Book Review: “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway

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I was in eighth grade when I fell violently and happily into Ernest Hemingway’s writing. We were reading his famous novella, The Old Man and The Sea, and I remember everyone in my class hating it. I loved it, though. Here we were, reading what I understood as literature, and not only was it about an interesting subject (a washed-up fisherman trying desperately to catch and keep a giant fish alone in the open ocean), but it was accessible. My eyes flew over the pages, and I couldn’t stop myself from getting lost in the words.

Authors have been trying to write like Hemingway for years for a reason: his writing is legible. You can understand what he’s trying to say. It’s that brilliant writing that not only says something worthwhile or meaningful but says it in a way that you can grasp without having to open up a dictionary.

Hemingway was my favorite author until I became a feminist and started reading Haruki Murakami (who is not a feminist, either, but I still like him). Hemingway isn’t known for writing well about women, and he wasn’t always the best in his relationships with women in real life. Still, I come back to his books because they have something to say, even if it isn’t always my favorite way of saying it. Plus, it’s a joy to read stories that are well-written but still easy on my tired eyes and blessedly not that long. That’s why I decided to re-read The Sun Also Rises during quarantine.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Sun Also Rises gets right: I’ve read this book maybe twice, when I was in high school and wanted to read everything Hemingway had ever written. I’ve got to say that reading it as an adult was very different. Suddenly all of the subtext made sense to me, and not really in a good way. For example, one of the main characters, Brett, is impulsive and promiscuous, hurting every man in her path. However, when we learn about her background as a victim of domestic abuse, her current actions seem like coping mechanisms instead of just selfishness. Hers is a sad story- in fact, most of the characters in this book are sad due to their physical and emotional scars from past problems. That’s why they treat one another so badly.

Although it made for a sad read, it was good to learn more about each character and put two-and-two together about the hints that Hemingway left in this book. The main themes are unrequited love, struggling with feelings of uselessness, dealing with alcohol addiction, and the thrills of traveling and experiencing other cultures. You will feel like you, too, are in Spain with this wild group of people- for better or for worse.

 

What The Sun Also Rises gets wrong: This book is infamous for the characters’ anti-Semitic views. Even if it is an accurate representation of the time, it’s still not fun to read about the slurs and racism shown toward the Jewish character, Robert Cohn.

There are a few minor characters who are black, but they are more stereotypical caricatures than real people, and this “casual” racism will make you squirm. A racial slur is used to reference the black characters.

 

Who should read The Sun Also Rises: Fans of crisp writing, weird characters that are loosely based on real people, lots of drama, and the 1920s.

 

Who shouldn’t read The Sun Also Rises: If you didn’t like F. Scott Fizgerald’s The Great Gatsby, don’t read this one. It’s similar to Gatsby in that it’s about a group of people with annoying habits and problems that they don’t communicate well about. It’s an examination of a generation that people now don’t know much about personally- we only really know them and their struggles through books like this.

 

The Sun Also Rises is available at the library.

Content note: violence (in particular, bullfighting), racism, some suggestive scenes (which are mostly inferred or referenced in conversation), language, substance abuse.

Top 5 English Literature Databases

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English majors are no strangers to writing papers, researching various texts, developing persuasive arguments, and integrating critical thinking. If you’re studying English, chances are you will need access to several different databases as you collect resources for your next assignment. Look no further: the library has you covered with the databases listed below.

 

MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography provides “indexing for journal articles, books and dissertations in modern languages, literatures, folklore, and linguistics.” Here you can find articles like “Disembodied Voice and Narrating Bodies in The Great Gatsby” and “Will, Change, and Power in the Poetry of Adrienne Rich.”

 

JSTOR

JSTOR’s not just a database, it’s a powerhouse of information with a strong social media presence. JSTOR is your go-to for older documents, high-quality scans, and quirky viewpoints. You can also narrow down your JSTOR search by discipline, which helps give you an idea of the many subjects they have content on.

jstor

 

Literary Sources (Gale)

The great thing about Gale databases is their “Topic Finder:” a tool that helps you find new topics and connections when you enter in phrases. This Topic Finder can be a helpful resource in developing a thesis. Literary Sources features articles like “Hemingway’s Hunting: An Ecological Reconsideration” and “Edgar Allen Poe as a Major Influence on Allen Ginsburg.”

 

Fine Arts and Music Collection (Gale)

This database is particularly attuned to how literature connects with the arts. If you need research on a play or other dramatic works, this is a go-to database. With more than “150 full-text magazines and journals covered in databases such as the Wilson Art Index and RILM, this collection will provide support for research in areas such as drama, music, art history, and filmmaking.”

 

Oxford English Dictionary

Need to define a tricky word, or want to discuss its etymology in your next research paper? The OED is here to help! It contains the meaning, pronunciation, and history of over 600,000 words.

 

 

 

 

Featured Author: Ernest Hemingway

july 21 1899

On this day in 1899, author Ernest Hemingway was born. Hemingway grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, and served in WWI as an ambulance driver for the Italian army. After working in journalism, Hemingway soon became known as a novelist and short story author.

A bullfighting aficionado, Hemingway wrote a nonfiction book called Death in the Afternoon detailing all he knew about the sport. He also traveled the world, drawing from his big game hunting experiences, cultural development, and personal relationships to enrich his writing.

Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for his famous novella The Old Man and the Sea in 1951. Then, in 1954, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In regards to writing advice, Hemingway stated in Death in the Afternoon:

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.

Hemingway died in 1961, leaving behind a legacy of memorable and moving literature. The library has a Hemingway collection featuring most of his works, as well as several biographical books and professional criticism of his various books. Below are just a few of the titles you can find on our shelves related to Hemingway: