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If you’re doing a project on the novel, you might consider it as a chronicle of what has been called “the lost generation,” or the generation traumatized by the first World War. This generation has been characterized as alienated, and the languorous behavior of the American protagonist in Hemingway’s novel has been interpreted as a classic example of that zeitgeist.
At one point, a friend describes Jake Barnes to himself:
You’re an expatriate [Bill explains]. One of the worst type. 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.
Like many famous authors of this period, including Hemingway himself, Jake has left America in order to find a better way of life in another country. His obsession with the Spanish bull fights, to the extent that even native Spaniards acknowledge that he is an aficionado, is one example of Jake trying to involve himself in a greater interest. Similarly, he (and his friends) try to immerse themselves in rural Spanish past times, like fishing in the country, in an attempt, perhaps, to get in “touch with the soil,” as Bill says. You might consider reading the novel as Hemingway’s answer to the malaise of the “lost generation”; a message of a more vital way of life that might be salvation for an alienated generation.
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