The Sun Also Rises: Notes

The Sun Also Rises: Notes

The Sun Also Rises: Notes

The Sun Also Rises: Notes


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background.


  • Life and Background of the Author
  • Introduction to the Novel
  • List of Characters
  • Critical Commentaries
  • Character Analyses
  • Critical Essays
  • Essay Topics and Review Questions
  • Selected Bibliography

    Before the outbreak of World War I, Europe and America enjoyed relative quiet; for almost a hundred years there had been peace. Small civil wars had flared up, it is true, but in general there had been no large-scale continental war. Perhaps man had conquered the beast in himself, it was speculated; perhaps man had learned to live with himself and with his foreign neighbors.

    The era was one of great changes, however, and though there was no armed revolution taking place, there was certainly a revolution occurring within both Europe and America. On both continents, and in America particularly, it was an age of rapid industrial changes and widespread urbanization. Many economic reforms were being initiated, and the anti-trust laws and the federal reserve system, among many others, emerged and promised fair play and happiness to a growing nation of middle-class citizens. President Wilson called his program the "New Democracy," and indeed it seemed to epitomize the new and democratic changes taking place.

    But at the same time that industrialization made life more comfortable and cut down working hours, it was also producing more effective, mass-produced weapons of war. And, when World War I exploded, those weapons were employed. War was no longer a matter of man facing his enemy; man faced massive war machines.

    For a time, America held itself aloof from the war in Europe, wondering if the war was its problem; the sinking of the Lusitania almost decided the matter, but Wilson remained neutral for two more years, until the declaration by Germany of an unlimited submarine campaign and an attempt to instigate Mexico to action against the United States. On April 6, 1917, America entered the war.

    The press, it has been said, was absolutely responsible for molding an ineradicable hatred of the German nation from that time on. Whether the charge is true or not, it is certainly true that story after story of German butchery filled the papers. Detailed descriptions of mass rapes, child slaughters, and reports of poison gas were injected into the American mind. The German Beast, the Hun, had awakened and like a horde of locusts was devouring Europe and readying itself for America.

    To the servicemen who fought the war...

  • Excerpt

    Thirty years ago, it was fashionable and right that critics should be enthusiastic over Ernest Hemingway, declaring him to be the founder of an authentic American prose and lauding him as a pioneer in a new type of literature. Those days are gone, however, and today it is fashionable for some critics to discount Hemingway.

    This critical swing of the pendulum should be pointed out before a study of The Sun Also Rises, for whether or not one supports the literary evaluation of Hemingway, the first couple of chapters of this novel are likely to be puzzling. They seem, on first reading to concern only Robert Cohn rather than the main character, Jake Barnes. But when we remember that Jake is narrating the novel, then we come immediately to an understanding of one of Hemingway’s techniques--that is, the use of understatement, which forces us to draw conclusions from things not overtly stated. Everything that Jake Barnes says about Robert Cohn ultimately reveals to us something about Jake himself.

    Robert Cohn lived in the Paris of the so-called lost generation of the twenties. and to that generation there belonged two types of people: those who had survived the war and were serious about their disillusions and about their drinking and debauchery and, like Jake Barnes (and Ernest Hemingway), serious about their writing; and those who came to Paris to be entertained because they could financially afford the experience or because they would gladly endure semi-poverty to share in the romance of living abroad. Cohn had the money, and Chapters 1 and 2 tell the rest of his history.

    Jake is pitting himself and his current postwar attitudes against those of Robert Cohn. He writes at length about Cohn, yet at the same time he writes about himself and reveals his own attitudes not only about Cohn but also about other characters and about life in general.

    A knowledge of Hemingway’s total code of values expressed in his other works also helps us to understand many understatements in these first two chapters. There are many implications in Jake’s statements which perhaps seem insignificant, but because Hemingway is so highly selective in what he . . .

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