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In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway uses his unique writing style to strengthen the themes expressed in the novel. Throughout the narrative, it is clear that Jake Barnes and his friends do not have much to hang onto; however, on various occasions, the reader can easily see that Jake truly admires good style and technique regardless of the context. Whether he is describing the "how-to's" of getting rid of a friend, the best way to fish in Burguete, or the explicit details of great bullfighting, Jake constantly reminds the reader of the importance of style and grace. This style that Jake respects and admires is exactly what Hemingway achieves in his novel. At first glance, the book may seem simple and straightforward, but upon closer examination, it becomes evident that Hemingway chose almost every word or phrase with a very specific purpose in mind.
Hemingway's "simple" style of writing is responsible for focusing the reader's attention to the repetitious and cyclic lives of the characters, while his incessant lack of details represents the empty or almost meaningless lives of Jake and his friends. Thus, the style that he deploys in his writing corresponds directly with the themes of the novel, resulting in the reader's enhanced understanding of and appreciation for Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway's recurring use of quick, concise phrases throughout the novel brings the reader's attention to the repeating habits of each of the characters. Through Jake's narration, he describes a number actions and events with identical style despite the circumstances.
This is displayed throughout the novel in Jake's straightforward account, and in one short paragraph he states, "I walked I read I got I walked I passed I stepped I walked I walked" (43). Though any character in any novel would do these actions repeatedly, Hemingway made a conscious decision to write Jake's actions in such a repetitive manner. As the reader notices Hemingway's repetitious devices, he or she is drawn not only to the repetitive nature of the story, but also to that of each of the characters' lives. All of the principal characters in the novel base their entire lives on merely repeating a few basic activities over and over.
As alcoholics, it is clear that most of their time is centered around getting "tight" at various places. No matter where they are, Jake, Brett, Cohn, Mike and Bill end up having the same conversations and doing the same things. The fact that they simply repeat the same insignificant actions devoid of emotion or meaning proves that their lives lack any true value at all. This absence of real meaning shows that they truly are part of the "lost generation, " a very important theme in the novel; a theme that, when it comes down to it, is based on each of the characters' repeating habits during the story.
Though this idea may be apparent without Hemingway's repetitive manner, his style undoubtedly draws more attention to it. In addition to demonstrating the recurrence of a single event, Hemingway shows that the events are repeated in an undying cycle. Just as each of the characters goes through his or her cyclic routine, Hemingway writes each chapter or book within the novel with a certain cyclic motion. Looking solely at the first and last parts of each chapter, certain patterns begin to arise. In Book I, each chapter begins and ends at very similar points. This is represented differently in chapter IV, when Jake and Brett start and end the chapter discussing how much they want to be together even though they can't, and in chapter VII, which begins "As I started up the stairs" and ends "The door opened and I went up-stairs" (71).
Thus by starting and ending in almost the same place, there is no choice but to start again from the same point, making it virtually impossible to escape the pattern. This inevitable routine is exactly what Jake finds himself lost in; no matter how hard he tries, he is unable to consummate experience. His physical and emotional castration prevents him from breaking out of the routine that has become his life. It can be inferred that the reason Jake admires bullfighting so much is because along with great style, the fights have a definite end; something Jake yearns for throughout his life. Hemingway uses his style to show the repetitiveness which is ultimately Jake's fate.
Jake's experience of dj vu provides the strongest evidence that he feels himself caught in a pattern of repetition beyond his control. As he walks back to the hotel after Cohn beats him up he says, "I [feel] as I felt once coming home from an out-of-town football game and I walked up the street from the station in the town I had lived in all my life and it was all new" (196). His experience shows that while it feels like he is back home (where he started), everything is different. Just as Hemingway begins and ends each chapter almost where he started, Jake feels that he keeps coming back almost to the point where he began; however, his war experience prevents him from going completely back. This entire idea overlaps with his relationship with Brett. Despite their attempts to be together, Jake and Brett go through the same routine over varied amounts of time.
In the beginning of the novel after Brett confesses she "'simply turn[s] all to jelly when [Jake] touches [her]'" Jake admits, "'there's not a damn thing [they] can do about it'" (34). After going through the routine a number of times, the novel comes to a close with Brett saying "We could have had such a damned good time together" and Jake replying, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" (251). This quick exchange of dialogue shows that, although not exactly where they started, their relationship will continue in this circle eternally. Hemingway's cyclic patterns in the novel, just like his repetitions, serve to focus the reader's attention on the more important themes that stem from these origins. The themes that Hemingway tries to express to the reader are often subtle and abstract; however, his style clearly helps the reader recognize, understand, and enhance some of the major points of the novel. The repetition he uses points toward the repetition in the characters' lives, and the cyclic nature of the chapters makes the reader examine the cycles and routines of the characters, and more specifically of Jake.
While analyzing the routine of Jake's life, it becomes evident that the war itself is solely responsible for Jake's endless cycle of self-pity. It is implied that the war is what forced Jake and his friends to drink, but more importantly, it is what made Jake unable to escape. Because of his injury, he is unable to consummate any experience. Therefore, the natural thing to do is to attempt to return to the way things were prior to the war; however, the war changed everything, making it virtually impossible to return to where he started. Thus, Jake isn't lost solely because his generation can't relate to the generations before or after; he is lost because resolution of any kind is always right out of his reach, making him travel in the eternal, meaningless circles that have become his life. Bibliography:
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