The Portrayal Of A Generation’s Disillusionment In The Sun Also Rises

Thesis statement

As a result of his experiences during World War I, Ernest Hemingway accurately portrays the disillusionment of the Lost Generation in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. 


The early 20th Century was a challenging and irregular time for the world, with not only World War I, but also World War II taking place. American’s identities were changing, especially for the next generation that was being brought up. American’s needed someone that would accurately portray the feelings and emotions that the upcoming generation was facing with all of the change taking place. The nation was ready for a new style of writing that would embody how American’s felt at the time; not only as a group, but as a nation.

The man who would do this is Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s new American style of writing consisted of being clean as well as orderly. One thing that made Hemingway’s books so popular was his simple writing style. This made his novels not only enjoyable to the middle class, but to all Ameicans. A high school education was not needed to read Hemingway’s literature. Hemingway’s books also discuss high society, so they appeal to the upper class as well. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises established him as a major literary figure. The novel is considered by many to be the first commercially successful peace of modern literature.

A literary giant is born

It all started on July 21, 1899 when Ernest Miller Hemingway was born. He was born in Oak Park, a middle-class suburb of Chicago, Illonois. Hemingway’s father was a doctor of medicine who enjoyed hunting and fishing who eventually taught his son too as well. His mother was a religious woman who liked music and panting. Sports were a big part of Hemingway’s childhood. He learned to box and played high school football. His childhood vacations consisted of spending his summers in Michigan. These vacations are told in the After high school Hemingway moved to Kansas City even though his parents objected. Both his mother and father thought he was too young. Soon after, he wanted to join the military. Hemingway was desperate to join the war because it was a change, new, exciting, and different. He was repeatedly rejected from the army because he had a bad eye.

His first job was a reporter for Kansas City Star, one of the country's best newspapers. They hired him because his uncle helped him get the job, and he had some experience writing his high school's newspaper. He had to lie about his age to get the job because he was too young. They sent Hemingway to report on World War I. Although he only worked for Kansas City Star for 6 months, he left quite the good impression as a novice writer.

Eventually Hemingway enlisted to be a part of the Red Cross Medical service. Overseas He became an ambulance driver. He was wounded when passing out chocolate to troops in Italy. Although he was shot and had bullet fragments in his leg, he still saved a man by carrying him to the nearest Aid Station. Over His lifetime, Hemingway was injured countless times. His skull was fractured, he had at least 12 concussions, he was in 3 bad automobile accidents, and he was even in two airplane accidents. During warfare he was shot 9 times and sustained six head wounds. Hemingway then enlisted to be part of the Italian infantry. The Italian government named Hemingway an honorary lieutenant in the Red Cross. He was looked up to as a man of courage and greatness.

Hemingway was in his twenties when he decided to move to Paris. In Paris he worked for Toronto Star for a short time, but decided to quit in order to write. Gertrude Stein encouraged him to do so. This is when He wrote The Sun Also Rises, and critics as well as the public started paying attention to him.

Loved by many but certainly not all

Hemingway was a man who had many romantic relationships. His first marriage was with Hadley Richardson, where they had a son together. Hemingway’s second marriage was to a woman named Pauline Pfeiffer. In his second marriage Hemingway had two more sons. He then married Martha Gellhorn in his third marriage and his final marriage was to Mary Welsh.

In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway includes many different aspects of writing in his novel that makes his style so unique, and looked at as the start of something new. There are many critics that voice their opinion on Hemingway, some loving him, and some not so much. Hemingway was a philosophical writer according to critic E.M. Halliday. Halliday says that Hemignway used religion in The Sun Also Rises. The main character in the novel, Jake Barnes, is a Roman Catholic. Like Hemingway, he appears bitter, doubtful, and sceptic. Jake states, According to Halliday, Hemingway focuses on conduct in his novel. Main character Jake Barnes says, Hemingway’s writing focuses on being alive but at the same time is preoccupied with death. Many well known writers focus on symbolism in order to get their point across. According to Halliday, Hemingway does not do this with his use of symbolism being limited. Hemingway subtly uses symbolism to convey meaning through implication instead of explicitly using it. Critic Carlos Baker talks about Hemingway’s character development. Some of Hemingway’s characters in the novel resemble caricatures. A caricature is an imitation of a person with exaggerated characteristics. Both Chon and Campbell in The Sun Also Rises are caricatures.

