Essay, Research Paper: Sun Also Rises By Hemingway

Literature: Ernest Hemingway

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Madam Adam: Hemingway’s exploration of Man in The Sun Also Rises ‘It’s
really an awfully simple operation, Jig,’ the man said. ‘It’s not really
an operation at all.’ Much of Hemingway’s body of work grows from issues of
male morality. In his concise, “Hills Like White Elephants,” a couple
discusses getting an abortion while waiting for a train in a Spanish rail
station bar. Years before Roe v. Wade, before the issues of abortion rights,
mothers’ rights, and unborn children’s rights splashed across the American
mass consciousness, Ernest Hemingway assessed the effects of abortion on a
relationship, and, more specifically, he examined a man’s role in determining
the necessity of the procedure and its impact on his psyche and his ability to
love. The Sun Also Rises continues the investigation of the morality of being a
man in longer, more foundational form. Rather than dealing with such a discrete
issue as “Hills Like White Elephants,” the novel discusses questions of
masculinity on a large scale by testing an array of male characters, each
perfect in some traditionally masculine traits, with a woman perfectly designed
to cut to their flaws. The three most important of these controlled experiments
balance each other particularly well. Lady Brett’s treatment of Jake Barnes,
Pedro Romero, and, much more briefly, Count Mippopopolous allows Ernest
Hemingway to exhibit the infinite fallibility of Man as his most fundamental and
important quality rather than exulting the tough-guy, ubermench cult he is often
credited with popularizing. Ernest Hemingway says he slapped Max Eastman’s
face with a book… and Max Eastman says he threw Hemingway over a desk and
stood him on his head in a corner… They both tell of the face-slapping, but
Mr. Hemingway denies Mr. Eastman threw him anywhere or stood him on his head in
any place, and says that he will donate $1,000 to any charity…for the pleasure
of Mr. Eastman’s company in a locked room with all legal rights waved.
Hemingway’s penchant for adventure, belief in honor, and outward male pride
often manifested themselves in well-publicized scandals such as his 1937 rumble
with Max Eastman. Some of his stories, like surviving on bananas and rum in the
African jungle after suffering two plane crashes, have integrated themselves
into American folklore. The author seemed to live the romantic, wild lifestyle
his novels reported. And Hemingway did lead an exciting life—hunting in
Africa, fishing off Cuba, battling in Spain, and drinking in France. However,
Hemingway killed himself in July of 1961, so he obviously found shortcomings in
the commingling of fiction and reality that he created. Consequently, a reading
of The Sun Also Rises that examines the failures of its male characters as a
study of qualities men ought to have inevitably proves anemic—all of them
suffer from flaws the author purposely highlights. Hemingway cannot deny the
importance and existence of heroic acts even within a novel containing no
complete hero. Rather, the defects of the men with whom Lady Brett cultivates
relationships throughout the book represent the obstacles that all men must
overcome as the necessary action of heroism. His story, “The Short Happy Life
of Francis Macomber,” follows the full cycle of this process, from the
emasculation of its protagonist when his wife witnesses his flight from a lion
on safari, to his murder as a result of conquering his fear. Noticeably, though,
the heroic completion of Francis Macomber who grows, “‘awfully brave,
awfully suddenly’” immediately precedes the death he suffers not in the
fangs of his previous adversary but at the hands of his wife, society’s
representative on that plot of savannah. Jake Barnes, the narrator in The Sun
Also Rises, does not clearly recount the moments that stole the physical
component of his masculinity. The novel simply informs the reader of the
presence of such a war injury, which becomes Lady Brett, his professed love’s
excuse for her incomplete attention to him. But Jake’s basic failing as a man
paradoxically provides him with an increased tolerance for Brett and his ability
to, somewhat objectively, relate a story about her sexual activity. Barnes also
wields a cool tone before any emotional situation in completing the tough task
of tracking Ashley. The man refuses any connection to an outside character
deeper than drinking and banter. For instance, in Burguete he responds,
“‘Drink up, Harris,” to a new fishing buddy’s admission, “‘I say,
Barnes. You don’t know what this all means to me.” Arthur Waldhorn notes in
