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The Sun Also Rises Notes on the Religion Themes

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The Sun Also Rises Topic Tracking: Religion

Chapter 4

Religion 1: The Catholic Church has a tradition of prayer and stoic response to suffering. Jake, a lapsed Catholic, tries to take their advice and not think about his impotence. But he is unable to do this, especially when Brett is around.

Chapter 9

Religion 2: Bill gets very upset that the Catholics have taken all the early lunches. Because of them, he and Jake will not be able to eat until four, far past their usual lunch hour. Bill feels cheated, and in anger he calls them Puritans. The Puritans were a Protestant sect that existed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They were known for their cold morality and self-righteousness. The irony is that Bill is a Protestant himself, though non-practicing. The Puritans are actually religiously related to himself, though much more concerned with morality. Bill's use of the term Puritans to insult the Catholics suggests that he thinks that those with more moral awareness are treated better.

Religion 3: Jake is Catholic, but that doesn't entitle him to eat with the pilgrims. A lapsed Catholic, he is not on a religious pilgrimage; in one way he is a part of the group, but he is not a participant. Bill, who is not religious, feels persecuted when the Catholics get to eat first. He does not belong to their group, and he thinks he and his group, Protestants, have been slighted. Bill comments to the priest that this kind of treatment makes him want to join the Ku Klux Klan, and persecute where he feels he's been persecuted.

Chapter 10

Religion 4: Jake's prayer starts out well, as he prays for his friends, himself, the bull-fighters, and for a good fiesta. That last one is starting to stretch prayer a bit, as the fiesta is basically a week-long drunken party. Then Jake prays for money, and this makes him think first of how he'd earn it. His thoughts are really wandering now. He realizes this, and thinks:

"I was a little ashamed, and regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time...." Chapter 10, pg. 97

Jake appreciates prayer, but he is no longer very religious. After the war, his hopeless wound, and his equally hopeless relationship with Brett, Jake cannot easily turn to a God who has done so little for him. He has become concerned with worldly matters, and these clutter and disturb his mind when he tries to pray.

Chapter 12

Religion 5: Bill, with real preacher bravado, launches into a silly homily about how we should not question what God does. We should just rejoice and pray in the woods, thinking about the journey from life to death, he says. You never know whom you could be eating, as we all fall back into dust. Jake, more of a believer than Bill, doesn't say anything during this little speech that is very disrespectful, even blasphemous.

Religion 6: When Bill asks Jake if he's really a Catholic, Jake tells him he is, but only technically. Jake does not feel comfortable claiming to be a full member of a group in which he does not participate. But he still links himself with the religion, indicating his desire to belong.

Chapter 13

Religion 7: Bill, Jake, and Harris go to see the Roncesvalles monastery. The building is impressive, but Bill and Harris agree that it's not their kind of place. Even though it creates the same kind of quiet peace, for them the monastery doesn't compare to fishing. Jake doesn't say anything.

Chapter 14

Religion 8: Jake thinks about how he enjoyed watching Mike hurt Cohn, who once called Jake his best friend. Jake is guilty for these feelings, but also confused. He can't remember if the shame he's feeling makes him a good or bad person: "That was morality; things that made you disgusted afterward. No, that must be immorality." Chapter 14, pg. 149

Chapter 15

Religion 9: On the first day of the fiesta, Jake attends Mass by himself. His friends are still asleep or doing other things. He doesn't ask anyone to go with him, preferring to go alone. San Fermin is a religious festival, and perhaps Jake is feeling the pull of religion too.

Religion 10: Later on this first day, the group wants to go into the cathedral with all the other people. The crowds are all going there, so they want to go too. But Brett isn't wearing a hat, so she can't go in. The group stays with her, rather than go inside the cathedral without her. Her decision to disregard gender norms keeps her from entering the house of God, and the men cannot stand being without her.

Chapter 18

Religion 11: Brett isn't in the church long before she gets anxious and has to leave. She says she hasn't the right "face" for church, but what she's really concerned about is not being a good enough person to be in a church. She is used to getting what she wants, and she doesn't like prayer because its' results aren't as good. She thinks she can get much more from her looks and sex than she can from praying.

Chapter 19

Religion 12: Brett doesn't have God in her life. The closest she comes to religion is the occasional good work. Her one unselfish act in the novel is her dismissal of Romero. She gave up someone she loved because she knew if he stayed with her, he would get hurt. She sacrificed her own desires for the sake of another.

She tells Jake that God didn't work well with her. Brett is used to having people bend to her desires, and God will not do that. Her skewed perspective has led her to think God doesn't work. And he doesn't, not in the way she wants him to. He is one of the few men who could not be bewitched by her.

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