According to Leon Edel, Hemingway is not a great American fiction writer. He is a 2nd tier American fiction writer. Edel says that Hemingway did not create a style but rather an illusion of a style. He uses tricks to get his point across. His writing is clever, but not an actual style. Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, is limited because it is not well developed. On the other hand, critic Philip Young says Hemingway is a great stylist. His lack of depth is purposeful and has formed his literary style according to Young. Hemingway’s novel showcases his clean and precise writing style. The substance of the book and the simple style provide lessons about life in general.

Not following the normal, Hemingway’s hero in his novel is not heroic. The hero, Jake Barnes in the novel is hurt by war just like anyone else could be. The hero’s central quality is the meaninglessness of life. The critic is Samual Shaw. Shaw believes that Hemingway wrote Jake Barnes as himself. Critics suggest that both Hemingway and Barnes have sexual fears. The character Jake Barnes is a WWI vet and expatriate who exemplifies Hemingway’s strong male characters while also making him vulnerable. Jake admires bullfighting, is a great fisherman, and is also impotent. This suggestion or scandal eventually fades and dies.

The Sun Also Rises eventually was seen to be related to Shaw does not think this is true. Shaw thinks that the novel was introduced so that it made Hemingway seem sympathetic for people born after the war. Hemingway did not consider himself to be lost. He also didn’t consider his generation to be lost. However, in the book, Hemingway includes men arguing throughout to show how they are lost. A steer is a castrated bull. Mike is insulting Cohn by implying he is castrated. According to Shaw, Hemingway did not think that any generation could be characterized in one single phrase, therefore could not be lost as a whole.

Many critics consider the novel to be Hemingway’s best novel. It was his first novel to establish him as a major literary figure and was published when he was only 27 years old. Hemingway disliked fakeness and opposed showy and pretentious lifestyles. The book is described as raw and real. He was opposed to a theatrical lifestyle. Many believe that the novel greatly influenced American life. Ivy league students considered the lifestyle in the book to be glamorous. Young Americans enthusiastically imitated the lifestyle of the character. The book's sparse language conveys a tough attitude. The character’s feel deeply but do not state their feelings.

Author Lesley Bloom did a contemporary review on Hemingway’s novel. He believes that many of the characters are actual people in Hemingway’s life. For example, Robert Cohn was based off of Hemingway’s tennis friend, Harold Lobe. Bloom agrees that Jake Barns was actually Hemingway himself. Barnes was impotent and Hemingway allowed others to know that he may have been too. In the novel, Jake Barnes is searching for the meaning of his life, and is an expatriate who has moved to Europe after being wounded. He is a journalist looking for a way to live his life more fully, but he is angry about his life because of the war and his injury. Although the book could have been considered a story about people behaving badly, it is still thought as excellent literature today. Many deem it to be the first commercially successful peace of modern literature. The novel does not require much of an education to be enjoyed, but also appeals to the upper class.

A different time

Although the World War’s certainly swayed how Hemingway wrote, there were also many other major historical events which occurred during Hemingway's life. These events also persuaded and influenced Hemingway on how we wrote. America was changing at a rapid pace and the common people had to learn how to deal with it. For example, when Hemingway was just a toddler Wilbur and Orville Wright flew the first air machine on December 17, 1903. They flew for 12 seconds at 120 feet. This changed the world and transportation as we know it today.

World War I started for Americans when the U.S declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. Millions of men joined armed forces over the next two years. In June of 1917 the first American troops went to fight. The first American Draftees were chosen by lottery. American Combat Soldiers were killed for the first time in October of 1917. President Wilson Outlined a peace plan on January 8, 1918. On June 28, 1918 the U.S War Department authorized the use of chemical warfare and on November 11, 1918 Germany signed the Treaty of Peace and fighting stopped.

During Hemingway’s lifetime women also gained the right to vote. Women had been protesting for hundreds of years. On August 28, 1917 suffragists were arrested at the White House. The 19th amendment to the U.S Constitution was passed. It was ratified in August of 1920. The Great Depression also took place at the end of the 1920s. The Great Depression was an economic crisis and many banks collapsed. The stock market crashed in the fall of 1929. Before the Depression it was almost seen as unusual for one to not have any money. An exception is the character Mike Campbell, who is a drunk Scottish man who is bankrupt. Mike is constantly drinking and fighting in the book. Mike is referred to as a bankrupt in the book which indicates he doesn’t have any money and is unusual for the 1920s. Many World War I veterans could not find jobs and the economy was very slow to recover after the Great Depression.

