Friday, July 11, 2014

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

This was Ernest Hemingway's first novel. It is clear that he is a master of style.  His sentences are balanced in every way.  The pace is just right, and I appreciate the absence modern structural gimmicks designed to propel the reader.

For the post-World War I generation, The Sun Also Rises was what Jack Kerouac's On the Road was for the post-World War II generation.  The characters appear to be without any direction in life.  But despite all the drinking, fighting, passion, and lust, it is a spiritual journey.  Their busyness, endless, distractions and agitation are signs of restless hearts.  Near the beginning, Robert Cohn expresses a desire to know his purpose in life.  All of them are certainly engaged and in love with life.  Although it may appear this way, Hemingway's character Jake did not take his friends to Pamplona merely to be entertained by the running of the bulls. Jake himself points out that the running of the bulls is only part of a Catholic religious festival called the Feast of Saint Fermina.  Hemingway's character, Jake, goes to church several times and describes himself as very unsure of his Catholicism. Brett tries to pray in churches but resigns to believing that she has no relationship with God.  The title, The Sun Also Rises, is taken from the Bible, from Ecclesiastes. It means that life goes on. Near the end, Brett says somewhat pithily to Jake that she loves the feeling of not being a bitch and that is what we have instead of God.  But Jake reminds her as he has said to her before that there are people who believe. He is talking about himself.  Even if they do not realize it, Cohn, Jake, Brett, and the others  are all looking for purpose, meaning and transcendence in life. That they appear to have failed or not being doing a good job of it does not make it any less a spiritual quest. 

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