Disillusion Caused By The War In The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway is the story of Jake Barnes, a World War I veteran, and his adventures with his friends and the love of his life, Lady Brett Ashley, as they travel on a vacation from France to Spain. On the night of July fifth, the evening prior to when the passage takes place, Jake cannot fall asleep, and is mulling over the lost romantic relationship between himself and Brett, whom he had met during the war, and also the bitterness that erupts from Mike, Brett's fiancée, when he is drunk; this bitterness is especially directed towards Cohn, Jake's friend and Brett's previous affair, which gives Jake mixed feelings on the bitterness and its truth overall. The insanity and celerity of the fiesta that takes place after such brooding carry the theme that war changes a person and creates difficulties that cannot be overlooked, and, if these difficulties are not acknowledged, they can be rather haunting and disillusioning. 

In the following passage, Jake attends the beginning of the fiesta, which, in Pamplona, Spain, is the celebration that occurs to signal the beginning of bullfighting, which exhibits the previously stated theme of war coming back to haunt after its termination: “Before the waiter brought the sherry the rocket that announced the fiesta went up in the square. It burst and there was a gray ball of smoke high up above the Theatre Gayarre, across on the other side of the plaza. The ball of smoke hung in the sky like a shrapnel burst, and as I watched, another rocket came up to it, trickling smoke in the bright sunlight. I saw the bright flash as it burst and another little cloud of smoke appeared. By the time the second rocket had burst, there were so many people in the arcade, that had been empty a minute before, that the waiter, holding the bottle high up over his head, could hardly get through the crowd to our table”.

The tone in this passage is established within the first sentence, with an inquisitive, rather, reflective one encapsulated throughout it in its entirety. It suggests the theme of memories of war coming back to haunt Jake, which shows, even in the most joyous of events, how he can never really escape how war has affected him, both physically and mentally. Following the establishment of the inquisitive and reflective tone, Hemmingway mentions Sherry or alcohol in which, throughout the novel, there is an abundance of. The motif of drinking and consuming copious amounts of alcohol illustrates the characters inability to cope with their pasts and essentially, the war. The 'rocket' described right after the sherry correlates with the war itself; both are powerful, capable of reaching mass audiences, signal, or 'announce' a change of events. The rocket 'went up', just as the sun goes up, or rises, as the title states. The rising of the rocket, and the sun, signals change in Jake's life and relationships; every evening, he seems to recognize turmoil within the relationships between his friends and within his own relationships with them, especially with Brett and Cohn, who seem to make the most irrational decisions in terms of their love lives despite knowing that it will hurt Jake and their other friends. Yet, every morning, these rocky moments seem to be forgotten as the group reconnects and as the sun rises once again. The rockets rising foreshadows the change in Jake's life involving Brett and her new love interest, Romero, whom she notices at the highlight of the fiesta: the bullfights. The affair between Romero and Brett cause tensions between Mike and Cohn, as well as Brett and the rest of the group, which changes the dynamic of the group. This inability to cope with the war and the way it haunts each and every member of this group of friends causes them to drink and act irrationally. 

The theme of the passage is further delineated with the imagery Hemmingway describes as a 'burst[ing],' which creates a 'gray ball of smoke'. This, essentially, is another tie to war. The ball 'bursts,' alluding to the 'bursting' of weapons, and also the 'bursting,' or sudden loss of Jake 's self-identity, which occurs because of an injury (which readers can assume causes permanent impotence) he sustained during the war. The color gray is often not a color used to represent happiness despite the Fiesta having many entertaining events. Hemmingway describes the ball of smoke as gray to emblematize the struggle that Jake and his friends have to find happiness after the tragedy of war. This idea is further emboldened because of the 'ball of smoke’s' location; it is above a theater, a place often thought of as entertaining and fun. Yet, even this location that brings joy has this looming darkness above it, symbolizing the pain of the war that Jake is unable to shake from his life, even at the happiest of places. This theater is 'on the other side of the plaza', just as he had fought the war on the other side of the world, yet, the physical and emotional damage is very much present despite the change of location, reinforcing the theme that war can haunt one indefinitely. 

Later in the passage, Hemmingway describes that the previously mentioned ball of smoke 'hung in the sky', 'hung' representing its permanence, as if the effects of war, like the ball of smoke, are unmoving. This same ball of smoke is compared to a 'shrapnel burst[ing],' which is a direct tie to war, considering shrapnel is explosive. This tie clarifies the idea of war coming back to one long after its termination; essentially, Jake is unable to move forward in his life, not only because of how he has changed, but also because he is reminded of the war constantly. Hemmingway again indicates this theme with another 'rocket' combining with the first to 'trickle smoke in the sunlight'. The other rocket, readers can infer, symbolizes Jake's friends and their own haunting memories of war, regardless of what role they played in it. The sun, as previously mentioned, signifies change with its rising; yet, the 'trickle' within the light can be thought as the memories of the war slightly affecting the day and its events due to its impact on each and every one of the characters who went on the vacation to Spain. Essentially, the characters are unable to move past the horrors of war. Even if, to the characters, it seems like a minor disruption, it often dictates their life by causing them to try and forget it through the consumption (and abuse) of alcohol. 

The theme of being haunted by war is exemplified when Hemmingway describes that Jake 'saw the bright flash as it burst,' signifying that the war and its effects were quick to occur, almost taking him by surprise, as indicated by 'burst' and 'flash.' The 'little cloud of smoke' that comes from said quick burst symbolizes the gray smoke previously mentioned, or essentially, the darkness that looms over Jake because of the rapid changes war had created within him. The idea of such rapid changes affecting not just Jake, but everyone involved, is represented in the event that the arcade that the group was in became very crowded, as if everyone now has a change in their lives that causes them to act differently than they had before, just as war had changed the way many lived quite dramatically. This change in scenery can also be connected to the physical change in scenery during the war; cities were destroyed and lives were lost, causing areas that were once clean and welcoming to become unrecognizable, as was the arcade before and after the launching of the rockets. Hemmingway mentions this change to show that, even in the midst of a crowd full of positivity and excitement, Jake and his friends are unable to feel such excitement due to the physical and emotional changes they had experienced because of the war. The waiter's inability to deliver the alcohol that Hemmingway describes later in the passage symbolizes the dependence on alcohol to forget the war, as well as further emboldens the idea that dramatic changes, like war, or in this case, sudden crowds, change the course of one 's life. The waiter had to 'hold the bottle high above his head' to bring it to the group of friends, which reestablishes this need for alcohol, as if the memories, like the alcohol (and the smoke), loom above their heads. The idea that the waiter can 'hardly get through' the crowd is a direct connection to the group members feeling 'hardly [able to] get through' life, considering they have endured changes, both physical and mental, throughout the war; changes that essentially cannot be overlooked, and therefore, the group members must cope with them, which they do, in the form of alcohol and, in the case of Brett, promiscuity, as if these risky behaviors will provide comfort for this perpetual unhappiness the group feels. 

Overall, this passage from Ernest Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises conveys the theme that that war can cause complications within one 's life, and these complications, if not acknowledged, can come back to haunt them even after the war is over. This passage shows Jake's inability to look past the war due to the changes he has experience because of it, even during what some would speculate as the most exciting event of the year in Spain. It shows that essentially, one must acknowledge their sorrows to be able to move on with their lives; otherwise, the turmoil and disillusionment that occurs can negatively affect one 's life indefinitely. 

16 August 2021
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