I picked this up at the library yesterday to prepare for my book club's discussion of The Sun Also Rises. I was being rather lazy about doing my own research for lit crit articles on my university's library page. While I would hate for my students to read only excerpts of critical essays, using a Bloom guide might be a good way to introduce them to the genre. In any case, I took away an overview of critical ideas about the novel since it was published and deepened some of my own ideas about it.William
this turned out to be my favorite hemingway. it was his first novel, yet it shows a mature style and a skillful handling of character, incident, dialogue and theme. especially important -- it embodies and foreshadows the sense of doomed life that pervades his works, from "a farewell to arms" to "the short happy life of francis macomber". though i had read those works, as well as "for whom the bell tolls", it was with "sun" that i finally apprehended the twinned motifs of the need for having courage in facing life's disappointments and the ultimate futility of that courage in changing the ominous course of life that characterize hemingway's writing. these motifs are found in a particularly intense form in his early short story "the killers" and find their strongest expression in "sun" in jake's closing line, "Isn't it pretty to think so.". hemingway, like fitzgerald, is an american sophocles -- they both repeatedly describe tragic destinies of contemporary heroes -- or perhaps more fitting for our age, anti-heroes. yet "sun" was not depressing to read. why? because it was so well-written, both in terms of the style of its phrases and sentences and its plotting. and, as with all hemingway's writing, when it comes to expression of emotions, there is a precision and economy, a suppression even, that is both attractive and, to those of us living in a time when sensitivity to feelings is encouraged in men, somewhat awkward. and essentially british, as this exchange between the american francis macomber and the english hunting guide wilson shows: [macomber]"But you have a feeling of happiness about action to come?”“Yes,” said Wilson. “There’s that. Doesn’t do to talk too much about all this. Talk the whole thing away. No pleasure in anything if you mouth it up too much." "No pleasure in anything if you mouth it up too much." with this stringent code, it is remarkable that hemingway's novels and stories can be so affecting. yet certainly jake's plight, and that of his fellow expatriates, does engage both our interest and our sympathy. commentaries on this novel typically describe it as a story about the "lost generation". i think it is more particular than that -- it is a story about a small number of individuals trying to make the best of their lives and only intermittently succeeding. the former interpretation is sociology; the latter, art.Katie
Weird that it's hard to find a normal copy of The Sun Also Rises on here... It is my favorite book of all time. Read it.