The Sun Also Rises Important Quotations
by Ernest Hemingway

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Important Quotations

(Novels for Students)

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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 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...

(The entire section is 1,152 words.)