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The Lost Generation in The Sun Also Rises

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The Lost Generation in The Sun Also Rises As World War I ripped through many European countries in the early twentieth century, the population suffered not only physically, but mentally. In addition to the many lives lost in this war, the youth of the world was greatly affected by this relatively new idea of death. Consequently, the "Great War" caused a lapse in values and standards in the generation who suffered through it, permanently damaging the remainder of their lives. Earnest Hemingway takes a glimpse into the lives of the people of this so-called lost generation in his novel The Sun Also Rises. Set in this post World War I age, The Sun Also Rises shows the physical and emotional wounds, the religious abandonment, and the way in which members of the "lost generation" escape from their lives that were greatly affected by the first World War. Every character in The Sun Also Rises has been affected by World War I in some way. Some wounds show outwardly, while others are internalized, producing an even greater emotional and often psychological trauma on the character. The narrator of this novel, Jake Barnes, is a character whose physical wounds from the Great War cause him both emotional and psychological grief. While fighting in the War, Jake suffers an injury that leaves him impotent, but still desiring sexual activity. This wound causes him not only pain, but a great deal of confusion in regard to his relationship with Lady Brett Ashley: both partners know they love each other, but Jake's inability to sexually fulfill Lady Brett Ashley causes her to reject him. ...read more.


After Brett meets Pedro Romero, the absence of God in her life can be seen again. Brett asks Jake to take her to a cathedral so she can pray for her new beau, but she soon becomes uncomfortable. After trying to pray for only a couple of seconds, Brett leaves the cathedral. "I'm damned bad for a religious atmosphere, I've got the wrong type of face" (Hemingway 188). Brett, therefore, knows that she has rejected God and she accepts this. She re-emphasizes her pagan state at the end of the novel when she commends herself for deciding to end her relationship with Romero in an effort to save him. Brett tells Jake that her decision makes her feel good and that her goodness is what she has instead of God. Jake tells her that many people have God to which Brett replies, "He never worked very well with me" (Hemingway 221). Lady Brett Ashley, then, is most likely a pagan due to her War-time experiences, but she believes that her being so has worked to her advantage. Robert Cohn represents the detested Jew in a more symbolic sense than the rest of the characters in The Sun Also Rises. During the course of the novel, not much is said about Robert's religious preferences, but it is in fact his religion that makes him the scapegoat for the anger of his so-called friends. Jake states that Robert is a Jew within the first few pages of the novel. Jake also states that until Robert went to college, no one made him feel that he was a Jew and therefore different from anyone else. ...read more.


Their relationship is ironic in that they both love each other but can never be together, and pitiful in the same sense. The trip that is supposed to help Jake escape reality actually makes him realize his hopeless state even more. He proves his own advice to others during the course of this trip; "You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another" (Hemingway 18). Jake knows this from experience, but he also keeps reliving it every time he goes away. The characters of The Sun Also Rises never do manage to get away from themselves. The Great War, it seems, has caused permanent damage to the lives of those who suffered through it. At the end of the novel, Jake attempts to rescue Brett after she runs off with Pedro Romero. Once he arrives, Brett begins to speak nostalgically of their relationship, saying that they could have had a good life together. "Yes, isn't it pretty to think so?" is Jake's reply (Hemingway 222). This is true for the entire "lost generation" affected by the War. It is quite possible that any of the characters in The Sun Also Rises could have led normal lives, but the influence of World War I was too much. According to Rovit, "World War I had been the catalytic agent in releasing the stark factor of nothingness and absurdity at the very root of traditional values" (159). The Great War destroyed the traditional values of love, faith, and hope and consequently, the characters of The Sun Also Rises wander aimlessly through their resultant lives, constantly seeking ways to escape. Mitchell-8 ...read more.

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