World War II began in September 1939 soon after Germany invaded Poland. At first, the U.S. stayed out of the war. The Pearl Harbor attack took place by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. This was the straw that broke the camel's back, and the U.S. decided to join the war. America dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This occured on August 6, and August 9, 1945. The bombs ended World War II, but thousands of civilians were killed in the process. The Vietnam War also took place in Hemingway’s lifetime. The war was between north and south Vietnam and began in 1955. The war killed roughly 58,000 Americans. It ended after Hemingway’s death in 1975.

The Civil Rights movement was also taking place. African American’s protested to gain equal rights. The demonstrations focused on ending school segregation. In 1957 the U.S Commission of Civil Rights was created. Asian as well as Japanese Americans were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Asian and Chinese Americans were accused of communism. Japanese immigrants were restricted depending on their race and country. LGBTQ instisted on their right to gather in public. In Hemingway’s novel, he talks down homosexuals. Jake is upset that Brett came with homosexual friends. The homophobia is surprising for today, but not for the 1920s. These horrific as well as progressive events are proof that Life was changing, different, and in many ways harder for Hemingway’s generation.

Throughout The Sun Also Rises Hemingway uses words as well as phrases that would not be seen today. Hemingway describes the character as a Jew. This description would most likely not happen after World War II. An example of Hemingway using a phrase in the nontraditional manner is when he says Taken in hand was used to refer to traditional relationships where men guided women. In this quote, the woman is guiding the man.

Hemingway uses a number of derogatory terms in the novel that are seen as sexist and racist today. First, the word kike is used in the book to refer to a jewish person as a villan. The word kike is a derogatory term used to refer to jewish people. The word is offensive and not commonly used today in literature. Second, the term little chickens is used to refer to young girlfriends. The expression little chickens is an outdated way to refer to women. The expression is offensive and is rarely used today in literature. Most people would not know what little chickens means today. Thirdly, Hemingway says, newly washed, white faces, and wavy hair, which are all terms that are used to refer to homosexuals. The terms suggest that homosexuals wore makeup and did up their hair. This description is offensive because it seems to be making fun of the characters. This description would not be used today. Lastly, Women are referred to as pieces in the book. A piece refers to a woman someone had sex with or wants to have sex with in the novel. This term is derogatory to refer to women and would not be used today.

Hemingway implies things about the characters through their location, as well as their vocabulary and actions. “A bateau mouche is an open excursion boat visitors ride in Paris. This helps establish the characters as expatriates out to have a good time and not necessarily tourists because they are drinking and watching the tourists on the boat.

There are many quotes used that establish the time period. Around this part in the novel we learn that Jake is impotent. Impotence was considered worse than death for men at the time, but today one would much rather be alive and impotent then dead. supports the time period because it was written in 1895 and was considered literature in the 1920s. Today most people would have probably never heard of The characters are discussing alcohol and this establishes the time period because it is referring to the prohibition era in America. Another example is when the word is used. A driver greeted the male friends to drive them wearing a duster. A duster is a full length light-weight coat worn in the 1920s. This establishes the time period because most people today would not know what a duster is because they are not worn today. An additional example in the novel is when bootblacks keeps polishing Mike’s shoes. Bootblacks were people who used to shine shoes on the streets. This established the time period because very few still do this for a living today. The lost generation time period is supported when Here Jake is talking to Barns about life. Jake is searching for his life’s meaning, and he feels that his life is not complete.

Hemingway also uses quotes that demonstrate the setting of the novel. Fines refers to fine brandy in France. The word fines is something we would rarely hear today. Another example is that Hemingway makes Lady Brett Ashley an independent woman who is miserable without a partner. This supports the earlier time period view of women as well as Hemingway’s view of women. An example of Lady Brett Ashley being unhappy without a partner is when she is always complaining about being unsatisfied in life. Lady Brett has several affairs in the book but remains unhappy. Lady Brett has an affair with Romero the bullfighter. Lady Brett imagines she would have had a great life with Jake, but they were not together because of his injury. Lady Brett went looking for something she could not find after losing her love in World War I.


Hemingway constantly was traveling in his lifetime, moving from Spain to Ketchum when he grew older. He fell sick with an enlarged liver and high blood pressure. Visitors said he was frail, anxious, and deeply depressed. He even had electroshock treatment 25 times. Hemingway died on July 2, 1661 from a gun shot wound in the head, many speculatted it to be suicide. Looking back on his lifetime we can see that he lived the life that he wanted to live. Although he certainly wasn't a perfect man, he was unquestionably a man of his time period. Hemingway was the result of someone whose world was continuously changing around them. 

16 August 2021
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