Values in The Sun Also Raises by Ernest Hemingway

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Critical Analysis – The Values

The theme of values is prevalent throughout the entirety of Ernest Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises. In the novel, Hemmingway speaks for the Lost Generations of Paris that followed World War I. The novel revolves around the three main characters which are Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley and Robert Cohn. The Lost Generation (the people who lost their sense of direction and prior values toward life due to the effects of war) are portrayed by Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley, with Robert Cohn as the only character that has not experienced warfare. The Lost Generation spent their lives aimlessly, not knowing what they really want. During the prosperous 1920s, they would often visit clubs and bars to drink and party their nights away. As demonstrated in The Sun Also Rises, the devastation of war has a huge impact on mortality. The ethics that were once valued prior to World War I are lost. Traditional values of love, friends, religion, and respect had been betrayed, and it clearly shows in the novel by the moral indifference depicted by the characters.

Jake Barnes is the main character and the narrator of the novel. He is a veteran of World War I and he is the character who is wounded both physically and emotionally by the war. Jake is the perfect example of the Lost Generation as he spends his nights aimlessly drinking with “friends” whom he does not seem to care much for. Although Robert Cohn is his considered to be his friend, Jake speaks of him with such mockery, hinting that Cohn is a pathetic and ignorant man. When describing how Cohn has been reading “The Purple Land”, Jake says, “For a man to take it at thirty-four as a guide-book to what life holds is about as safe as it would be for a man ...

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... is that the values are always there, remaining for people to learn and relearn. It is true that traditional values of love, friends, religion, and respect had been betrayed, and it clearly shows in the novel by the moral indifference depicted by the characters. However, many actually hope for the past values to be found once again. Both Jake and Brett are aware that their values have changed and there are times where they want to find themselves once again. This is shown through Jake’s unwillingness to reject his religion even though he does not necessarily believe in it any longer. Brett, later in the novel, demonstrates some form of generosity to let go of those that she can possibly hurt if she was to hold on any longer. War has a tremendous impact on the values as seen in The Sun Also Rises, but knowing the values can help to relearn them over and over again.
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