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.
(The entire section is 1152 words.)