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The Sun Also Rises
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Sun Also Rises, which was first published in 1926, is one of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway's greatest literary achievements. Hemingway's unique voice -- his economy of language, his manly ideals, his tangible appreciation for the simplicity of warm sands or a cool drink, or a soft bed -- are peerless. Readers may be put off by Hemingway's portrayal of women -- Brett comes off as a heartless tease at best -- but that also makes for some really spirited discussion in English class. It's also important to note that Hemingway's writing is deceptively simple; though pre-teens might be ready to take this book in on some level, most would need guidance to navigate the destructive relationships in this book, the excessive consumption of alcohol, and the issues surrounding Jake's inner turmoil.
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What's the story?
American Jake Barnes is a damaged World War I veteran and, now, a newspaper reporter living in Paris. He travels to Spain with several friends -- including the woman he loves-- to fish and to witness Pamplona's Festival of San Fermin. Barnes and his friends see the running of the bulls and a couple of bullfights; and bottle after bottle is drained as they restlessly move from bar to cafe to bar to drunken parades on the village square. As the party atmosphere escalates, however, so do tensions between the characters.
Is it any good?
Hemingway's spare writing style is deceptively simple, and it is fascinating to dissect a book like this and to grasp how much the author said with few words. Widely acknowledged to be one of Hemingway's masterpieces, The Sun Also Rises is at once an indictment and an ode to the Lost Generation or writers and artists who came of age in the years just after World War I. It's also a beautiful love letter to European travel and cafe life. Though Hemingway's attitudes toward love and toward drinking are possibly even more controversial now than they were in the 1920s, the world he creates is complex and complete, the beauty and feel of the scenery is palpable, and Hemingway gives readers of any age loads to think about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles in The Sun Also Rises. What sort of person is Brett Ashley, and what other types of women appear in the book? What do you think these characters say about the author's attitude toward women?
Likewise, families may want to discuss racial and religious bigotry in the novel. What kind of man is Cohn? Are the character's views of Cohn justified, and do they actually have anything to do with his religion? How do the racial statements in the book make you feel?
Hemingway also introduces the idea of whether bullfighting is a valid form of entertainment, of "fun"? What do you think?
Hemingway's novels are full of simple descriptions and language. What do you think makes his writing so effective?
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