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The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

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What is the meaning of Jake's statement "enjoying living was learning to get your money's worth and knowing when you had it"? Why is Jake more interested in how, rather than why, one lives? 

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This quote gets to the heart of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. One of the book's primary themes is the search for meaning in a world that seems to be devoid of meaning. After the chaos of World War I, much of society (including Hemingway and his artistic companions) found it hard to find any underlying meaning in life. Hemingway explores this lack of meaning in The Sun Also Rises, and this quote is a prime example of the ways in which he does so. Rather than finding enjoyment by living according to traditional values, Hemingway's Jake merely tries to get as much momentary pleasure (also known as his "money's worth") as possible. For Jake, life is about eating, drinking, enjoying "manly" pursuits (like fishing and bull-fighting), and generally wringing as much pleasure as possible out of the time allotted. As such, in the above quote Jake asserts that one shouldn't waste time worrying about "why" one lives, because there really isn't any underlying, philosophical "point" to life; rather, one should focus on "how" one lives and be committed to living well and getting the most momentary pleasure possible. In short, after experiencing the chaos of a World War, Jake reasons that it's misguided to search for an underlying meaning to life, and so the only thing he can do is get the most bang for his buck while he's still alive.  

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