Illustration of a bull and a bullfighter

The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

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Important Quotations

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1152

1) “You are all a lost generation.” Epigraph

This quote doesn’t occur in the novel, but instead before it begins in an epigraph. It is a famous description by Gertrude Stein of the post-World War I generation, who felt apathetic and disillusioned by the war. The characters in the book feel this way, as did some people of the time. They, like Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley, became expatriates, leaving the Unites States for Europe. They could no longer relate to American values, and struggled to find meaning and definition.

The Sun Also Rises not only gave a name to these people, it captured their experience. The book was Hemingway’s first big success. Whereas people couldn’t relate to their own lives anymore, they were able to relate to Barnes and Lady Brett. Bill Gorton tells Barnes, “You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You’re an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes.” However, as hopeless as Jake seems to be, he isn't completely. He regrets losing religion and still tries for love with Lady Brett, and this too made the novel popular.

2) “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.” Page 10 Jake Barnes is one of the lost generation; he is a realist. Robert Cohn, on the other hand, is more romantic. Cohn wants to run away to South America, where he feels he could have an adventure. He says, “I can’t stand to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.” But Barnes tells him only bullfighters reach that ideal, and that “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” This sets up Cohn and Barnes as opposites, but also presents the difference between finding adventure within yourself and hunting for it in books.

Bullfighters risk death every time they step into the ring with the bull, and it is a brutal, violent sport. Perhaps this is why Barnes says only bullfighters live life to the fullest: they risk death every day, instead of sitting around talking or wasting time. Hemingway himself was interested in bullfighting, and even wrote Death in the Afternoon about it. Some have likened Barnes’ injury to the bull in the ring; later, Mike says, “Tell him bulls have no balls.” While watching a bullfight, he observes, “each time he enters into the terrain of the bull he is in great danger.” The bull and bullfighter may be an analogy of Jake and Lady Brett, and the early reference to bullfighters serves as foreshadowing of Lady Brett’s romance with Romero, the 19-year-old bullfighter.

3) “Brett was damned good-looking. She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and her hair was brushed back like a boy’s. She started all that. She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it with that wool jersey.” Page 22 This is Jake’s description of Lady Brett the first time she appears in the novel. Cohn is clearly taken with Lady Brett, emboldened by his own recent successes with women and desire for adventure, but Brett turns him down to dance and leave with Jake. Brett and Jake have history and a connection, and admiration is obvious in Jake’s description of her not only as attractive, but strong and confident.

Jake’s injury has emasculated him; he can feel desire, but can’t act upon it. This frustration...

(This entire section contains 1152 words.)

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echoes the frustration many people felt in the post-war turmoil, but also indicates how traditional values are changed. Lady Brett is described as more masculine; she has short hair, “like a boy’s,”and a traditionally male name. She surrounds herself with homosexual men, who Jake wants to beat up, because his own masculinity is threatened due to his injury. Later, Lady Brett is compared to Circe, the festival goddess who turned men to swine. She and Jake’s relationship is doomed because of his inability to consummate it. Instead, Brett has affairs, namely with a bullfighter.

4) “Enjoying living was learning to get your money’s worth and knowing when you had it.” Page 148 Jake is wandering, trying to find meaning in his life. He loves Brett but can’t have her. After the war, he takes on a more monetary outlook. During this scene, he is lying in bed, unable to sleep and not wanting to turn off the light, and he can hear Brett laughing with another man. He thinks that you have to be in love with a woman to be her friend, and that he had been getting “something for nothing” in their relationship. Then he talks about the presentation of the bill, and how life in general is an “exchange of values.” You pay with experience or taking chances, and hopefully you learn from it.

What makes Jake a hero to many readers is his slight hope. He was not after empty experience. He was searching for meaning, and hoping that as he got older, he would discover that meaning. Of course, that hope is tempered with cynicism, as he realizes this current philosophy will seem silly in five years. Money is important to society, more so after the war, and Jake has adopted it because it's the only way he can define his hunt for a philosophy with meaning.

5) “Yes. . . . Isn't it pretty to think so?” Page 247 This is the last line in the book. Brett has sent Pedro away so she won’t ruin him, and she and Jake are in a taxi, driving around Madrid. Jake puts his arm around her, and they are comfortable. Brett says, "We could have had such a damned good time together,” and this quote is Jake’s reply.

The castration theme echoes throughout the book. While Jake is physically unable to perform, like the bulls, Brett symbolically castrates the men who chase after her. Cohn and Mike are left in shambles by the end of the book, and Brett foresees the same fate for Pedro, so she leaves him, calling herself a bitch. Had Jake been able to perform, he most likely would not have escaped this fate either, and by the end of the novel he realizes this. He also isn’t as threatened by his loss of sexual function. When he says, “Isn't it pretty to think so?”, he’s acknowledging that it’s a nice idea, but it would never have happened in reality, and the only way they can achieve the level of comfort they have is because Brett can’t put him through hell. Like the life they are leading, it is a pretty thought, but like so many other ideals, is unattainable.