The Sun Also Rises: Hemingways Depiction Of The Tr

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The Sun Also Rises: Hemingways Depiction Of The Traditional Hero

Prevalent among many of Ernest Hemingway's novels is the concept

popularly known as the "Hemingway hero", an ideal character readily

accepted by American readers as a "man's man". In The Sun Also Rises,

four different men are compared and contrasted as they engage in some

form of relationship with Lady Brett Ashley, a near-nymphomaniac

Englishwoman who indulges in her passion for sex and control. Brett

plans to marry her fiancee for superficial reasons, completely ruins one

man emotionally and spiritually, separates from another to preserve the

idea of their short-lived affair and to avoid self-destruction, and

denies and disgraces the only man whom she loves most dearly. All her

relationships occur in a period of months, as Brett either accepts or

rejects certain values or traits of each man. Brett, as a dynamic and

self-controlled woman, and her four love interests help demonstrate

Hemingway's standard definition of a man and/or masculinity. Each man

Brett has a relationship with in the novel possesses distinct qualities

that enable Hemingway to explore what it is to truly be a man. The

Hemingway man thus presented is a man of action, of self-discipline and

self-reliance, and of strength and courage to confront all weaknesses,

fears, failures, and even death.

Jake Barnes, as the narrator and supposed hero of the novel, fell in

love with Brett some years ago and is still powerfully and

uncontrollably in love with her. However, Jake is unfortunately a

casualty of the war, having been emasculated in a freak accident. Still

adjusting to his impotence at the beginning of the novel, Jake has lost

all power and desire to have sex. Because of this, Jake and Brett

cannot be lovers and all attempts at a relationship that is sexually

fulfilling are simply futile. Brett is a passionate, lustful woman who

is driven by the most intimate and loving act two may share, something

that Jake just cannot provide her with. Jake's emasculation only puts

the two in a grandly ironic situation. Brett is an extremely passionate

woman but is denied the first man she feels true love and admiration

for. Jake has loved Brett for years and cannot have her because of his

inability to have sex. It is obvious that their love is mutual when

Jake tries to kiss Brett in their cab ride home: "‘You mustn't. You

must know. I can't stand it, that's all. Oh darling, please

understand!', ‘Don't you love me?', ‘Love you? I simply turn all to

jelly when you touch me'" (26, Ch. 4). This scene is indicative of their

relationship as Jake and Brett hopelessly desire each other but realize

the futility of further endeavors. Together, they have both tried to

defy reality, but failed. Jake is frustrated by Brett's reappearance

into his life and her confession that she is miserably unhappy. Jake

asks Brett to go off with him to the country for bit: "‘Couldn't we go

off in the country for a while?', ‘It wouldn't be any good. I'll go if

you like. But I couldn't live quietly in the country. Not with my own

true love', ‘I know', ‘Isn't it rotten? There isn't any use my telling

you I love you', ‘You know I love you', ‘Let's not talk. Talking's all

bilge'" (55, Ch. 7). Brett declines Jake's pointless attempt at being

together. Both Brett and Jake know that any relationship beyond a

friendship cannot be pursued. Jake is still adjusting to his impotence

while Brett will not sacrifice a sexual relationship for the man she


Since Jake can never be Brett's lover, they are forced to create a new

relationship for themselves, perhaps one far more dangerous than that of

mere lovers - they have become best friends. This presents a great

difficulty for Jake, because Brett's presence is both pleasurable and

agonizing for him. Brett constantly reminds him of his handicap and

thus Jake is challenged as a man in the deepest, most personal sense

possible. After the departure of their first meeting, Jake feels

miserable: "This was Brett, that I had felt like crying about. Then I

thought of her walking up the street and of course in a little while I

felt like hell again" (34, Ch. 4). Lady Brett Ashley serves as a

challenge to a weakness Jake must confront. Since his war experience,

Jake has attempted to reshape the man he is and the first step in doing

this is to accept his impotence.

Despite Brett's undeniable love for Jake, she is engaged to marry

another. Mike Campbell is Brett's fiancee, her next planned marriage

after two already failed ones. Mike is ridiculously in love with Brett

and though she knows this she still decides to marry him. In fact,

Brett is only to marry Mike because she is tired of drifting and simply

needs an anchor. Mike loves Brett but is not dependent on her

affection. Moreover, he knows about and accepts Brett's brief affairs

with other men: "‘Mark you. Brett's had affairs with men before. She

tells me all about everything'" (143, Ch. 13). Mike appreciates Brett's

beauty, as do all the other males in the novel, but perhaps this is as

deep as his love for her goes. In his first scene in the novel, Mike

cannot stop commenting and eliciting comments on Brett's beauty: "‘I say

Brett, you are a lovely piece. Don't you think she's beautiful?'" (79,

Ch. 8). He repeatedly proposes similar questions but does not make any

observant or profound comments on his wife-to-be. In fact, throughout

the entirety of the novel, Mike continues this pattern, once referring

to Brett as "just a lovely, healthy wench" as his most observant

remark. Furthermore, Mike exhibits no self-control when he becomes

drunk, making insensitive statements that show his lack of regard for

Brett and others. After Brett shows interest in Pedro Romero, the

bullfighter, Mike rudely yells: "Tell him bulls have no balls! Tell him

Brett wants to see him put on those green pants. Tell him Brett is

dying to know how he can get into those pants!" (176, Ch. 16). In

addition, Mike cannot contemplate the complexities of Brett and her

relationships: "‘Brett's got a bull-fighter. She had a Jew named Cohn,

but he turned out badly. Brett's got a bull-fighter. A beautiful,

bloody bull-fighter'" (206, Ch. 18). Despite Brett's brief affair with

the bullfighter, she will eventually return to Mike who will no doubt

openly welcome her again. Brett is a strong woman, who can control most

men, and Mike is no exception. She vaguely simplifies their

relationship when she explains to Jake that she plans to return to him:

"‘He's so damned nice and he's so awful. He's my sort of thing'" (243,

Ch. 19). Mike is not complex enough to challenge Brett, but she does go

on and decide to accept his simplicity anyways. Furthermore, despite his

engagement with Brett, Mike betrays Hemingway's ideal man. Although he

is self-reliant, Mike possesses little self-control or dignity.

Engaged to one man and in love with another, Brett demonstrates her

disregard for the 1920's double standards. Very early in the beginning

of the novel, she reveals to Jake that she had invited Robert Cohn to go

with her on a trip to San Sebastian. Cohn, a Jewish, middle-aged writer

disillusioned with his life in Paris, wants to escape to South America

where he envisions meeting the ebony princesses he romanticized from a

book. However, he cannot persuade Jake to accompany him and then

completely forgets about this idea upon meeting Brett. Cohn is

immediately enamored with her beauty and falls in love with her:

Continues for 11 more pages >>

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