This July we acknowledge the life of Ernest Hemingway. Though his life ended in tragedy, he made a mark upon the world with his famous writings. His influence from his texts such as In Our Time and The Sun Also Rises can be read today and explored by readers looking for an understanding of modern literature.
Hemingway’s novels consisted of themes of war, love, and violence. Here is an excerpt from an essay titled “Love and Failure.”
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, involves the unrequited romance of Jake Barnes and Brett Ashley. These characters, that claim to love each other, are prevented from being together due to physical problems and an inability to recognize potential happiness. Though they appear to love each other, Brett refuses to be with Jake and instead pursues multiple, unfulfilling relationships. Brett suggests at the end of the novel that they could have been good together. Jake replies, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” (Hemingway 251). By the end of the novel their relationship is unresolved.
Jake Barnes, the protagonist, was wounded during the war, causing him to become impotent. This issue prevents him from being with Brett. He is clearly in love with her and tries to find some way for them to be together. He asks, “Couldn’t we live together Brett? Couldn’t we just live together?” (Hemingway 62). Jake, although Brett refuses to be with him, continues to selflessly help her and accept her relationships with other men. He supports her emotionally and when she needs help. Even though he cannot have her, he settles for being her friend. He says, “In the first place, you had to be in love with a woman to have a basis of friendship. I had been having Brett for a friend” (Hemingway 152). He loves her enough to accept what little she offers.
Brett Ashley is a promiscuous, modern woman. She dresses masculinely and is pursued by many men in the novel who happen to fall in love with her. Brett claims she loves Jake; however, she continues to have multiple affairs with other men and asks Jake to introduce her to Romero. Her relationship with Jake is complicated. She loves him but will not be with him because of his wound. She openly admits to Jake that she would cheat on him if they were together. She admits, “I’d just tromper you with everybody. You couldn’t stand it” (Hemingway 62). Her response to his proposition of just being together, in love, is selfish. In some aspect she does love him; but, not as greatly as Jake loves her. He is willing to be with her despite his wound while she will not be with him because of it. Brett fails to realize the happiness she could have with the man who loves her and whom she supposedly loves.
The characters repeatedly profess their love for one another throughout the novel. They are prevented from being together however, their love not being enough. Jake loves Brett but cannot be with her because of his wound and her failure to realize she could be happy with him. Although he cannot physically satisfy her needs, he believes they could be happy together, in love.
Jake repeatedly admits his love for her, saying, “You know I love you” (Hemingway 62). This however, is not enough for Brett. She continues to pursue meaningless relationships, leaving a trail of broken hearts. By the end of the novel she questions her relationship with Jake, realizing they could have been happy together, “we could have had such a damned good time together,” but it is too late (Hemingway 251). The relationship between Jake and Brett is unresolved. The characters are condemned to never having their love recognized because of a wound and ignorance.
If Hemingway were still alive today, he could be pictured stroking his beard while pondering his next successful novel.
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