University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Emptiness of Promiscuity and Addiction
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway grants the reading world a smooth flowing unification of various modern, in fact timeless, concepts of human life. Hemmingway’s semi-autobiographical representations of life as part of the “Lost Generation” seem to ring as true today as they must have then. This is certainly one of the characteristics common to all of the great literary works of the world: long-standing relevance to central life issues.
With a cynical air throughout and lonely breezes of insatiability – both of a sexual nature and concerning personal integrity – the book has come to represent all humans at one point or another in the course of their lives. This document will explore some of the ambiguities and ironies that exist within the pages of this important work, and how it tends to place all of those who read it in touch with the shallower, less predictable side of their psyches.
Hemmingway employs a style laden with omission to create substance; it is more what is not said or done that exposes truths to the readers. For example, in the case of Jake, he never fully expresses what happened to render him impotent. A nondescript war wound has stolen his very manhood. Enter the first irony. Certainly, a man’s worth does not live in his trousers. Jake however lives in a tormented world where he is unable to advance – not simply because of the devastating effects of WW1, but because he cannot locate any real reason to live.
Like Hemmingway himself as well as countless other people, he wandered aimlessly, trying to substantiate his existence in a world that really didn’t understand him. Perhaps his only meaning was to wait for the wanting Brett to need a soft shoulder to cry and vent upon. As with Jake, Brett is also awash in a world on meaninglessness and insecurity. Finding her shattered self-beliefs unbearable, she turns consistently to whatever man she finds attractive and instantly accessible.
She hides in a world of promiscuity and booze to shield her from the reality that is her life. It is said that she loves Jake, but cannot commit to him because of his inability to meet her sexual needs. Brett, like a surprisingly large percentage of modern women and men, finds her only value in her capacity to entice and seduce; gaining a false sense of power and/or accomplishment from it. When one fling ends, she is met with the misery of loneliness – a forced circumstance that induces self-reflection and therefore sorrow.
She is an opposite to Jake, he with no ability to satisfy and her with no ability to be satisfied even by the manliest of men. The dual sexual natures of the characters act to symbolize very real factions of the general population of the Earth. This book delivers the truth concerning the underlying shallowness and callousness possessed by so many humans. They act on primal levels to achieve a numb state of existence where they are unaffected by the need to advance as individuals. They are stagnated in a pool of soured wine, left unable to swim or even tread the surface.
Like lost children or homeless “adults”, they wander their domain searching for shelter, perhaps to luckily discover that the only available home is within oneself. Hemmingway knew the roads of sexual liberalism as well as the emptiness of loss. He attempted, perhaps subconsciously, to educate his readers about the pitfalls of promiscuous behavior and alcoholism. Perhaps he was trying to reinforce these concepts within his own mind; to save himself from the future that he was directed towards.
The metaphoric intentions concerning bullfighting and sexual virulence, impotence and masculinity, the rejuvenating effects of natural resources, and the power of silence and omission all contribute to the overall wisdom presented by the book. The Sun Also Rises takes the reader on a trip of superficial destination; it acts to demonstrate that only emptiness is to be gained from actions that are initially empty in nature. The characters search for life’s meaning and find none.
They therefore engage in activities that serve as escapes from the drudgery of lives so filled with no meaning. This is of the upmost relevance in this modern world of addictions. There are still the everyday effects of war. There are still multitudes of humans pretending to enjoy the escape brought about by booze and unwholesome sexual practices. Underneath, they are lost children searching for a home; adult- aged people that have never embraced the possibility that they have something to offer back to humanity: honesty.