Masculinity in The Sun Also Rises
Norman Mailer once said, “Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor” (Mailer). He is saying that the honor of being masculine is not just handed to one on a silver platter, but is rightfully earned, much like the way the bullfighters earned their masculinity by their successes in the arena. One of the themes in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises is how masculinity creates much conflict between the characters and the post World War I society they reside in. Hemingway employs many literary techniques to convey the complexities of the theme. Hemingway is able to portray the theme of masculinity through symbolism, the parallel between individual impotence and the impotence of society, as well as the flip of gender roles.
The bull provides great symbolic meaning when masculinity is the subject in this novel. Hemingway often uses the bull or the bullfight as a metaphor with which characters engage. Brett Ashley is highly attracted to the bull, and she admires its perfection of masculine qualities, shown in the passage where Hemingway describes the bull: Then I saw a dark muzzle and the shadow of the horns, and then, with a clattering on the wood in the hollow box, the bull charged and came out into the corral, skidding with his forefeet in the straw as he stopped, his head up, the great hump of muscle on his neck swollen tight, his body muscles quivering as he looked up at the crowd on the stone wall. The two steers backed away against the wall, their heads sunken, their eyes watching the bull (Hemingway 139). The bull shows brute strength and great power, which amazes and stuns Brett. She reacts to this sight by saying "My, God isn't he beautiful?" (Hemingway 139). While Brett is taken away by the power of the bull, she struggles to find such masculine qualities in the men in the novel. The bull is the most complete form of masculinity Brett...
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