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The Sun Also Rises | Motifs



To escape the horrors of war, their personal defeats, and overwhelming disillusionment with the world, all characters in The Sun Also Rises are heavy drinkers. Jake summarizes his alcoholism best in Chapter 13 when he says, "Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy." Drinking not only allows characters to escape their reality, it also gives them freedom of speech to discuss topics otherwise considered rude or inappropriate, such as Brett's philandering, Mike's bankruptcy, and Jake's impotence. Alcohol is a constant; characters are either drunk, searching for the next drink, or hung over.


Sex proves to be a devastating force in The Sun Also Rises, creating momentary excitement, much like a bullfight, and similarly leaving behind destruction. The motif of sex is explored almost entirely through Brett's many relationships. Brett flits from man to man searching for excitement and validation but never settles down with anyone, not even her fiancé. When Brett moves on she leaves broken hearts (Cohn), lost friendships (Jake), and damaged careers (Romero) in her wake. The only man Brett considers truly settling down with is Jake, which would be impossible because of his impotence. In this way sex, or the lack of it, destroys their relationship as well.

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