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What is the significance of the title of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, given...

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mumteacher | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM via web

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What is the significance of the title of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, given its grounding in existentialist philosophy?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 29, 2013 at 2:49 AM (Answer #1)

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Ernest Hemingway's first novel is The Sun Also Rises; the title comes from a phrase in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The line comes in chapter one, verse five; here it is in context:

Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

3 What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
4 A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever.
5 Also, the sun rises and the sun sets;
And hastening to its place it rises there again.
6 Blowing toward the south,
Then turning toward the north,
The wind continues swirling along;
And on its circular courses the wind returns.
7 All the rivers flow into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full.
To the place where the rivers flow,
There they flow again.
8 All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.

The author expresses the existential ideas of meaningless and dissatisfaction: the rivers continually feed the sea but the sea is never full, the senses are unsatisfied with what they take in, and "all things are wearisome" and "vanity." 

Hemingway was part of the Lost Generation, expatriates who drifted meaninglessly across the continent of Europe searching for something while they tried everything; this passage of Scripture is an apt expression of their philosophy, as is the novel. Jake and Brett could never have been together, despite their wishful thinking about what might have been:

“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Despite all of that meaninglessness, there is hope, and it comes in the form of a sunrise. It rose today, and it will rise again tomorrow. 

Also, the sun rises and the sun sets;
And hastening to its place it rises there again.

It is not a complete hope, but it is the promise of a tomorrow which may have more meaning and significance than today. If it does not, there is always the next day--or the day after that.

Sources:

Lori Steinbach

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