, Research Paper
Hemingway presents and illustrates the image and thoughts of the lost generation in his novel The Sun Also Rises. The character Jake Barnes represents a man that has just come back from an unforgettable experience. Jake ultimately represents a disillusioned man representative of the lost generation.
To begin with, Hemingway at the beginning of the novel presents Jake as being a suave man that disbelieves in romanticism in his life. Thus, by utilizing characterization of a character s actions, Hemingway establishes Jake Barnes as a realistic man who views the quest of romanticism absurd. The reader sees this in the example of Cohn s idea of taking a trip to South America, Would you like to go to South America, Jake? he asked, No (Hemingway 17). Furthermore, as the book progresses, Hemingway gives Jake as drunken personality and his obnoxious behavior that he exhibits shows a broken man. I had picked her up because of a vague sentimental idea that it would be nice to eat with some one. It was a long time since I has dined with a poule, and I had forgotten how dull it could be (Hemingway 24). However, whenever Jake interacts with Brett Ashley, he loses his previous ideas of romanticism being absurd. Since their previous relationship of being lovers had failed they now tried a relationships of being best friends. As this new relationship develops, Jake and Brett draw back when the other becomes too emotional. The street was dark again and I kissed her. Our lips were tight together and then she turned away and pressed against the corner of the seat, as far away as she could get. Her head was down (Hemingway). The reader thus concludes that Jake contains an internal conflict between his behavior around his friend Cohn and his friend Brett, which he wants to further the relationship.
In spite of the characterization of actions used by Hemingway for Jake, one must also consider the thoughts that go through Jake as well. Jake s view of life consists of a more sophisticated and complicated than that of Robert Cohn s. Jake, after all, has been through a war and has lost his adolescent idealism and Cohn still conducts himself like a boy. At the opening of the novel, Hemingway illustrates the differences between the values of Jake and Cohn. The differences involve a contrasting view of sports and their functions, Cohn s inability to be self-critical, and Jake s disgust with Cohn s romanticism. Furthermore, there exists a dislike of Cohn s passivity from Jake, revealed to the reader through Jake s under statement and through his satiric language. Jake does not say for example, that Cohn married the first girl who was nice to him, he instead says .and was married by the first girl who was nice to him (Hemingway), implying that a certain exchange of roles begot the marriage. Jake also narrates that Cohn fathered children and one must be aware that other than a male having the physical equipment, begetting children does not require real aggressiveness. Moreover, the importance of a marriage is the mature strength to hold it together and this strength Cohn does not possess. He loses eventually, his wife, most of the fifty thousand dollars his father left him. Consequently, Jake ultimately develops a new stern behavior for himself and it excludes Cohn s educated small talk, his adolescent behavior, and his passivity.
Jake Barnes, as the narrator and supposed hero of the novel, fell in love with Brett some years ago and is still powerfully and uncontrollably in love with her. Still adjusting to his impotence at the beginning of the novel, Jake has lost all power and desire to have sex. Because of this, Jake and Brett cannot be lovers and all attempts at a relationship that is sexually fulfilling are simply futile. Brett is a passionate, lustful woman who is driven by the most intimate and loving act two may share, something that Jake just cannot provide her with. Jake’s emasculation only puts the two in a grandly ironic situation. Brett is an extremely passionate woman but is denied the first man she feels true love and admiration for. Jake has loved Brett for years and cannot have her because of his inability to have sex. It is obvious that their love is mutual when Jake tries to kiss Brett in their cab ride home: “‘You mustn’t. You must know. I can’t stand it, that’s all. Oh darling, please understand!’, ‘Don’t you love me?’, ‘Love you? I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me’” (Hemingway26). This scene is indicative of their relationship as Jake and Brett hopelessly desire each other but realize the futility of further endeavors. Together, they have both tried to defy reality, but failed. Jake is frustrated by Brett’s reappearance into his life and her confession that she is miserably unhappy. Since Jake can never be Brett’s lover, they are forced to create a new relationship for themselves, perhaps one far more dangerous than that of mere lovers, they have become best friends. This presents a great difficulty for Jake, because Brett’s presence is both pleasurable and agonizing for him. Brett constantly reminds him of his handicap and thus Jake is challenged as a man in the deepest, most personal sense possible. After the departure of their first meeting, Jake feels miserable: “This was Brett, that I had felt like crying about. Then I thought of her walking up the street and of course in a little while I felt like hell again” (Hemingway 34). Lady Brett Ashley serves, as a challenge to a weakness Jake must confront. Since his war experience, Jake has attempted to reshape the man he is and the first step in doing this is to accept his impotence. Despite Brett’s undeniable love for Jake, she is engaged to marry another.
Thus, regardless of his physical impotence, Jake’s true weakness is the impotence of his will and the supposed hero of the novel is flawed due to his failure to adhere to what he believes is right and wrong. Hemingway thus refrains from presenting a true hero in his novel. With the absence of a leading male ideal, Hemingway betrays the larger socio-cultural assumptions about men and masculinity and questions the conventional means in which they are defined in his society.