The Sun Also Rises


Story Symbols and Themes


The Lost Generation/ emotional and psychic consequences of World War I

Nearly every character in The Sun Also Rises is a veteran of World War I. They belong to what Gertrude Stein called “the Lost Generation,” meaning the generation of men and women whose early adulthood was consumed by what was considered the first “modern war.” The trench warfare and horrific new weaponry of World War I scarred these individuals emotionally and psychologically in unprecedented ways, and there were no resources to help them cope with the aftermath. In fact, the theory and practice of psychoanalysis was just being developed at this time, largely by Sigmund Freud, but there was little in place in American or British culture that could help the veterans of the First World War make sense of what they had been through. They felt alienated from their own cultures, and many, like Ernest Hemingway, chose to travel and live as expatriates. These are the players in The Sun Also Rises, whose lives are characterized by aimless wandering, heavy drinking and moral uncertainty.

Sex as power/ loss of power

Jake’s sexual impotence renders him powerless to fully consummate a relationship with the woman he loves. However, it is not Jake’s impotence, but rather Brett’s promiscuity, which really keeps the lovers apart. Jake repeatedly asks Brett to be with him, to stay with him in spite of their inability to have sexual intercourse, and she continually refuses on the grounds that she will have to cheat on him if they are together. She is unwilling to sacrifice sex in order to be with Jake. Jake’s desire for her nonetheless remains a powerful force, and even to the end, Brett is able to wield this power to get Jake to do anything for her—including setting her up with other men, and then flying to her rescue when she tires of these men. The powerful influence of Brett’s sexuality, characterized by flirtation and promiscuity, is also seen in the...

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Essays About The Sun Also Rises