Illustration of a bull and a bullfighter

The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

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What is the setting of The Sun Also Rises and how does it heighten the central conflict?

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The Sun Also Rises is a novel with several settings. The general setting is Europe in the period between World War I and World War II. More specifically, the characters in the novel travel between France to Spain.

The situation in Pamplona, Spain, where the group of characters take part in the running of the bulls, is perhaps the most interesting and metaphorical setting in novel. Bull fights and bull fighters largely characterize the setting here and some metaphorical parallels exist between the sport of bull fighting and the tangled romantic game being played between Jake, Cohn, Mike and Brett.

If the central conflict of the novel is concerned with Jake's difficulty in achieving a solid relationship with Brett - whether one of friendship or romance - then we can look at the setting of Pamplona (and the bull fights) as an analogy for this conflict.

The bull in the sport is repeatedly injured after being repeatedly misled by the bull fighter until the bull finally is killed. If we read this scenario as being parallel to Jake and Brett's relationship, we can see how the setting dramaticizes the novel's conflict.

Alternatively, if we take the conflict of this novel to be more about the entire group of characters struggling to find purpose and meaning in life, as opposed to the conflict being centered on Jake and Brett, the setting of the cafes in Paris would directly relate to this conflict. Dissolution and debauchery are present in these cafes and the characters exist there almost exclusively.

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