The Internal Affairs of Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises

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During the lost generation of the mid-1920’s, for most people the theme of life’s meaning was turning from the question of essence, “what it was all about,” to existence, “how to live in it.” In Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, the main character Jake Barnes demonstrates the reason for this polarity is the inability to rise above that mediocrity. (Wagner-Martin, 21-25)Early in the novel, Cohn tells Jake that he yearns to get away from Paris, and to travel to South America. Jake presents himself as someone who realizes that “you can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another”, when he instructs Cohn to start living his life in the moment, in Paris. However, as we begin to further explore Jake’s character, we realize that his advice to Cohn is ironic because Jake himself has not yet learned how to live according to his own advice.

Jake spends many slumberless hours tormented by thoughts of his impotence and by his love for Brett. The injury continues to be an ongoing source of distress and frustration whenever they are together. Evidence of Jake’s distress is clear when Brett turns away from Jake in the cab in response to Jake’s attempt at intimacy. (Wagner-Martin, 30-41) Brett states that she does not “want to gothrough that hell again.” (Hemingway, 34) Furthermore, Jake feels he is about to enter a recurring nightmare, when Brett tells him that “she is so miserable.” (Hemingway, 32)Jake is constantly battling internal demons and acknowledges that all he really wants to do is to know “how to live in it” (Hemingway, 152)—it referring to the world, to the new and constantly changing war reckoned society, and to the world of emotional relationships. Certain literary critics have equated specific characters within the novel who might provide Jake with an example of exemplary behaviour. For example, the critic Robert Fleming, suggests that Count Mippipopolous is an example of a “code hero” or “tutor”, due to the fact that his minor flaws are “outweighed by his strict observation of code.” (Fleming, 69-72) Unlike Jake, the Count values things he loves in the present, and exemplifies bravery and elegance under pressure. Fleming states that the Count imparts lessons to Jake that will “that will help [him] toward a philosophy of life.” (Fleming, 74) Scott Donaldson, another critic, reasons that it is in fact Bill Gorton, through humour directed at ideas and organizations, not human beings, who provides a form of respectable behaviour. (Donaldson, 19-41)Jake’s being in the taxi with Georgette and Brett portrays a major aspect of the novel. The characters are constantly moving about, like Hemingway’s “lost generation.” Throughout the novel, the characters go by taxi, car, bus, or foot. This seemingly random movement represents the equally random lifestyles of the “lost generation,” always moving about but never fulfilling their quest for a better world. (Wagner-Martin, 58-65)The fact that Jake travels to Madrid at the request of Brett proves that he is still in love with her. James Nagel believes that Jake’s voyage to Brett’s side proves that he cannot escape fate’s consequences and “is resigned to the pain that continued association with her is likely to bring.” (Nagel, 87-108) Jakes impotence is a strange irony. Even though he and Bill joke about the affliction, Jake’s condition shows just how expatriate life is—impotent and unfulfilling. (Wagner-Martin, 122-150) The continuation of Brett and Jake’s relationship can be called into question and may signify a change in Jake’s outlook on life when he replies to Brett’s lament about the good time they could have had together with the story’s final lines “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” (Hemingway, 251)Works CitedDonaldson, Scott. "Humor in The Sun Also Rises.” New Essays on The Sun Also Rises.

Cambridge University Press, 1987. 19-41.

Flemming, Robert. "The Importance of Count Mippipopolous: Creating the Code Hero."Arizona Quarterly. 44.2 (1988): 69-75.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1954.

Nagel James. "Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises." The CambridgeCompanion to Hemingway. Cambridge University Press, 1996. 87-108.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: A Casebook. NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2002.