The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises tells the story of a group of American expatriates on vacation in Spain. As an American citizen living abroad, Hemingway was fascinated by the ways in which Americans were perceived in European culture and by the ways the American mentality both complemented and clashed with continental sensibilities.

Hemingway's protagonist, Jake Barnes, is joined by his former lover, Brett Ashley, and their often difficult associate, Robert Cohn. As Barnes, Cohn, and a successful matador from Pamplona vie for Brett's affections, the beautiful scenery of the Spanish countryside and the bustling atmosphere of the city's festival provide a colorful backdrop. Throughout the novel, Hemingway explores the comparative sexual liberation and the centuries-old culture inherent to continental Europe through the eyes of his American-born characters.

1. Hemingway based The Sun Also Rises on a trip he took to Spain with friends.

Because Hemingway went on a trip to Spain similar to that in the novel with a group of expatriate friends, critics believe The Sun Also Rises is likely somewhat autobiographical. Jake Barnes is thought to be Hemingway's literary persona, while Brett was inspired by his companion Lady Duff Twysden. Robert Cohn was modeled on Harold Loeb, Hemingway's tennis partner who also accompanied him on the trip just a year before the novel was written.

2. Hemingway began writing The Sun Also Rises on his birthday.

Hemingway began work on the novel while he was still away in Spain, staying in Valencia. He started writing on his birthday, July 21, noting that, "Everybody my age had written a novel and I was still having a difficult time writing a paragraph."

3. The Sun Also Rises documents the "lost generation" Hemingway famously belonged to.

The phrase "lost generation" was coined by American novelist Gertrude Stein and clearly applied to The Sun Also Rises. The "lost generation" referred to Americans living abroad who experienced the culture shock of post–World War I Europe. They were "lost" because after the war, as one writer said, "All maps were useless ... they had to explore a new-found land for themselves." Hemingway himself experienced this out-of-place feeling and captured it with his descriptions of Jake, Brett, and Robert moving aimlessly around Paris and Spain.

4. Hemingway had to work with his editor to reduce the amount of profanity in The Sun Also Rises.

While working with his editor, Max Perkins, Hemingway had to make numerous compromises to make The Sun Also Rises less vulgar. Publishers found his frequent use of profanity, as well as his promiscuous characterization of Brett, to be unrefined. In response to a round of edits, Hemingway noted, "I've tried to reduce profanity but I reduced so much profanity when writing the book that I'm afraid not much could come out." One notable revision that Hemingway conceded to was that the "bulls [were] now without appendages."

5. The Sun Also Rises shocked Hemingway's parents.

Although Hemingway referred to The Sun Also Rises as his most "moral" novel, the author's religious parents were reportedly scandalized by the book. Hemingway's brother Leicester wrote to him, stating: "Our parents, when they finally read The Sun Also Rises, were as bewildered and shocked as convent girls visiting a bawdy house." He pointed to the tension the book created in their house and explained, "It was referred to as 'that book,' in horrified tones."

6. Hemingway was concerned that he "ruined" Pamplona with The Sun Also Rises.

Hemingway visited Pamplona, Spain, nine times during his life, including annual trips from 1923 to 1927. At the time, Pamplona was a rarely visited city, with little to no tourism aside from the running of the bulls. The city became a coveted destination after the popularity of The Sun Also Rises, however. Hemingway later expressed fear that he had ruined the aesthetics of the city, as he remembered it, by drawing so many visitors to the region.

7. The popularity of The Sun Also Rises led young people to model themselves after the characters.

Some readers found The Sun Also Rises to be an immoral work depicting lazy individuals wasting their money and lives in leisure. Despite this, the novel's great popularity inspired many young people during the 1930s to cultivate the visual appeal of Hemingway's characters. According to one critic, college girls "were modeling themselves after Lady Brett" while young men acted like Hemingway's male characters, "talking in tough understatements from the sides of their mouths."

8. The Sun Also Rises is a classic example of what scholars call Hemingway's "Iceberg Theory."

The "Iceberg Theory" refers to Hemingway's literary technique of conveying a great deal of information without actually writing it. Hemingway limits exposition—or detailed explanation—throughout The Sun Also Rises, allowing interactions between characters to allude to their backgrounds instead of stating this information outright. Jake Barnes's emasculating war wound is a key example of this. While Barnes never directly describes his injury, the reader is expected to infer that it holds him back from pursuing any sort of physical relationship with Brett.

9. Hemingway's depictions of landscapes in The Sun Also Rises were inspired by paint Paul Cézanne.

Hemingway noted that, although he had seen the landscape of rural Spain for himself, he drew inspiration from the artwork of Postimpressionist painter Paul Cézanne. Hemingway likened his writing to Cézanne's work by stating, "This is what we try to do in writing, this and this [referring to elements of a painted landscape], and the woods, and the rocks we have to climb over." He continued, "Cézanne is my painter."

10. F. Scott Fitzgerald offered Hemingway advice on writing The Sun Also Rises.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway shared the same editor, the famous Max Perkins of Charles Scribner's Sons. Fitzgerald, famous for his novel The Great Gatsby, mentored Hemingway as he was revising The Sun Also Rises. Fitzgerald criticized the novel's "condescending casualness" and recommended that Hemingway modify the tone throughout and omit certain passages, as there were "about 24 sneers, superiorities, and nose-thumbings-at-nothing that mar the whole narrative." Fitzgerald's final word of advice, which Hemingway took to heart, was to "let the book's action play itself out among its characters."

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