The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises was Ernest Hemingway’s first published Novel. It is the story of an American expatriate writer living in Paris. Jake Barnes, the protagonist of the Novel is a World War I veteran, a major bullfighting aficionado, and a heavy drinking journalist, much like Hemingway himself. Autobiographical? Perhaps.
The story opens with Jake as the narrator giving us a brief biographical note of another American expatriate, a wealthy Jewish friend named Robert Cohn. During a night out on the town the two friends run into Lady Brett Ashley, a beautiful and sophisticated English socialite who is separated from her husband and utterly in love with Jake, but who is unfortunately already engaged to another war veteran and heavy drinker, a Scott by the name of Mike.
Bill Gorton, another American war veteran who shares a strong friendship with Jake, shows up to visit him in Europe. They go on a fishing trip to Spain and make plans to go to the running of the bulls at the Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, where they will be reunited with Jake’s circle of expatriate, socialite, friends from different parts of the world, among them Lady Brett and her perennially sauced Scottish Fiance. The detail in the description of the Fiesta de San Fermin, the running of the bulls, and the bullfights that follow is impeccable. The bitterness of the characters who all seem to be lost, or looking for something to fill an emotional void (hence the lost generation) is palpable to the reader. These are a motley crew of lonely souls trying to numb their pain with alcohol, love and adrenalin.
Much of the beauty in the novel is evoked by the simplicity of the writing and the strong focus on dialogue, which Hemingway masterfully uses to create entire scenes in The Sun Also Rises. Although the prose and his description of settings and characters is characteristically simple, you still feel like you’re walking the streets of Paris or Pamplona with them, as if you were part of their crew. During the Fiesta de San Fermin, the town of Pamplona is abound in drinking, dancing and debauchery. Lady Brett, with a little help from Jake, begins an affair with a handsome bullfighter they see in one of the fights. After the Fiesta is over, the characters take their separate ways. Lady Brett leaves with the matador to Madrid, and Jake ends up in San Sebastian where he takes a few days on his own to unwind. He is of course very much in Love with Lady Brett as well. They both know it. But there’s something about Jake, something that happened to him in his past that keeps them apart. While in San Sebastian Jake receives a Telegram from Lady Brett asking him to meet her in Madrid. Jake goes to her. He finds her alone in a Madrid hotel. She tells him that she’s broken up with the young Matador because she fears that her love for him will destroy his career in the ring. She’s made up her mind to go back to Mike, Jake agrees. As they ride a Taxi, a bit forlorn, on their way out of Madrid, Lady Brett and Jake talk about what might have been.