Hemingway’s Construction of a Hero in the Post World War Era Essay

In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway uses a number of unconventional methods of writing to tell his story. It is a story of an unlikely hero, an unusual set of characters, and an unsatisfying ending that is given away immediately at the beginning of the book. Regardless, Hemingway is able to capture the attention of his audience by the book’s dialogue, descriptions, and most importantly, clear and intriguing characterizations. It is with the usage of unconventional methods of storytelling that Hemingway is able to convey his own opinions on these characters and their actions to prove the existence of a new set of standards in the post World War I era.

Hemingway begins the book immediately with an unconventional opening. What appears to be a typical character introduction in the first few pages of the book quickly changes to atypical when it becomes apparent that the discussed character, Robert Cohn, is not even the protagonist of the novel. The protagonist, Jake Barnes, on the other hand, receives minimal attention until a couple of chapters into the book. Even then, Jake’s expected life story never does appear in the novel leaving most questions of his past unanswered. Contrastingly, towards the end of the novel, Robert disappears into the background with little attention while more and more focus is placed on Jake. This may lead to the question of why there is such an emphasis on Robert’s entry into the novel while Jake’s entry is so dismal. Furthermore, why is Cohn’s exit so inconspicuous when his entrance was so grand? These questions can be answered by analyzing Hemingway’s portrayal of the two characters. This ultimately allows for the discerning between the two to show Jake as the true hero of the novel re…

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…led set of common experiences, Jake maintains his dignity and morality while Robert loses both.

Hemingway’s list of unconventional methods used in writing this novel grows longer as Jake proves to be an unconventional hero. In the literal sense, Jake is as far from being masculine as he could possibly be because of his war injury. Furthermore, his character comes with a long list of faults, but Hemingway is not trying to write the perfect hero. In showing Jake as the hero with all his faults, Hemingway shows the ambiguities of the post World War I era. It is a time when all previous values are no longer of importance and black and white distinctions no longer exist. What is left is a disillusioned, cynical, generation, trying ineffectively to move past from what they have experienced.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York City: Scribner, 1954

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