Criticizing Ernest Hemingways Characters Lost Motives English Literature Essay

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Ernest Hemingway seamlessly goes back in time in The Sun Also Rises (1926) to illustrate characters of the lost generation and their view on masculinity, disability, and guilt from WWI. Hemingway portrays the life of the lost generation in settings such as the night life in Paris, the excitement in Pamplona, and the social life in Burguete. The characters are introduced with problems causing escalation in their lack of confidence and insecurity and motives toward life. The decline of masculinity, increase in disability, and deepening of guilt in these characters is drawn from the war. Hemingway uses different settings and personalities for the characters of the lost generation by depicting their insecurity of life in his novel by not only what the characters lost physically but also their lost motives for a future.

In the above quote, its author is identifying with Hemingway's character Jake as he keeps plunging in for excuses and negations to relieve his self of his war injury; impotence. Throughout The Sun Also Rises the characters of the lost generation are leading a false and unsatisfying contradiction on continuing life with high faith in their morals and beliefs. Hemingway supports his characters' characteristics by introducing them in the novel as burdens of social expectations on disabled men and keeps bringing them closer of an invalid's nature to show how the Lost Generation became lost. The main character and narrator of The Sun Also Rises is Jake Barnes whom is a consummate, cynic writer. Throughout Hemingway's novel Jake's disability becomes more than a personal problem; actually it becomes one of the biggest obstacles to improve Jake in every matter relating to enjoying life and feeling normal. Jake says to Cohn, "Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters" (10), to convince his friend, a wealthy American writer living in Paris, that if he is distressed he will just find a way to ignore it, or just find a way to live with it. Jake is implying to Cohn that visiting another country will not help to live your life up to the fullest. Hemingway's narrator in the novel mentions to himself, "The Purple Land is a very sinister book if read too late in life" (5). However, Jake knows, for a man like Cohn to take it literally at thirty-four as a guide-book to what life holds is not safe, because Cohn might take the book all literally. Therefore, Jake does not bother suggesting the book to his friend. Robert Cohn, like the rest of Hemingway's characters in The Sun Also Rises felt deep seeded mistrust with his spouse Frances, and is in a momentum of insecurity and distraught that leads him closer to lose his morals and beliefs about life. However, the only difference Cohn holds against Jake's group is that he is not really part of the lost generation, because he's Jewish and a nonveteran. Hemingway uses his characters to show there are no improvements in their morals from the lost generation. He is showing us of their daily ongoing in life to illustrate how each character's life on a daily basis in the novel is affected by WWI. Their morals and beliefs are buried with the manifestation of drinking themselves to death, becoming obsessed by sex, wasting all their time talking rather than being productive. As is shown in Bill's comments to Jake:

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You're an expatriate. You've lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You're an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes. . . You don't work. One group claims women support you. Another group claims you're impotent. (115)

Hemingway excoriates himself, in the guise of the writer-narrator Jake, for drinking and playing with the rich and letting his talent erode through degeneration of the lost generation. The way Bill's light hearted tone is broken intensifies the novel's focus on disability, revealing that Freudian therapy is ill-equipped to deal with the many problems associated with a physical impairment; hence his therapy is only successful with healthy normal individuals and is consequently associated with mental cases. Bill was only trying to negate Jake's outlook on his insecurity in life. Jake's insecurity tires his former girlfriend, Lady Ashley Brett. Brett is a strong independent woman, who refuses to commit herself to any man. At the same time she is unhappy because she is alone. Her personal search for love to replace her soul mate that she lost in the war is perhaps symbolic of the entire lost generation's search for the shattered prewar values of love and romance. She is tired of being around gloomy and depressed people, so she makes the Count at one scene undress for Jake to prove he is like them. The Count is a successful man who shares the same injury as Jake and unlike the other characters of the novel he is rich. The Count then tries to implicate with Jake by sharing how he has lived so much and he can enjoy everything so well. The Count is literally the best adjusted disabled man in the novel, unlike Jake who sees to never give out and only hold in his frustration of his lonely life with his injury. The Count's boundless ebullience Brett wants to see isn't much success in the novel. It is another notion Hemingway uses to show how Brett and Jake shared a sadomasochistic relationship. Brett and Jake love each other, though Brett couldn't submit to a relationship because of Jake's injury. This only added a lack of confidence in Jake's ego and often led him give up his hope on romance. In The Sun Also rises, we see interpretations that treat Jake's traumas realistically still tend to reinforce traditional stereotypes about disabled men, including the belief that Jake may turn gay because of his injury. However the symbolic perseverance of Brett finding love is ironic, hence her tone in the novel tends to show she is willingly ready to accept a relationship with the Count. The Count is also sexually wounded; yet again he is literally the best-adjusted disabled man in the novel. Unlike Jake, he can enjoy everything so well and his ego is far from a gloomy life, as well as his insecurity; free-living and ought not to care for depressing moments.

