Gertrude Stein coined the phrase "The Lost Generation" and Hemingway portrays characters who are very much apart of this group. The lost generation felt disillusioned post WWI, and many fled to Europe to escape the facade of the american dream. Yet, they led very superficial lives. Drinking, travelling, forming no real attachments, this group believes they have left behind the hypocrisy of America, but still represent America whereever they go.
The title of the novel derives from Ecclesiastes, which all editions explain just below the epigraph by Gertrude Stein stating "You are all a lost generation." The fuller passage from Ecc. states "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever...." The totality of settings in the novel, each with meanings explained in the other response, together signify movement, wandering, a sense of "lostness." The final phrase of the Ecc. passaage provides some hope, however, that many do not find in the novel's conclusion when, after Brett says to Jake, "We could have had such a damned good time together," Jake replies, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" Although some critics point to the sense of futility in Jake's statement, others do suggest a change in his attitude about the senselessness of life.
All of the places in the novel show the difference between meaningless and empty values. The novel opens in Paris, and this city represents a difference in the value of work and idleness. The Left Bank of Paris consists of those who do nothing except make a mess of their lives. The Right Bank is the people who work, are realistic, and tough-minded.
The Pyrenees Mountains where Jake takes his friend on a fishing trip symbolizes the true beauty of nature, peace, and tranquility. It's the opposite of Paris, for it's a healing experience, and a place where Jake is able to sleep, unlike Paris.
Roncesvalles is a Spanish town with a medieval monastery that turns into a pilgrimage for Jake and Bill. This becomes a place where the value of friendship is shown, that it can have real worth and meaning.
Pamplona also represents those who have empty values and those who have meaningful ones. Pedro Romero, the bullfighter, symbolizes the best values because he takes the violence out of a violent sport through his artistry. Brett represents those with empty values, the partygoers who do nothing with their lives.
The setting is much symbolic as it exudes a paradox to the current situation to the characters. For an example, Paris is characterized as the mecca of the arts, and is marked by convivial partying, but in actuality these characters roister with a joyless disposition. The expatriates conceal their dissatisfaction and aimless of their life under a shroud of the Paris skylights and cafes. In their fishing trip, the setting is marked by a tranquil and nonchalant quality. In Spain, the setting of the gruesome (and sexually implied language) parallels future altercations and assaults among the characters.