Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. French capital, in which the novel opens. There, American newspaperman Jake Barnes lives and works in the midst of a community of American and British expatriates who find the city a wasteland of values. A question regarding values that arises early in the book is the contrast between work and idleness, and this opposition is reflected in the Parisian locales frequented by Jake and his friends.

Paris is split by the River Seine into two sections: the Right Bank (Rive Droite) and the Left Bank (Rive Gauche). In the novel, work is associated with the Right Bank. Jake’s newspaper office, for example, is on the Right Bank, in the vicinity of the avenue de l’Opéra and the Tuileries garden. On the Right Bank, too, he encounters Georgette, who as a prostitute is a working woman.

When Jake, with Georgette in tow, goes partying with his idle and rich expatriate friends, they go to the Left Bank, near the Panthéon. There they encounter Jake’s love, Lady Brett, with an entourage of gay men. The similarity between Georgette and Brett is emphasized by their rhyming names and their promiscuity; the difference between them is that one engages in sex professionally, and the other is an alcoholic amateur in promiscuity.

It is evident that Ernest Hemingway endorses the values of work and the Right Bank, rather than the bohemian idleness of the Left Bank, for those who work are realistic and tough-minded, while those who remain idle are escapist and emotionally untidy. However, both workers and idlers, realists and escapists, all of them are physically or emotionally wounded: Jake is impotent, Brett is an adulterer, Cohn has a broken nose, Georgette has rotten teeth. Hence, both the Right Bank and the Left Bank are like Paris as a whole, wastelands of lost values and denatured love.


*Pyrenees (pihr-ah-neez). Mountain range running along the border between France and Spain to which Jake takes his newly arrived American friend Bill Gorton on a five-day fishing trip. If Paris is hellish, the Spanish hamlets in which the men stay in the mountains are edenic. Hemingway depicts landscapes of breathtaking natural beauty in which nature and humanity coexist in a blessed ecological union, as when “fields of grapes touched the houses.” It is an idyllic and healing experience, contrasting with that of Paris. Whereas Jake suffers from insomnia and cries in the night in Paris; in the Pyrenees, he sleeps soundly and dreamlessly.


*Roncesvalles (rahn-sihs-VAH-yay; also known as Roncevaux). Spanish town in the Pyrenees whose medieval monastery Jake and Bill visit, along with the Englishman Wilson Harris whom they meet while fishing. The trip becomes almost a pilgrimage. For Roncesvalles is a relic of an epoch when friendship, valor, and combat had meaning. Indeed, it is the site of the French national epic, The Song of Roland (twelfth century), an epic that celebrates the true friendship of Roland and Oliver and the prowess of their small band of courageous companions who died fighting against a Moorish invasion, thereby buying time for Charlemagne to redeploy the forces that saved Europe for Christianity. At Roncevaux, even in modern times, Hemingway shows that friendship can have real worth and meaning. As the men part company, Harris gives Jake and Bill some fishing flies that he himself has tied—symbols of friendship valuable beyond anything that can be bought or sold.


*Pamplona (pam-PLOH-nah). Town in northern Spain in which Jake’s vacation with his friends reaches both its high and its low points. The men stay in the town during its famous annual Fiesta de San Fermín, which lasts for a week in July. During this nominally religious fiesta, there are daily bullfights preceded by the running of the bulls through the city streets, followed by spontaneous eruptions of inebriated parties.

Hemingway uses Pamplona’s fiesta to highlight contrasts between meaningful and empty values. The bullfighter Pedro Romero represents the best values because, through work and artistry, he creates beauty out of violence, while risking his life in its creation. True fans of bullfighting, including Jake, know and understand this almost as if it were an article of religious faith.

The empty values are emblematized by Brett, who becomes a paganistic Circe-like figure attracting throngs of idle, pleasure-seeking party-goers. When Pedro (the worker-artist) and Brett (the partying idler) fall in love, Jake finds himself in a dilemma; he loves them both, yet knows that Brett’s lifestyle will endanger Pedro’s talent. However, through loyalty to his (impotent) love for Brett, Jake brings them together, only to be reviled by bullfight aficionados as a pimping traitor, and he is beaten up by Robert Cohn. Thus is the central drama of the novel played out in Pamplona.

*San Sebastian

*San Sebastian. Spanish seaside resort town in which Jake recuperates after the debacle in Pamplona, There, he goes for a long swim that is renewing and almost baptismal in effect, making him feel as though he “could never sink.” Afterward, he heeds Brett’s request to meet her in Madrid after she breaks off from Pedro.

