it being so disjointed, and the topics Hemmingway tackles there aren’t so “superficial”, at least I don’t remember them being so. That said, I haven’t read the book in ages and it certainly didn’t prompt me to go out and read tons more Hemmingway, so there’s that to consider.

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    1. It’s not the short sentences that are the problem for me; it’s the fact that there are very few descriptions in those short sentences. In this novel, they do make an appearance at the beginning of the bullfight, but that’s a long time after the novel has begun and a long time after I wanted to give up.

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