The Meaning Of “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway wasn’t the easiest man to figure out for most people. And he’s still not the easiest man to figure out today. This is more so the case for his book, The Sun Also Rises, than anything else he ever wrote. If you go to any book review site, you will find a wide range of reviews and ratings for this piece. Perhaps the best example is GoodReads. It’s not often you find a book where readers have developed such a love/hate relationship. However, the reason for this is simple. The primary reason many people dislike The Sun Also Rises is because they don’t understand its meaning. To these readers, it’s a book about several expatriates who travel from Paris to Spain for the running of the bulls. During these travels, this motley group stops in taverns to drink and dance, and they meet many unscrupulous characters along the way.

The focus of the book is on the supposedly hapless Jake Barnes and the over-the-top Lady Brett Ashley. The latter is outspoken and often rude, and she’s certainly not shy with the men she meets. She even goes so far as to have Jake Barnes help her meet new men, even though she knows he’s interested in her. One problem for her is that Jake isn’t as exciting as other men; another problem for her (perhaps a big one) is that he’s impotent. When Lady Brett Ashley has an affair with Robert Cohn, Jake Barnes is none too pleased. By the end of the book, the average reader might feel disappointed, feeling as though they just read an older version of a modern day soap opera. But those readers are completely missing the point. The readers who love this book understand Hemingway, as well as the method to his madness.

The book is much deeper than what’s on the surface. While the average reader will think Jake Barnes is the loser, it’s quite the opposite. He doesn’t get the girl or have as much fun as most of the other characters, but he eventually gets over Lady Brett Ashley, realizing that if his dreams came true, it would only lead to heartache – everything around her is tragic. Jake is also wise enough to move away from excess and all of its manipulative disguises. He recognizes that while everyone else around him is truly a member of The Lost Generation (post-World War I and somewhat incompetent), he is battered but not lost. This is the case because he figures out that life isn’t about finding the ever-elusive happiness. The beauty of life is about a constant struggle. This is the genius in Hemingway’s writing, similar to the underlying message in Cove Valley today. Only back then, readers couldn’t discuss the true meaning of books online. To go along with this masterful allegory that is The Sun Also Rises, readers will find a terse narrative, brilliantly described settings, and realistic dialogue. It’s a highly recommended read for any deep thinker.

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