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Bullfighting is a popular attraction in Spain. Published by Gale Cengage

The Lost Generation
Writers, horrified by the stranglehold of business and the uselessness of Prohibition, expatriated to Paris where the favorable exchange rate enabled them to work for a newspaper or magazine. Yet these writers usually spent most of their time sitting in cafes lost in the aftermath of a war for which they refused responsibility. Disillusioned, they discussed their inherited nineteenth-century values and the provincial and emotional barrenness of America. Fortunately, they found comfort in an older generation. Hemingway, armed with letters of introduction by Sherwood Anderson joined this group who flocked to Gertrude Stein’s Salon, Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company bookstore, the apartment of James Joyce the transatlantic review offices of Ford Madox Ford, or Samuel Putnam’s office. The older writers cultivated the members of what Stein labeled, after overhearing her mechanic, as “the lost generation.” Of the elders, Stein, who was the bridge between past and present, and Ezra Pound whom Hemingway tried to teach boxing in return for tutelage, were the most important influences on Hemingway.

“The Lost Generation” succeeded in poking through the rubble of civilization and manufacturing art anew. From war’s negation comes affirmation as a means to live with disillusionment. T. S. Eliot wove the old myths together into a poem of epic influence, “The Waste Land.” A new poetry was created by e. e. cummings. F. Scott Fitzgerald John Dos Passos, Hart Crane, and Glenway Westcott were members of this generation who helped rejuvenate the arts. The most important contribution of “The Lost Generation” was to prove the resiliency of culture and set it moving again with the hopeful idealism that...

(The entire section is 798 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The novel opens in Paris in the early 1920s. The Left Bank of the Seine River was a magnet for philosophers, artists, and writers during the...

(The entire section is 231 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

The first-person narration of Jake Barnes is sometimes referred to as a “roman à clef.” A roman à clef...

(The entire section is 757 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Examined in the context of early 1920s literature, Hemingway's writing in The Sun Also Rises displays a combination of conventional...

(The entire section is 334 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

From the start, The Sun Also Rises has stirred controversy. When the novel was first published, high society attempted to match...

(The entire section is 122 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

  • 1920s: Thomas Hunt Morgan proves his theory of hereditary transmission through experiments with fruit flies and...

(The entire section is 292 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Describe Brett's relationships with Jake, Mike Campbell, Robert Cohn, and Pedro Romero. Do you think she treats men badly?


(The entire section is 188 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. The Fiesta de San Fermin is a real festival held every year from July 6 to July 14 in Pamplona. Research and report on the history of...

(The entire section is 239 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

  • After doing some research on bullfighting and its surrounding festival, explain the novel according to your findings discussing whether or...

(The entire section is 265 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In a general sense, all of Hemingway's work is related, but the reader who wishes to gain a more thorough understanding of Hemingway's love...

(The entire section is 191 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

  • Using a screenplay by Peter Viertel, Twentieth Century-Fox adapted The Sun Also Rises to the big screen. The movie was released in...

(The entire section is 55 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

  • Bullfighting often disgusts people as cruel treatment of animals. Whether or not you feel that way, it is worth learning more about the sport or art form. Try reading “The Spanish Fiesta Brava: Historical Perspective” by former matador Mario Carrion on his homepage at
  • “La Historia de las Plazas de Toros en Espana—Research Paper,” by Jason Westrope, is a very good historical discussion of bullfighting. It is in English and can be found at
  • “The Undefeated” is Hemingway’s first short story about bullfighting and can be found in his collection of 1925 entitled

(The entire section is 285 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Scribner's, 1969. The first full-length biography of Hemingway, this volume...

(The entire section is 242 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Quotations for The Sun Also Rises are taken from the following edition:
Hemingway, Ernest. The...

(The entire section is 1127 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Aldridge, John W. “The Sun Also Rises: Sixty Years Later.” Sewanee Review 94, no. 2 (Spring, 1986): 337-345. Abundant criticism on Hemingway’s most analyzed novel may overpower rather than enlighten nonspecialist readers. Aldridge, however, succeeds in blending accessibility and scholarship. Discussion of Hemingway’s meticulous language usage, based on the strong presence of things unsaid, is particularly interesting.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Contains ten essays that Bloom considers to represent the most helpful criticism published on the novel. Authors include Hemingway scholars such as Carlos Baker (Hemingway’s prime biographer), Scott Donaldson, and Linda Wagner-Martin.

The Hemingway Review 6, no. 1 (Fall, 1986): 2-111. This special issue celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of The Sun Also Rises. The nine articles deal with topics as diverse as the original manuscript, Hemingway’s presentation of women and war, the moral axis of the novel, and the word “sun” as title and metaphor.

Reynolds, Michael S. “The Sun Also Rises”: A Novel of the Twenties. Boston: Twayne, 1988. An excellent overall reference accessible to the general reader. Reynolds discusses the novel’s importance and critical reception and considers it from analytic, structural, historical, and thematic perspectives.

Wagner-Martin, Linda, ed. New Essays on “The Sun Also Rises.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Designed as a critical guide for students of American history and culture, this volume of five commissioned essays is thought-provoking yet accessible to nonspecialist readers.