‘The Sun Also Rises’ Review

Michael Parke, Staff Writer

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I was given an old hardcover edition of The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, to read for class. It was great. The book details the tumultuous adventures of Jake Barnes, Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn and others.

Readers start off with two important quotes. One of them is from the Bible and the other from Gertrude Stein. Then we get to the story. Jake Barnes, a veteran of WWI, describes Robert Cohn, a fellow who hangs around him. They are both in Paris. One night they go to a club and see Brett; Jake knows her. Readers learn that he goes to Pamplona, Spain yearly for the running of the bulls and is set to go soon. Brett, her fiancé Mike, Robert and Bill go with him. The entire trip is fraught with trouble and a miserable Jake returns to Paris.

This book explores many topics that became rather important in the wake of WWI: the role of masculinity, love, morals and religion amongst other things. It is written in a lean, tough prose, a product of Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory, which was a radical departure from the way of writing at the time. This might appeal to those sick of reading 19th century novels with long sentences or sissy books without substance; and I believe so because of the combination of subject matter and style of writing.

The Sun Also Rises is of course comparable to other Hemingway works such as A Farewell to Arms or The Old Man and the Sea. For Whom the Bell Tolls uses the archaic thee, thou, &c and has a slightly different feel to it. The short stories by him are excellent, but I cannot comment on his poetry for I’ve yet to read any. Dashiell Hammett was a hard boiled crime writer whose stories like The Dame Curse or The Glass Key convey the tough-guy attitude with a straightforward prose similar to Hemingway’s. Another comparison could be made with Joseph Conrad, a writer who also tended to stay on the surface. Heart of Darkness or The Secret Sharer should be entertaining.

It’s a good book overall. The class copy had some typos courtesy of the publisher, but I’m sure those issues have been resolved in later editions. The movie seems to be a letdown. Hemingway reportedly walked out on it, so this is one case where I wouldn’t explicitly recommend watching the film adaptation. People wanting to read a deceptively simple book about partying and bulls and sadness should pick this up.


Photo Courtesy Michael Parke