Depiction Of Life Of The Lost Generation In The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway depicts the life of the Lost Generation after the traumatic events of World War I. After the war, veterans struggled to deal with the losses and aftermath. Hemmingway illustrates this through his characters as they constantly search for something more. The characters struggle to deal with their emotions and repeatedly repress them through the use of idle distractions.

Jake, the protagonist, suffers beyond physical wounds from the war. When his friend Robert asks him to go to South America in pursuit of living life to the fullest, Jake refuses. He says, “Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another”. This suggests that Jake is lost and trying to find himself. But despite his attempts, Jake is unable to find real meaning in life and is not able to get away from his troubles by moving. Traveling, however, serves as a distraction from the internal pain. Jake and his friends wander around frequently throughout the novel, whether it be to a different country, to a cafe, or to a bar.

The characters of the Lost Generation deal with their feelings by distractions and often repress them with alcohol. When Jake is dining with his group of friends he remarks, “It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy”. Jake acknowledges that alcohol takes away all of the bad feelings and is one of the few things that can make him happy, even if it is only temporary. Unfortunately, like in the war, things are coming that one cannot prevent from happening. Like so, the euphoria from the wine leaves, and once again the emptiness and void of life comes back.

Another way the meaninglessness of life for the Lost Generation is shown is in Jake’s conversation with his friend Bill. As they walk, Bill tries to coerce Jake into buying a stuffed dog. Bill says, “Pretty nice stuffed dogs. Certainly brighten up your flat… You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog”. Similar to the way Bill says a stuffed dog would “brighten up” Jake’s apartment, the characters use money in exchange for alcohol and travels. They pay for something to enliven themselves, but in reality, the diversions they use are worthless. A stuffed dog looks real, but in actuality is not alive and without feeling, similar to the way the Lost Generation as they suppress their emotions and live life pointlessly through the distractions of alcohol and travel.

Directly after Bill and Jake’s exchange regarding stuffed dogs, Bill says, “Certainly like to drink. You ought to try it sometimes, Jake”. Similar to the way he recommends stuffed dogs to Jake, Bill expresses his liking of alcohol, which is a short-term remedy for the trauma these war veterans incur.

Hemingway uses his characters to demonstrate how the war shaped the Lost Generation physically and mentally. His characters live in a condition of perpetual drunkenness and a steady quest for something more. They meander around aimlessly, while utilizing liquor and travel as a brief fix to fill a void. Through the actions and behaviors of Jake and his friends, Hemingway shows how the Lost Generation lived life searching for fulfillment in purposeless activities, but they only remain empty, unfulfilled, and lost. 

16 August 2021
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