Ernest Hemingway’s Novel – The Sun Also Rises

By: Trevor Mooney

Ernest Hemingway is one of my all-time favorite authors, revealing inner thoughts with a masterful economy of words and giving realistic descriptions of valor in the face of adversity. The Hemingway novel I enjoy most is The Sun Also Rises, his first, published in 1926 The Sun Also Rises recounts the experiences of a group of expatriates in Pamplona, Spain, in the years after the Great War.

The plot is based directly on Hemingway’s own experiences in Pamplona with a group of friends, including his young wife Hadley and Lady Duff Twysden, a socialite Hemingway grew infatuated with. The narrator and protagonist of the novel, Jake Barnes, is an American news correspondent who has survived service in World War I but is impotent as a result. As the story unfolds, the group takes the train down from Paris to participate in the festivities surrounding the Festival of St. Fermin, the running of the bulls. As the plot develops, Jake and several male friends become attracted to their companion, Lady Brett Ashley, a twice-divorced Englishwoman who wears her hair short and seems to embody a new sexual freedom. Over several days of carousing at the festival, tension builds among the group, particularly after Brett seduces the young bullfighter Romero, whom Jake had introduced to her.

In the climax, Robert Cohn, one of those infatuated with Brett, gets into a physical altercation with Jake and Romero. Despite sustaining serious injuries, Romero manages to perform brilliantly in his scheduled bullfight the next day. The novel ends with Jake and Brett riding from Pamplona in a taxi, musing on what might have occurred between them if not for Jake’s never-quite-explained war injury.

I am drawn to the way Hemingway effectively portrays his characters’ attitudes of ironic ambivalence throughout the novel, often masking their true passions. The expatriates in The Sun Also Rises have all been affected somehow by World War I and feel the lack of anchor and purpose experienced by many of the so-called Lost Generation. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well-developed characters tied to a definite time and place.