Themes In The Sun Also Rises Essay
, Research Paper
One theme that I found recurring throughout the novel, The Sun Also Rises by
Ernest Hemingway, was love. Lady Brett Ashley was a beautiful woman who seemed to
be irresistible to the men she became acquainted with. For example Robert Cohn, Bill
Gorton, Pedro Romero, Mike Campbell, and last but not least Jake Barnes. Brett was ex?
tremely vulnerable to the charm that various men in her life seemed to smother her with.
Brett was not happy with her life or her surroundings and sought escape and refuge in the
arms of these men. All of these men had strong feelings for Brett. The only problem was
that Brett had no feelings for any of those men, except for Jake. The only reason Jake and
Brett were not together was due to a wound Jake received during the war. Jake’s wound
made him impotent, incapable of making love. The torture of his wound, though, is that
he can still feel desire.
Jake and Brett could not love each other physically. They could not show each
other how much they truly loved one another. They both desperately want something that
they could not have due to Jake’s injury. Neither Jake nor Brett were able to find any
satisfaction or completeness in love. Jake was defined by this wound. He was always
thinking about it, even when he did not seem to be. Whenever Jake was about to go to
bed, and his thoughts loosened, he thought about his wound and Brett. Jake was able to
feel love, but he could not express it or consummate it. Brett herself told Jake not to love
her because she would only deceive him. Love, for Brett, had become a power she con?
trolled. It changed men but left her unaffected. Jake was tolerant of Brett’s behavior be?
cause he loved her unconditionally and was willing to overlook everything she did.
A different way Jake showed love for Brett was, in my opinion, in a rather strange
way. He loved Brett more than anything and he wanted her to be happy, so he set her up
with Robert Cohn, which did not work out, and he also set her up with Pedro Romero.
Although the feelings between Brett and Pedro may have been mutual, Brett did the right
thing by giving him up; whatever Brett wanted, Jake was willing to give her because he
wanted her to be happy.
Love for Robert Cohn is a silly and naive love learned from storybook romances.
For example the book that Robert Cohn read, The Purple Land, which was about an aging
Englishman finding love in a romantic country seriously affected him. Robert had
old-fashioned notions of love- he believed in commitment. Robert was too blind to realize
that his kind of love was lost on Jake’s crowd of friends, especially Brett. Robert was im?
mediately attracted to her. Since Brett may have been curious or just bored, she decided to
go off with him to San Sebastian, Spain. “What does their romance mean? For Brett,
nothing; for Robert, everything. He believed that their affair was a perfect love. Robert
could not stand to see Brett with another man;” (Barron’s Booknotes) even though they
were not together he was jealous.
“Mike, Brett’s fiancee, was too drunk and maybe too insecure to love. Bill Gorton
picked up an American girl at the fiesta, but nothing serious came out of it. He was too
cynical or too unfriendly to love. Pedro Romero was a man young, innocent, passionate,
and brave enough to love. Brett was almost immediately enchanted by him.” (Barron’s
Booknotes) Pedro, who frequently confronted death in his occupation, was not afraid in
the bullring and controlled the bulls like a master. Pedro was the first man since Jake who
caused Brett to lose her self-control. He fell for Brett and wanted to marry her, but Brett
knew she would ruin him, so she gave him up. This was the only point in the story where
Brett showed any amount of caring for another’s feelings. She did the right thing and
gave up Pedro because she did not want to hurt him as she did to Jake, Robert, and Mike,
even though Brett really does not care that she hurt Robert or Mike
The issue of values was a second theme in the novel. Jake, Brett, Robert, Mike,
and Bill were all Americans who went to Europe in search of new values because their old
standards or values were destroyed by war. Count Mippipopolous told Jake and Brett of
his “values”: he said that titles do not count for anything, it is not whether you are a count
or a princess that matters, but simply who you are. He also said never lie to people, never
“play them false.” His philosophy is to be straightforward with others. Brett, unlike the
count, “played false” with others, and she had no friends except Jake, because she was al?
ways honest with him. Their honesty was their strongest attachment.
Death, Fear, Courage, and Sport were four other themes I found recurring in the
novel. An aficionado is one who is passionate about the bullfights. This sport is ex?
tremely dangerous, the cycle of life and death is ultimate. Bullfighting is exciting, yet
brutal to watch. Jake was an aficionado, but he was only a spectator; he did not partici?
pate in this death defying sport. Pedro was a very successful bullfighter. He was very
graceful and skilled at fighting the bulls. This was the reason Brett fell in love with him.
Bullfighters put on a show of bravery for the audience The true aficionado loved to watch
Romero “because he kept the absolute purity of line in his movements and always quietly
and calmly let the horns pass him close each time. He did not have to emphasize their
closeness.” (p. 171). He came as close as he could to real danger and used no tricks; a
true aficionado enjoys the show more when the bullfighter does not show off. Those who
participated in the bullfights were courageous and at the same time fearful for their lives.
The title, The Sun Also Rises, is tied together with nature, earth, fear, courage,
and death. The earth along with nature goes on and does not stop for anything; when the
sun rises it is symbolic of a new beginning or a chance for one to start over. Many things
do occur that deter people from their purpose on earth and that is why each day is a
chance to change or fix something that has gone wrong in our lives. Brett had many
chances to change her ways and start over but for some reason she chose not to. Maybe it
was because no matter what she did, no matter how much trouble she got herself in, Jake
was always there to care for her, love her, and help her. If she was on her own she would
realize all of her mistakes and try to fix them or repent so she can be forgiven and move