Monday, October 17, 2011
Thoughts: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
If I say that the book is about a bunch of American expatriates who get drunk a lot and fight over one woman, will I be doing the book a disservice? Probably. On the surface, that’s what this book is about, but there a lot of things going on underneath. These expatriates are all part of the Lost Generation, the people whose lives were forever changed by World War I. The war changed their values, and ruined their innocence. They’re aimless, they know it, and they’re unable to do anything about it.
Like in The Old Man and the Sea, I was once again impressed by Hemingway’s ability to pack so much meaning into a couple of simple words. In one scene, Jake, the protagonist, tells one of the other characters that, “You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” The quote is perfect for the so-called Lost Generation. It doesn’t matter if you decide to go on an adventure-filled trip to South America and get drunk five times a day. Your emotional baggage will always stick with you. You can’t just shake it off.
I still haven’t made up my mind whether Hemingway is a misogynist or if he’s just scared of strong, independent women. Lady Brett Ashley, the woman they’re all fighting about, is fiercely independent (wow, what a Mills & Boon cliché). She changes men as often as she changes clothes, and is merciless about it. It’s pretty obvious she has no emotional attachment to any of them, but the fact remains that she ALWAYS has to be with a man. It’s like she took one step forward in the name of female independence, and took two steps back. I. Cannot. Make. Up. My. Mind.
Anyway, Hemingway’s writing is as crisp as usual, and, while reading, I felt like I was stepping on dried leaves on the street. Cruncheee. This book made me realize how great being an “armchair traveler” is with its beautiful descriptions of Pamplona, San Sebastian, and other Spanish locales. I really thought I was on a bus drinking some form of hard liquor out of a leather sack.
Note: And, no, I didn't forget to talk about the bullfighting. Before reading this book, I never saw the point in bullfighting. I just thought it was a stupid sport where a matador had to wave a red cloth in a bull's face. This book made me understand how graceful and subtle bullfighting can be. Loved the descriptions of the sport. I'm pretty sure I missed some fancy symbolism there.