The Sun Also Rises Themes & Motifs

This Study Guide consists of approximately 21 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Sun Also Rises.
This section contains 568 words
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The Lost Generation

The Lost Generation is a term attributed to American writer Gertrude Stein, a fellow expatriate and friend of Ernest Hemingway at the time he wrote The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway uses it as an epigraph at the beginning of the novel.

In the years following World War I -- the time in which the book is set -- many Americans were drawn to Paris as a modern city with a favorable exchange rate. In particular, writers including Hemingway flocked to Paris because they found greater artistic freedom there. They also found a large circle of like-minded people who carried wounds, visible and invisible, from the brutal war that had recently ended.

The term is often thought to refer to the personal habits of people like some of those depicted in the novel, taking advantage of opportunities to eat and drink too much to compensate for the losses they have suffered.

The New Woman

Brett Ashley is a shining example of the "New Woman" who emerged during the 1920s. Freed from constricting clothing and expectations, Brett dresses in a modern fashion and sports a short haircut, which was unheard of in earlier times. In fact, it is one of the criticisms Pedro Romero levies against her, stating that he would prefer for her to be more feminine.

Beyond just her physical appearance, Brett exhibits personal habits and qualities that were new in her time. She smokes, drinks heavily, and is openly promiscuous. She has been divorced twice and is already engaged to prospective husband number three. Even though she is financially dependent on men, she makes it clear that no one owns her or tells her what to do. She loves Jake, but she refuses to commit to a relationship with him because he cannot satisfy her sexual desires. She has an innate vulnerability beneath her independent veneer.

Contrasts

The Sun Also Rises is a book replete with contrasts. The lively, modern city of Paris is contrasted with the bucolic town of Burguete where Jake and Bill go to fish. The author contrasts Spain and France, writing at length about the very different attributes of each.

When Bill and Jake begin their fishing trip, they travel from the very hot lowlands to the very cold mountains. Pamplona is loud and full of color and activity during the fiesta, than quiet and sleepy just hours after it ends.

Jake's Catholic faith is contrasted with Robert Cohn's Jewish faith, while Jake's impotence stands in contrast to the virility of Pedro Romero. Throughout the novel, characters are variously drunk and sober, angry and calm, rich and poor, happy and distraught.

Anti-Semitism

The author never lets the reader forget that Robert Cohn is Jewish. His faith is often a topic of derision. Mike Campbell, in particular, is disgusted with Brett's affair with Robert not because she was unfaithful to him -- he had tolerated that many times before -- but because she slept with a Jewish man. At one point, he even uses the word "kike," which is an extremely derogatory term.

In addition to Mike, Bill Gorton also makes it clear that he looks down on Jews and sees it as the quality that defines Robert. Throughout the book, Cohn is depicted as different and less likeable than the other characters, incapable of fully taking part in their activities and always set apart by his Jewishness.

This section contains 568 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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