In The Sun Also Rises, what is the significance of the title?
The title of Ernest Hemingway's first book is The Sun Also Rises, which comes from a verse in the Bible. The title is an apt depiction both of the despair of the Lost Generation of which Hemingway was a part as well as the potential for optimism in the perpetual rising of the sun.
Ecclesiastes chapter one begins this way:
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full.
These seven verses paint a picture of despair in which whatever one does is as nothing. Working (laboring) yields nothing, the winds are capricious, and the seas are never full. despite the waters continually pouring into them. The one constant is the earth, as demonstrated by the sun rising, setting, and rising again no matter what else is happening.
Hemingway was part of what is called the "Lost Generation," a group of expatriate writers and artists who found real meaning in nothing as they spent their time reveling in their sinfulness while living in Europe. The picture of despair surrounding verse five (the sun also rises reference) is typical of what he and the others who were living this life felt, disillusioned by the materialism of post-war America.
While the context of the verse/title is despair, there is also hope. Though everything seems hopeless, the sun will rise again tomorrow, and then it will do so again the next day...and the next. There is not much hopefulness in this novel, as the final words indicate:
“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 that hopelessness about what might have been (but never really could have been), there is a glimmer of hope for the future of the Lost Generation in the rising of the sun.
The title of The Sun Also Rises comes from the epigraph, which is from Ecclesiastes. Part of the epigraph reads,
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever. . . The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose.
This epigraph expresses the idea that one generation fades into another, and the sun will continue to rise, while each generation passes on.
The generation that Hemingway describes in the novel is doomed by the horrors they faced while fighting in World War I and/ or while witnessing the effects of the war. For example, Jake is impotent because of his war injuries and can't be with the woman he loves, Brett. The generation of the 1920s that witnessed the devastation of World War I and that, alienated from the United States, lived a rootless existence traveling around Europe, was known as "the lost generation." The writer Gertrude Stein is credited with the other epigraph of the novel: "You are all a lost generation. --Gertrude Stein in conversation." The term "lost generation" was used to refer to Hemingway's contemporaries and describes the characters in the novel. To some degree, they have already seen the sun rise and set on them, and true regeneration will only come after the sun has risen on a new generation that comes after the "lost generation."
This novel began as a short story titled Cayetano Ordonez, "Nino de la Palma" and focused on a corrupt bullfighter. When Hemingway expanded the story into a novel, he first chose to title it Fiesta: A Novel. While the manuscript was in the publication process, it was decided to change the title once again, and Hemingway settled on The Sun Also Rises. He chose this title in order to "emphasize the optimistic idea of progress of life's cycle." Interestingly, British editions of the novel continued to use the title Fiesta.
See the article "Circularity in The Sun Also Rises" for more on the idea of circularity or cycles--as in the sun rising--in the novel. I've pasted the link below.
"The sun also rises" (taken from the old testament) means that whatever we do and whatever importance certain events in our lives may have, there is always a tomorrow. The world keeps turning despite our personal losses and victories, we are unimportant.
"Fiesta" is the festival which acts as a catalyst for the group's anxieties and uncertainties and means for Jake that he loses even more - in the war he lost physical manliness, because of the fiesta he loses his love for Brett, his respect he earned in Pamplona among the aficionados and he loses part of his identity.