themes in The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway



One theme that I found recurring throughout the novel, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest
Hemingway, was love. Lady Brett Ashley was a beautiful woman who seemed to be
irresistible to the men she became acquainted with. For example Robert Cohn, Bill
Gorton, Pedro Romero, Mike Campbell, and last but not least Jake Barnes. Brett was ex¬
tremely vulnerable to the charm that various men in her life seemed to smother her with.
Brett was not happy with her life or her surroundings and sought escape and refuge in the
arms of these men. All of these men had strong feelings for Brett. The only problem was
that Brett had no feelings for any of those men, except for Jake. The only reason Jake and
Brett were not together was due to a wound Jake received during the war. Jake’s wound
made him impotent, incapable of making love. The torture of his wound, though, is that
he can still feel desire.
Jake and Brett could not love each other physically. They could not show each
other how much they truly loved one another. They both desperately want something that
they could not have due to Jake’s injury. Neither Jake nor Brett were able to find any
satisfaction or completeness in love. Jake was defined by this wound. He was always
thinking about it, even when he did not seem to be. Whenever Jake was about to go to
bed, and his thoughts loosened, he thought about his wound and Brett. Jake was able to
feel love, but he could not express it or consummate it. Brett herself told Jake not to love
her because she would only deceive him. Love, for Brett, had become a power she con¬
trolled. It changed men but left her unaffected. Jake was tolerant of Brett’s behavior be¬
cause he loved her unconditionally and was willing to overlook everything she did.
A different way Jake showed love for Brett was, in my opinion, in a rather strange
way. He loved Brett more than anything and he wanted her to be happy, so he set her up
with Robert Cohn, which did not work out, and he also set her up with Pedro Romero.
Although the feelings between Brett and Pedro may have been mutual, Brett did the right
thing by giving him up; whatever Brett wanted, Jake was willing to give her because he
wanted her to be happy.
Love for Robert Cohn is a silly and naive love learned from storybook romances.
For example the book that Robert Cohn read, The Purple Land, which was about an aging
Englishman finding love in a romantic country seriously affected him. Robert had
old-fashioned notions of love- he believed in commitment. Robert was too blind to realize
that his kind of love was lost on Jake\'s crowd of friends, especially Brett. Robert was im¬
mediately attracted to her. Since Brett may have been curious or just bored, she decided to
go off with him to San Sebastian, Spain. “What does their romance mean? For Brett,
nothing; for Robert, everything. He believed that their affair was a perfect love. Robert
could not stand to see Brett with another man;” (Barron’s Booknotes) even though they
were not together he was jealous.
“Mike, Brett\'s fiancee, was too drunk and maybe too insecure to love. Bill Gorton
picked up an American girl at the fiesta, but nothing serious came out of it. He was too
cynical or too unfriendly to love. Pedro Romero was a man young, innocent, passionate,
and brave enough to love. Brett was almost immediately enchanted by him.” (Barron’s
Booknotes) Pedro, who frequently confronted death in his occupation, was not afraid in
the bullring and controlled the bulls like a master. Pedro was the first man since Jake who
caused Brett to lose her self-control. He fell for Brett and wanted to marry her, but Brett
knew she would ruin him, so she gave him up. This was the only point in the story where
Brett showed any amount of caring for another’s feelings. She did the right thing and
gave up Pedro because she did not want to hurt him as she did to Jake, Robert, and Mike,
even though Brett really does not care that she hurt Robert or Mike
The issue of values was a second theme in the novel. Jake, Brett, Robert, Mike,
and Bill were all Americans who went to Europe in search of new values because their