Literature and Film as Modern Mythology

By William K. Ferrell | Go to book overview

Chapter II
Finding Morality in a Bullring

The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

The words of the Preacher, the Son of David, King in Jerusalem.
Vanity of Vanity, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the
sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh:
but the earth abideth forever.
The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down,
and hasteth to the place where it arose. ( Ecclesiastes 1:1-5)

The word vanity, at the time of the King James Version translation, meant "empty or emptied, hence without substance" ( Partridge757). This biblical quotation begins what many consider to be Ernest Hemingway's best novel, which also happened to be his first, The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway chose this title because his protagonist in the novel, Jake Barnes, is actively engaged in a search for a meaning for his life in a world seemingly empty and without substance. Barnes's search is a fictional quest, but because Barnes is certainly the author's alter-ego, it probes mythologically into an ancient and ongoing quest in which Ernest Hemingway seeks to find a true base for morality in an effort to acquire a meaning for his own life. Hemingway, like many other authors, uses his fiction to indemnify a personal quest.

From 2500 B.C.E. until the nineteenth century C.E., this search for good and evil existed primarily in connection with a religious belief. Most reli-

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