his Reader’s Guide to Ernest Hemingway, “what Jake offers himself is a
self-study course in emotional pragmatism.” In spite of his wounded sexuality
and even tone, Barnes eventually reveals himself as a passionate man. He loves
to read; it even settles him when he drinks too much. He contentedly travels
into the mountains to fish with his friend Bill Gorton. And his two greatest
loves, Lady Brett and bull-fighting, drive the novel. Jake Barnes’ zeal for
the bull-ring best exhibits his primary strength. Before he journeys to
Pamplona, he reads any information he can find on the sport, even if it is
repetitive. Early in the novel he notes, “I had the two bull-fight papers …
They would both have the same news, so whichever I read first would spoil the
other.” Jake later offers the term aficion, “passion,” to the readers to
better explain his love: “Aficion means passion. An aficionado is one who is
passionate about bull-fights… there was no password, no set questions that
could bring it out, rather it was a sort of oral spiritual examination…”
Such talk seems incongruent with the character of an emotional pragmatist, but
Barnes never actually claims to feel the way his stoic tone sounds. Rather, he
identifies his behavior and, consequently, his mission as an attempt, “to
know…how to live in,” the world that allows his shortcomings. But Jake’s
second great aficion leads to his moral downfall. Barnes pursues his love for
Lady Brett throughout the novel. His first description of the woman, “Brett
was damn good-looking. She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and
her hair was brushed back like a boy’s…. She was built with curves like the
hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it with that wool jersey,”
embodies the transcendent femininity—placed beyond sexuality by his words
(“hair…like a boy’s”) and his limitations—which disarms every man she
meets. But even with all of her admirers Lady Brett Ashley revels in Jake
Barnes’ claims of love for her. Barnes is sincere. In spite of his sexual
limitations, he attempts to gratify at least partially her physical obsession by
kissing her in a taxi in their first moments alone together. However, both Jake
and the reader find ambiguity in Brett’s affection. She responds, “‘You
mustn’t. You must know. I can’t stand it,” to his attempt at compromise.
Following her rejection, Barnes poses the uncharacteristic question,
“‘Don’t you love me?’” that embodies the substance of his search in
the novel. The emasculated narrator wants to discover how he must, as a broken
man, receive love. His exterior notwithstanding, Jake Barnes demonstrates that
he loves books, bulls, fishing, and he especially loves Brett. So as the story
builds to a climax in the chaos of the bull festival, he makes a deluded
sacrifice to the only chance for reciprocation he sees. Herein his passionate
strength betrays itself as also his greatest weakness. Barnes’ desire for
Ashley to return his love blinds him to the gratification that bull-fighting
affords him. His interactions with the Pamplona hotel owner, Montoya, indicate
that his true aficion loves him back. Jake recalls, “He always smiled as
though bull-fighting were a very special secret between the two of us.” One
critical reading understands this moment as part of a homoerotic subtext of the
novel. But the homosexuality overtones better serve the scene as a clarification
of bull-fighting’s ability to reflect love upon its followers than the other
way around. Unfortunately, Jake’s passions prove too varied and attractive,
and he soon destroys this, his healthiest relationship at the behest of Brett,
his most destructive partner. Lady Brett Ashley requests that Barnes offer her
Pedro Romero, a young, pure bull-fighter who carries the faith of all of the
aficionados as the savior of their way of life from the perverting forces of
capitalism and cosmopolitanism, from the globalism of the modern era. Jake
surrenders the boy to Brett, to perversion, and loses his connection with the
community. After Romero’s romance with Brett becomes public, Montoya and
Barnes share no more glowing moments; the Spaniard will not even exchange a nod
of greeting. Jake finds himself alone and unloved. Hemingway points out his
narrator’s desertedness when Romero leaves Brett, and she sends to Jake for
help. Her telegrams end only with her name while he signs his response, “LOVE
JAKE.” But, in his return to Brett, Jake demonstrates that he has learned from
his failure and, in that, displays his ultimate heroism and recuperation of his
morality. The final lines of the novel indicate his new perspective as a man
reborn with nothing but a heightened understanding of how he must live his life.
