The Role Of Women In Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises

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In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a generation’s loss of morals and conventional beliefs are visible as the result of the First World War. The war presented men and women with harsh realities, forcing traditional views of gender to become skewed creating a new status quo. The characteristics normally associated with masculinity, such as bravery and brawn, were no longer accurately representative as men returned from the fronts. Femininity also changed as women began to emerge from the sanctity of their homes and into public space. Characters such as Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes demonstrate the reversal of gender roles by this “lost generation”. Impotent due to a war wound, Jake faces intense humiliations at the hands of the sexually peripatetic “new woman,” Brett. She adopts a masculine identity, flouting all traditional female looks and behaviors, while keeping her feminine sexuality. The men that surround Brett are molded around her unconventionality compelling their own sexual identities to become distorted. They attempt to find comfort in their sexual identities through the usage of masculine facades.
Lady Brett Ashley is the quintessential Modern Woman, diverging from nearly all standards attributed to the role of women through the embracing of male features. One of the first descriptions of her take note of her “slipover jersey sweater,” “tweed skirt,” and hair “brushed back like a boy’s,” (Hemingway 29-30). Through wearing mannish clothing and hairstyle, Brett evokes androgyny and gender ambiguity both in physical appearance and attire. She deviates from the social expectations of women through her external presentation, which adds to her allure making her “damned good looking,” (Hemingway 30). Men are enthral...

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...e past. Jake gets knocked out “cold” (Hemingway 195). Cohn is mocked for being passionately in love with Brett who doesn’t feel the same. He is seen as a weak person and so to establish his masculinity, he fights. His immediate regret of this decision shows that being the tough guy is just a front. He is feminized just like Mike.
Brett is able to use her masculinity to feminize all of the male characters, consequently making her the most powerful and dominating character. Therefore, she is the heart of The Sun Also Rises. Her physical features draw men in, while her innate ability to subordinate them takes away from their manhood altering their sexual identities and coercing the usage of facades. As women’s femininity decreases, men’s masculinity decreases as well. Not a single man can reclaim safety after sinking into the quicksand that is Lady Brett Ashley.
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