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The Sun Also Rises | Discussion Questions 1 - 10

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In what respects are characters in The Sun Also Rises lost?

The Sun Also Rises was originally titled The Lost Generation. This "lost generation," to which Hemingway belonged, included young people who came of age during World War I. Confronted with the violence and atrocities of war, they found it hard to find meaning in their lives. Some, like Hemingway, became expatriates, moving to foreign lands in the hope of escaping their memories of the war. Members of the lost generation were prone to going out frequently and seeking relief in food, alcohol, sex, and travel. Although many of the characters in The Sun Also Rises have jobs, they still have trouble finding meaning in their day-to-day lives. They indulge in temporary pleasures rather than aspiring to long-term goals, as if their wartime experience rendered everything meaningless.

In The Sun Also Rises, how are the expatriate characters corrupted by their lives in Paris?

The social scene Jake and Cohn find themselves involved with in Paris can be viewed as a corrupting influence. As Jake and Cohn spend more time with Brett, they develop a taste for her lifestyle. Cohn leaves his fiancée, Frances Clyne, to pursue a woman he truly loves (Brett), and this leads to his unraveling. Jake and Cohn, both writers, seem to do less work and more drinking and indulge in temporary pleasures as the story goes on. Their new lifestyle requires them to spend great sums of money, potentially leading them to money troubles like those of Brett's fiancé, Mike Campbell, who has debts all over Europe.

In The Sun Also Rises, what do Jake's assessment of and attitudes toward Cohn reveal about Jake's character?

In Chapter 1 of The Sun Also Rises Jake's first words are about Cohn's middleweight boxing championship title at Princeton. He claims to not be "very much impressed by that as a boxing title." That this is the first thing Jake decides to share with the reader contradicts this claim. He clearly is concerned or preoccupied with Cohn's title, perhaps because—like Hemingway himself—Jake values skill in violent sports. He goes on to say the title "meant a lot to Cohn." This implies Jake believes Cohn ought not pride himself on this accomplishment. Here the reader sees the first seeds of Jake's insecurities and sense of emasculation. He envies Cohn's title and ability, perhaps because it suggests a degree of manliness Jake lacks.

What does Brett mean when she describes the Count as "one of us" in Chapter 4 of The Sun Also Rises?

In Chapter 4 Jake asks Brett what the Count is like, and she replies, "He's quite one of us." She repeats this a second time in the span of a short conversation, but what she means is never made explicit. Because the reader knows the Count owns a chain of shops in the United States, it is possible the phrase one of us signals he is an expatriate. Another possibility is the Count is a member of the lost generation, yet unlike the other characters he doesn't seem to feel the war's effects, nor does he indulge in alcohol quite as aggressively. Perhaps because the Count was supporting Brett financially she misjudges or misrepresents him in this regard.

In The Sun Also Rises, how are Brett and Frances alike and different?

In The Sun Also Rises Frances can be seen as a foil for Brett, who is considered to be a "new woman." Frances indulges in the social scene, but she claims Paris is dirty and expensive, whereas Brett loves the city. Frances is described as a tall woman who "walks with a great deal of movement" (Chapter 6), suggesting a level of awkwardness. This contrasts with Brett, who is "built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht" (Chapter 3), suggesting overt femininity and grace. Additionally Brett's lifestyle seems far freer than that of Frances. Frances "always [keeps her] appointments," even though no one else seems to keep theirs. This suggests a traditional attitude toward etiquette and life that Brett does not share whatsoever. Frances's old-school values underscore Brett's modern and freewheeling ways.

How does Hemingway explore homophobia in Chapter 3 of The Sun Also Rises?

In Chapter 3 of The Sun Also Rises it is strongly implied a group of gay men enter the bal musette and proceed to dance with Brett and Georgette. Jake recognizes the men by their white skin, hands, and hairstyles. His reliance on certain stereotypical representations of homosexuals reveals a degree of homophobia. This is confirmed by his thoughts: "I know they are supposed to be amusing, and you should be tolerant, but I want to swing on one, any one." Jake is so upset to see the men dancing with Brett and Georgette that he leaves for another bar. His jealousy hints his homophobia is rooted in his own sense of sexual inadequacy. He may be disturbed to think he cannot satisfy women any more than the gay men can; he feels he is just there for the women's amusement, as he perceives the gay men to be. This nuanced depiction of homophobic attitudes shows Hemingway's insight into the insecurities that often underlie such mindsets.

How might the title The Sun Also Rises refer to the protagonist Jake as well as to the generation to which he belongs?

The title The Sun Also Rises comes from the Bible: "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever ... The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose." The phrase suggests nature regenerates as each generation dies out, in a constant cycle of rebirth. In the macro view it carries a sense of optimism that the world will regenerate after the death and destruction of the war; the rising and implied setting of the sun points to the cyclical nature of experience. For the protagonist Jake, there is the possibility of a new sun rising in his lifetime, now that he has come to terms with what his relationship with Brett is and never will be.

What qualities of the new woman does Brett represent in The Sun Also Rises?

Brett is thought to be modeled after the real-life socialite Lady Duff Twysden, with whom Hemingway was enamored. Lady Duff embodied the newly liberated women of the 1920s. She was a divorced woman whose charm was so magnetic that she collected a following of young men, mostly expatriates in Paris. She drank like a man, had short hair like a boy, yet still exuded a powerful feminine allure, just as Brett does in The Sun Also Rises. These qualities signal a type of woman that reverses traditional patriarchal relationships in which the man calls the shots. Like Lady Duff, Brett is very much in control of herself and— to a great extent—her admirers. In this way she is empowered as a "new woman."

How does Hemingway explore notions of nationalism in The Sun Also Rises?

In a novel whose main characters are expatriates, nationalism can be found in the subtext. Each character has abandoned his or her home country to seek out a better experience in France or Spain. Jake's reasons for abandoning the United States are directly connected to his disillusionment with nationalism as the result of his experiences in the war. Many young soldiers in the United States and the world at large were called into military service out of a sense of national pride; however, after seeing the atrocities and devastation of war their allegiance to their nation faded quickly. The Sun Also Rises explores the effects of this loss of national pride on the lost generation.

How does Hemingway explore what it means to be in exile in The Sun Also Rises?

The Sun Also Rises follows a group of expatriates who meet in Paris and travel together to Spain. All the group members are all in exile, emotionally as well as physically. Some are trying to escape their pasts and failed marriages, some are seeking to escape their memories of World War I's devastation, and one is running away from debts. Because of their shared status as people in exile, the group members form a familial bond. Although the characters come to realize they cannot escape by running away, they do find refuge from the judgments of others and take comfort in one another's company.

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