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Throughout the novel, Hemingway shifts the scene to Pamplona, where Jake and his group of friends, all from the lost generation, try to enjoy the bull-fighting games. In Pamplona Jake attends the cathedral and recites a few prayers and wishes for himself and his friends. Jake the narrator, after the feeling he got of being religious for a short instance while near the cathedral and on the way to the station reminded himself of how his low faithful ego is shameful: "I was a little ashamed, and regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time" (97).

Jake thinks he is another lost soul in the group of the lost generation. However, this episode of him attending the cathedral and praying to have a wealthier future shows he has not completely lost his morals and beliefs as thought he would, unlike all the lost generation characters seem to lose their morals and beliefs. He seems to be concerned of his future, and asks for his soul to be protected and to have a good-time with his friends. In the scene when Brett and Cohn are seeing each other, momentarily after the cathedral's incident, ironically Jake's paradoxical and cynical mind alters his brief religious moments to begin plotting on how to make Cohn's self esteem tumble down the drain. Jake's selfishness and evil planning is due to Cohn allegedly becoming the inferior of the group, because he is the only Jew and nonveteran; his friends see him as a primary target for whenever they felt insecure or disillusioned. As Jake says, "I have never seen a man in civil life as nervous as Robert Cohn nor eager. I was enjoying. It was lousy to enjoy it, but I felt lousy. Cohn had a wonderful quality of bringing out the worst in anybody" (98). The reason Cohn made his friends beget hate towards himself is that he wouldn't let his friends or the situation he is in to get to him emotionally. The group had seen how Cohn did not feel distraught after meeting Brett at the station. Thus Jake's expectations weren't as expected and this made Jake hate Cohn through points of jealousy illustrated throughout the novel. Jake says to himself, "I was blind, unforgivingly jealous of what had happened to him. The fact that I took it as a matter of course did not alter that any. I certainly did hate him" (99), which is another symbolic and ironic concept Hemingway perceived to show us on how the lost generation easily envy each other yet at times feel sorrow for one another.

Hemingway's use of twist in his novel grasps the reader's attention to analyze the many conceptions of the lost generation. Towards the end of the novel he begins to illustrate how his characters are not totally drained in the impression that their futures ahead of them are of waste and followed by a Bohemian lifestyle. Where the following paragraph made sense in an irreverent passage of Michael Soto's article:

"Hemingway himself made an accusation about Jake's friends as they were noted as "the scum of Greenwich Village" skimmed off and deposited in large ladlefuls on that section of Paris adjacent to the Café Rotonde. They attract little more than his ire and derision" (2).

Jake's drinking friends attract ugly attention, because the bohemians hang around cafes and this is one of the major drag downs and getaways for the group so they may relieve their stress. Soto later recalls, "An aficionado is one who is passionate about the bull-fights. . . Somehow it was taken for granted that an American could not have aficion" (6), which is passion for bullfighting. The aficianados thought Jake's group might simulate bullfighting or confuse it with excitement, but they could not really have it. When the aficionados saw that Jake had aficion, it did not only show he had the passion, but to even hold a passion means he was beginning to see into morals and beliefs and is not completely gone with the lost generation. Jake says, "For one who had aficion he could forgive anything" (Hemingway 152). Montoya thought to be ruthless and gives laughter at the bulls he kills, also shows a value for morals and beliefs. Even as an aficion, one who holds passion for bullfighting, Montoya's real kindness to the group and respect to his favorite sport allows Jake to realize hidden truths; about Montoya's soft side and himself as well. Toward the end of the novel, Brett and Jake ride to Madrid in the taxi after dining together, while in the taxi Brett says, "We could have had such a damned good time together" (247). Jake replies, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" (247). Jake realizes she is not normal, she had just been lost and confused, and she is more comfortable with Jake than any other man, disregarding his injury. Hemingway turns the tables here, from the beginning of the novel to the end, returning Brett to satisfy Jake and thus allow them both to accept their sadomasochistic relationship. Dana Fore mentions in "Life unworthy of life? Masculinity, disability, and guilt in The Sun Also Rises", "The novel's downbeat ending suggests that a philosophy that continually denies bodily realities can be as physically and mentally destructive as a literal wound" (2). Jake's injury will leave him vulnerable to the fear that he will degenerate into an invalid or a pervert. In the end, Jake will merely achieve the psychological stability he craves because he finally accepts prevailing social and medical philosophies about his injury and these ideas thus grow a fear in him that he will change into an invalid or something Jake will not accept.

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