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The purpose of this presentation is to prove that the male characters in the novel The Sun Also Rises are insecure, in their struggle to be viewed as content and happy with their life. Insecurity is a common feeling among men after World War I, and the male characters in The Sun Also Rises are insecure not only because of the war, but also as men, falling to their knees in front of the female character – Brett (Lady Ashley).
– the male group insecurity is suggested even from the beginning, in the epigraph and also in Chapter II. Traditional notions of what it meant to be a man were undermined by the realities of the war. In Chapter II, Robert Cohn verbalizes the dilemma of the Lost Generation, which is the feeling that life has no purpose or substance.
” You are all a lost generation” – Gertrude Stein’s epigraph
[Cohn:] “I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
[Jake:] “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.”
– the male characters from the novel, except for Romero, despite their love for Brett, they are feeling at the same time insecure in front of her “manliness”. Even Brett calls herself a “chap”. Their insecurity towards Brett makes them talk bad about her, like Jake and Robert Cohn do.
” ‘She is a drunk,’ I said. ‘She is in love with Mike Campbell , and she is going to marry him. He’s going to be rich as hell some day.’ ‘I don’t believe she’ll ever marry him.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘I don’t know. I just don’t believe it. Have you known her a long time?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘She was a V.A.D. in a hospital I was in during the war.’ ‘She must have been just a kid then.’ ‘She’s thirty four now.’ ‘When did she marry Ashley?’ ‘During the war. Her own true love had just kicked off with the dysentery.’ ‘You talk sort of bitter.’ ‘Sorry I did not mean to. I was just trying to give you the facts.’ ‘I don’t believe she would marry anybody she didn’t love.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘She’s done it twice.’ ‘I don’t believe it.’ ‘Well,’ I said, don’t ask me a lot of fool questions if you don’t like the answers.’ ‘I didn’t ask you that.’ ‘You asked me what I knew about Brett Ashley.’ ‘I didn’t ask you to insult her.’ ‘Oh, go to hell.'”
– the failure of communication renders to insecurity and all sort of problems. The conversations between the male characters are lacking depth, and their only purpose seems to be making bad jokes one about another. For example, Mike is hiding jealousy and insecurity by emphasizing Robert’s, with a joke.
[Mike:] “Robert, tell us right off what you’d rather do than anything?”
[Cohn:] “I don’t know.”
[Mike:] “Oh, don’t think; just bring it right out.”
[Cohn:] “I think I’d rather play football with what I know about handling myself now.”
[Mike:] “I was wrong about you. You’re not a moron. You’re only a case of arrested development!”
[Cohn:] “Someday somebody will push your face in. Anyway, cut it out about me.”
– the loss Jake Barnes suffers during the war is another side of the male insecurity. The war renders his manhood useless because of injury. He carries the burden of feeling that he is, as he says, “less of a man”. He cannot escape the sense of inadequacy due to his impotence, feeling which is deepened by Brett’s refusal to enter into a relationship with him.
[Jake:] “Couldn’t we live together, Brett? Couldn’t we just live together?”
[Brett:] “I don’t think so. I’d just tromper you with everybody.”
– Jake Barnes’ insecurity is born also from the fact that he has not a “real life”. He rejects the American values in order to choose the ” fake European standards” and he does not follow his career.
[Bill:] “You know what you are? You’re an expatriate. Why don’t you live in New York? Nobody that ever left their own country ever wrote anything worth printing. Not even in the newspapers… 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 are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes”
[Jake:] “It sounds like a swell life, when do I work?”
[Bill:] “You don’t work. One group claims women support you. Another group claims you’re impotent.”
[Jake:] “No, I just had an accident.”
– Jake masks his insecurity by acting like he is very pleased of the good life he says he leads.
“Enjoying living was learning to get your money’s worth and knowing when you had it”
– competitiveness, resentment and insecurity, both Jake’s and Robert’s, are easily remarked in the brief biographical description Jake makes to Robert. Jake’s hostile and skeptical attitude toward Cohn’s insecurities is bound up with jealousies and insecurities of his own.
“Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn. He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton.”
In conclusion, the characters in E. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises are appearing to be something different than what they truly are. They want others to view only their mask, to believe in their acting. However, each and every one of the characters in the novel is fighting it all in order to maintain their position in a world changed by the war.
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