Gender Changes in the Sun Also Rises

Topics: Ernest Hemingway, Gender, The Sun Also Rises Pages: 5 (972 words) Published: May 19, 2005
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway is a story of being apart of

the "Lost Generation" in the 1920's. The Great War had changed the ideas

of morality, faith and justice and many people began to feel lost. Their

traditional values were changed and the morals practically gone. The "Lost

Generation" rejected Victorian ideologies about gender, sex and identity.

The main characters, Brett and Jake, redefine masculinity and femininity,

drifting away from the Victorian ideals of sexuality and identity.

Lady Brett Ashley is a perfect example of how women in the "Lost

Generation" changed. Brett strives for an individuality that Victorian women

would not look for. She also seeks more activity in the social sphere. By

doing these things, Brett rejects the Victorian ideals of proper behavior of

women and marriage. The time after the Great War is a perfect stage in

which Brett can begin to express herself freely. She enters the social scene,

which is predominately male, even though she is not socially accepted. She

goes to bars and gets drunk, she even goes to bullfights, which are bloody

and violent, to try to become accepted by her male counterparts as not just

a ‘woman' but a person equal to them. Brett also uses sex to break free of

the traditional Victorian ideals and to explore a new lifestyle where women

are free to do as they please. "Victorianism established clear [emphasis

added] sexual boundaries and a single standard of monogamy for men and

women that ensured a stable family and allowed for passion within

committed relationships. " (White) Brett obviously throws these boundaries

out the door. She is characterized as a female unconstrained by sexual

repression, going about sleeping with whomever she feels fit, unstoppable

by the Victorian ideologies of what women and sex should be. However, her

many meaningless, broken relationships with men are repeatedly as

tumultuous as the new, modern world in which she lives.

Throughout her many attempts to set herself apart from the traditional

world, she still acts uncertainly about what she wants. Lady Brett in many

ways is torn between the new modern woman and the idealistic Victorian

woman. You can see this in her dependence on men for money, as in her

engagement to Mike Campbell who is "...going to be rich as hell one day",

and her need for a secure place for her to delve into her sexuality. Maybe

something like what Count Mippipopolous, a very sane and stable

man, could have provided her with.

Jake Barnes is an example of loss. Not only does he lose his morals

and traditions in the era following the Great War, but he also loses his

"masculinity" in a tragic war accident that ended in impotence. This accident drastically changes Jake's views on masculinity. Traditional ideas of what it

means to be a man have been changed by the war. "Jake tries to define

himself as a man even as a war related genital wound denies him the most

basic assertion of manhood, sexual gratification." (Fulton) The handicap

seems to take away from his authority and his idea of male invincibility. As

a result of his impotence, a new man arises. This man sits back and

suppresses his sexual desires and quietly endures the hard times of life,

much like a Victorian woman would.

Jake can sense the transition of gender roles and is not happy or

secure with it at all. "Jake objects... to femininity express through the wrong

body." (Elliott, 80) He fears that his handicap makes him feminine, thus, he

looks to other things to keep from thinking about it. He goes out drinking

with his friends to avoid thinking about all of his problems and his fears.

Amidst this time of physical, social, and emotional chaos, Jake seeks

structure in his everyday life. This is made...

Cited: Elliott, Ira. "Performance Art: Jake Barnes and Masculine Signification."

American Literature Mar. 1995: 1-2
Fulton, Lorie Watkins. "Reading Around Jake 's Narration: Brett Ashley and

The Sun Also Rises." Hemingway Review Fall 2004: 20-61
White, Kevin. Sexual Liberation or Sexual License?: The American Revolt
Against Victorian Sexuality. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000.
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