He has reconciled with his loss of sexuality and knows that he must search for
gratification in unique ways, like bull-fighting, rather than in the crass
sexuality intimated by a policeman’s raised baton: ‘Oh Jake,’ Brett said,
‘we could have had such a damned good time together.’ Ahead was a mounted
policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed
suddenly pressing Brett against me. ‘Yes.’ I said. ‘Isn’t it pretty to
think so.’ The idea of Jake Barnes representing a male hero in spite of both
his emasculation and the huge ethical mistake he commits in learning to handle
it still seems to run contrary to the commonly-held image of a Hemingway man.
Essentially, Barnes is male only in genetic code, and he even allows himself to
be dominated by a woman for much of his story. However, the author often
explores the disconnection of sexuality and true male morality in his work. One
particularly good example of this study occurs in his 1937 novel To Have And To
Have Not. Here, he imagines an old, worried grain broker, lying aboard his yacht
in the Caribbean and finding his humanity: And where he was now was lying in a
pair of striped silk pyjamas that covered his shrunken old man’s chest, his
bloated little belly, his now useless and disproportionately large equipment
that had once been his pride, and his small flabby legs, lying on a bed unable
to sleep because he finally had remorse. Hemingway obviously separates physical
from moral manliness in this passage. His broker is, as he quips a page earlier,
“well-endowed,” but his penis proves useless in his quest for spirituality.
So the author’s personality should not prohibit Jake Barnes' development as a
hero. Hemingway best establishes this point in The Sun Also Rises, however, with
his portrayal of the nearly perfect man, Pedro Romero. The nineteen-year-old
bull-fighting prodigy shares all of Jake Barnes’ stereotypically male
qualities: his coolness, his knowlegabilty, his bravery and his ability to
relate to other men. But even at such a young age, Romero also possesses the
component of a man which Barnes cannot hope to achieve, extreme sexual vitality.
Inevitably, Lady Brett Ashley decides that she must sleep with Romero. Brett’s
desire for Romero appears so genuine that it mocks her earlier expression of
craziness for Jake. When she rejects Jake’s advances in the taxi early in the
novel, she skirts his question of her love in stereotypical boyfriend,
love-equals-sexuality, fashion. She responds, “‘Love you? I simply turn all
to jelly when you touch me.’” On the other hand, Ashley admits her love for
Romero using the loaded word itself the day after she meets him: “‘I’m a
goner. I’m mad about the Romero boy. I’m in love with him, I think… I’ve
lost my self-respect.’” Brett’s lack of self-control, however,
distinguishes Romero’s task from Barnes’ and cheapens the young fighter’s
heroism while aggrandizing the narrator’s. Life gives itself to Romero. He is
beautiful, talented, and he loves his dangerous work. In far less than the
normal amount of time required to master any trade he ascends to the top of the
glorious profession of bull-fighting because he, “never made any
contortions;” he remains, like his cape-work, “straight and pure and natural
in line.” Pedro Romero’s innate talents allow him to live his life
instinctually. He stays static and unchanging before any trouble, whether he
must rise repeatedly under Cohn’s practiced jabs or stand motionless in front
of a charging bull. Even when obliged to face death in the bull-ring with the
weight of the boxer’s bruises on his face and Brett’s love on his heart,
Romero reacts in textbook fashion. He kills the bull, and, as Jake recalls,
“he did it all for himself inside, and it strengthened him, and yet he did it
for her [Brett], too. But he did not do it for her at any loss to himself. He
gained by it all through the afternoon.” He does no wrong. Pedro Romero even
maintains his composure during his first encounter with Brett: “He felt there
was something between them. He must have felt it when Brett gave him her hand.
