The Lost Generation Sinking into Society

"The Sun Also Rises" review

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“You are all a lost generation,” says Ernest Hemingway in the novel The Sun Also Rises. Who and what is the lost generation? The lost generation refers to the period of time after World War 1 when people found life to be directionless and meaningless. However, Hemingway brings this idea to life as he uses characters to display the different ways people viewed the world in this time period. When reading this book, I was just reading about the interaction between a few friends; however the deeper meaning is hidden within each character. Through the characters Lady Brett Ashley, Jake Barnes, and Robert Cohn, the audience can see the representation of the “lost generation” in the 1920s. Investigating each character’s personality helps the readers receive a visual of what exactly life looked like in a world of confusion and hopelessness. However, people can still see this lost generation in today’s world through how people act in confusion, shame, and hopelessness. 

The queen bee, the spoiled one, and the star of the show… Miss Lady Brett Ashley. The novel revolves around her as if she has every man wrapped around her pretty little finger. She is stunning, which makes all the guys fall in love with her. However, the men can keep dreaming because commitment isn’t her cup of tea. Don’t let Brett fool you, she isn’t happy go lucky all the time. Instead, she’s wearing a mask throughout the novel. The only one she takes this mask off for is her true friend Jake Barnes (Murray Ellison). Brett is displayed throughout the novel as a strong independent woman. But looking deeper her true character, she is revealed in a broken state as if she were a piece of glass being shattered into a million pieces. She says to Jake, ”Darling I have been so miserable” (The Sun Also Rises). Her character is supposed to illustrate the “new women” of society as she strives for individualism (Monique Bre). However, we see she has been seeking to find her value by sleeping with men which has only destroyed her. This example demonstrates the idea that people were relying on one another to find value in their lives. It illustrates one way of life that followed post-war and displays the lost generation by using others to find value. 

The friend, the soldier, and the insecure one is Jake Barnes. The whole novel is told from his point of view.  A little bit about Jake, he is in love with Brett, he was wounded in battle and can no longer have sex, and he is insecure about his masculinity. Therefore, the novel displays the different ways the readers use this information to form a mask on Jake too. Oh Brett, everyone loves Brett. Although she’s in love with Jake and he would take her in a heartbeat, they both understand they can’t be together. Brett won’t give up her independence to any man and won’t take a man who can’t even have sex. Jake realizes she isn’t ever going to commit to one man so he can’t be with her. Don’t let this idea change your perspective, Jake would love to end up with her but knowing he can’t have sex creates this insecurity of his masculinity (Bre). This insecurity wasn’t unusual during this time period. As Kate O’ Connor says, “Having seen pointless death on a huge scale, many lost faith in traditional values like courage, patriotism, and masculinity” (Kate O’Connor). This shows that Jake’s experience with war had changed his life views. He realized that not being able to have sex brought him down in his social life. Therefore, life felt pointless bringing him into the lost generation status. 

The want to be, the fighter, and the one who loses control….Robert Cohn. The novel starts out telling the audience that Cohn joined boxing at Princeton. Reading about boxing isn’t the most interesting start; however, this idea becomes very important to Cohn’s character. Cohn was raised as a Jew, which means he felt as if he belonged with the Jewish community. But when entering into Princeton, Cohn lost this “belonging” feeling (Ng Lay Sion). Therefore, Cohn took on boxing to try and hide his feelings within each match. This idea creates a “painful self-conscious” on Cohn and creates somewhat of a monster out of his character (Sion). Through the painful self-conscious Cohn developed, his character developed a sense of confusion in the world. “The confusion caused by not fitting in creates anxiety, shame, and hopelessness inside Cohn” (Sion). This thought process leads us right back to all the other characters..stuck in the lost generation. He feels as if he wants to escape society but is stuck with bricks tied to his feet to weigh him down. He is anxiously waiting for the days to go by and looking for a token of hope or something to fulfill his life. His character shows just another way people lived there life stuck under the assumption there should be more to life. 

Overall, reading this book left me feeling as if I had just dropped their ice cream cone…disappointed. The book, in other words, is boring to read if one doesn’t look into the deeper meaning. However, look deeper and one will find just a story waiting to tell itself. The lost generation was full of hopelessness, confusion, and shame, and the background was rooted in the idea of trying to find a meaning to life. The thing I find most interesting about the lost generation is people think it has come to an end. Let’s be real though, people today are still covered in confusion, hidden in shame, and searching for the true meaning of life. In other words, we are still living in the conditions that the characters in The Sun Also Rises are meant to represent.

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