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The Sun Also Rises | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


What motivates Jake to drink heavily in The Sun Also Rises?

Jake overindulges in alcohol as a means of escape. At first the reader has only a nebulous understanding of what he seeks to escape, but as the story progresses Jake reveals distressing information about his past through his narration. During a bout of drinking in Chapter 13, for example, Jake is reminded of "certain dinners ... from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming to you that you could not prevent happening." In the war Jake relied on alcohol to escape the harsh realities of bloodshed and death; perhaps he also had some premonition of his injury. After the war, in Paris and in Spain, Jake drinks to forget his past, to ignore the tensions among his friends, and to try to be happy again: "Under the wine, I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy."

In The Sun Also Rises, how does Jake embody Hemingway's personal notions about masculinity?

Hemingway famously admired masculine bravado; for him this was demonstrated through heavy drinking, admiration for or participation in violent sports, and displays of emotional stoicism. Hemingway himself was a model of masculine bravado, and he bestowed these qualities on some of his fictional characters. In The Sun Also Rises Jake is the character who most embodies these traditionally masculine characteristics, though other characters, such as Romero, also share them to some degree. Jake is fascinated by two violent sports, boxing and bullfighting, and he is in the habit of drinking heavily, often downing multiple bottles of wine in a sitting. His emotional stoicism, however, comes and goes; he certainly aims for it, but sometimes he breaks down and lets emotions seep through.

Why does Hemingway mention the book by A.E.W. Mason that Jake reads in Chapter 12 of The Sun Also Rises?

In Chapter 12 Hemingway specifically refers to a book by A.E.W. Mason; Jake is reading it while waiting for Bill to finish fishing. Mason is perhaps most famous for his novel The Four Feathers, which explores bravery and cowardice in the context of World War I. This reference gives the reader some clue as to how to interpret the story of Jake, Brett, and company. Though the war is over, these characters are clearly engaged in a battle, one that draws forth both their bravery and their cowardice. Contemporaries of Hemingway, and certainly the literary company that Jake keeps, would be familiar with Mason's work.

What does Bill mean when he says "the woods were God's first temples" in Chapter 12 of The Sun Also Rises?

Bill drunkenly rhapsodizes about religion and nature during a fishing trip with Jake, claiming "the woods were God's first temples." Bill, who is not religious, knows Jake grew up as a Catholic. His comment at once pokes fun at Jake and acknowledges Jake feels at home in the forest. Jake's peaceful communion with nature contrasts with his conflicted relationship with religion. Bill also says, "Let us kneel and say 'Don't eat that, Lady—that's Mencken.'" This is an allusion both to transubstantiation, a practice in which Catholic worshippers eat a wafer representing the body of Christ, and to H.L. Mencken, an author and social critic who decried organized religion as a practice of lesser men. Again Bill is teasing Jake about his religious background.

How does the description of the bulls' herd mentality in Chapter 13 of The Sun Also Rises foreshadow events?

In Chapter 13 Jake notes the bulls "only want to kill when they're alone." When a bull is detached from the herd he becomes far more dangerous. Jake's discussion with his companions about detachment from the herd foreshadows someone will be detached from the group of friends and will become violent. Bill quips, "Don't you ever detach me from the herd, Mike," but Cohn is the one who will become detached, in large part due to Mike's taunting. When Cohn feels fully ostracized by the men and detached from Brett because of her interest in Romero, he becomes dangerous and lashes out at Jake.

How does Mike contribute to Cohn's separation from the herd in Chapter 13 of The Sun Also Rises?

After Jake and his friends talk about bulls' tendency to become violent and aggressive when separated from the herd, Mike uses this knowledge to humiliate and ostracize Cohn from the group. His motives are as ignoble as his strategies; Mike is in love with Brett and jealous of Cohn's time with her in San Sebastian. Mike starts to badger Cohn, saying, "Why do you follow Brett around like a poor bloody steer? Don't you know you're not wanted?" Mike tells Cohn in no uncertain terms that Brett does not want him and the rest of the group doesn't want him either. While silent tensions simmered between Jake and Cohn before this outburst, Mike has put the conflict on the table and started the work of separating Cohn from the herd.

In Chapter 14 of The Sun Also Rises, what do Jake's thoughts about light and darkness signify?

In Chapter 14 Jake realizes he has not slept with the light off for six months. This revelation comes to him after he thinks, "There is no reason why because it is dark you should look at things differently from when it is light." Immediately he challenges his own assertion and says, "The hell there isn't!" That Jake has slept with the lights on for six months implies he is avoiding something that might come into his thoughts in the dark. Hemingway here reverses the usual trope of light leading to enlightenment and darkness to blindness; in Jake's case it is only in the silence and solitude of the dark when his true feelings can come to the fore. This, of course, goes against his notions of bravado and emotional stoicism, so he keeps the light on to avoid such sentimentality.

What are Jake's perceptions of morality and immorality as revealed in Chapter 14 of The Sun Also Rises?

Jake's thoughts wander as he is falling asleep in Chapter 14. He admits to himself that he likes to see Mike hurt Cohn, yet he wishes Mike "would not do it, though, because afterward it made me disgusted at myself." Jake's internal struggle reveals he wants Cohn to hurt, but he knows the desire to see his friend suffer is vile. At first he decides morality is "things that made you disgusted afterward"; then he revises his thinking: "No, that must be immorality." Through his musings Jake is contemplating the kind of person he is and coming to understand how his obsession with Brett and his war injury have changed him.

In Chapter 13 of The Sun Also Rises, what is the importance of memory in romantic relationships?

In romantic relationships memory serves the function of elongating the relationships. Despite reality, in memory the relationships still exist in some ways. In Chapter 13 Jake observes Cohn smiling at Brett; Jake says it must have been pleasant for Cohn to "know he had been away with [Brett] and that every one knew it. They could not take that away from him." Jake is wistful and jealous. Of course he wishes he, not Cohn, had spent time with Brett in San Sebastian; he wishes everyone knew it, and he wished he could hold on to that experience forever. This sentiment might be drawn from Hemingway's true experiences with nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, who tended his wartime wounds and then broke his heart. She ultimately decided not to marry Hemingway, but he could hold on to his memories of her forever, as with his memories of Lady Duff, the real-life model for Brett in the novel.

What is significant about Jake's feeling of newness after he fights with Cohn in Chapter 17 of The Sun Also Rises?

Jake's fight with Cohn in Chapter 17 is the climax of the novel. The fiesta is coming to an end, and so is the charade these men and Brett have put on for the entirety of the novel. When the fight takes place, all of Jake's private resentments toward Cohn are on the table, and there is no more retreating into alcohol or other forms of escape. The men can no longer deny their feelings for Brett or toward one another. In traditional plot structures catharsis or resolution occurs after the climax; Jake's sense that "everything looked new and changed" reflects the resolution of tensions built up throughout the preceding chapters.

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