He was being very careful.” That night, he sleeps with her. Romero
accomplishes the task which Jake can never match, but he conquers a smitten
Brett whereas Jake would have to deal with a calculating woman. However, though
all of the bull-fighter’s successes would challenge a normal man, such as
Jake, Romero exists as a god on earth. When nature, Cohn and Brett, flaw him,
Pedro succeeds with even greater glory. Hemingway creates in Romero an
acknowledged idol who, “had the greatness,” but did not earn it—rendering
his heroism either synthetic or fleeting. In his essay on The Sun Also Rises,
Arthur Waldhorn theorizes that Romero has simply not met his challenge yet. He
refers to Romero’s battered bullfight, noting, “moments before Romero
thrills the crowd, the aging, fistula-plagued matador Belmonte—once as
stirring in the arena as Romero, now a silent harbinger of Romero’s
future—draws catcalls for his cautious handling of the bulls.” If Pedro
Romero’s destiny contains such indignity, such emasculation, then he will fall
to humanity, like Jake, Belmonte, and, the first man, Adam, and then he will
receive his opportunity to become a hero. Romero cannot become a man until he
copes with an unfair obstacle to his life and his morality. Consequently, the
story’s end presents even flawed Jake Barnes as a more complete man than Pedro
Romero. When Brett gives Romero trouble after they run off together, he leaves
willingly and strongly. Jake, on the other hand, finally finds himself able to
master the woman in the novel’s final scene. With this cycle, the author seems
to assert that, at one point, all men are perfect, and all men suffer such
injuries as give their lives meaning and heroism. The only other man in The Sun
Also Rises able to manipulate Brett, Count Mippopopolous, provides an ultimate
end-point, beyond Barnes’ resurrection, to this sequence of growth from Pedro
Romero to Jake Barnes. The count is older and wounded (by arrows no less) as
badly or worse than the others, but he still finds himself able to enjoy Lady
Brett’s company without being overwhelmed by her. He has already become a man
by the early chapters, as evidenced not only by Ashley’s readiness to tell
him, “‘I love you, count,’” but more by his quick retort, “You make me
very happy, my dear. But it isn’t true.’” Count Mippopopolous foreshadows
Jake’s development during their conversation with a bit of seemingly trite
wisdom that the narrator initially disregards as part of the common idiom of old
men. Barnes cannot know that the count’s assertion that, “‘it is because I
have lived very much that I can enjoy everything so well… That is the secret.
You must get to know the values,’” will form the moral of the rest of his
tumultuous summer. Ultimately, The Sun Also Rises represents every man’s
bildungsroman in the persons of Jake Barnes, Pedro Romero, and Count
Mippopopolous. Ernest Hemingway undertakes the enormous task, required of all
great Christian authors from Dante, Spenser, and Milton on, of recreating the
fall and resurrection of man. The simple-minded, quasi-romantic conceptions of
the Hemingway hero and the emptiness of being so loosely applied to characters
and ideas within the novel robs the text of much of its impact. Rather than
lolling in the shallow boozery of the so-called “lost generation,” which the
author himself enshrines in The Sun Also Rises’ inscription, he advocates a
search for meaning as the route to male heroism. Hemingway does not create
impossible idols as forbidding reminders to give up on life, just as he does not
leave Stein’s, “You are all a lost generation,” alone at the front of his
book. Instead he follows the sad quotation with an ever-hopeful passage from
Ecclesiastes which notes the cyclical nature of all things in creation and bears
him his title. One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but
the earth abideth forever… The sune also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and
hasteth to the place where he arose… The wind goeth toward the south, and
turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind
returneth again according to his circuits… All the rivers run into the sea;
yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither
they return.
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