The Sun Also Rises

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Sun Also Rises Book Poster Image
Hemingway's masterpiece salutes Spain and Lost Generation.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Considered the quintessential book about the so-called Lost Generation of writers and artists who came of age in the years just after World War I, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises offers a view into the world of expatriates living in Europe during that time. Hemingway paints a sometimes glorified, sometimes debauched portrait of cafe life in Paris; the festival of San Fermin, including the running of the bulls and bullfights, in Pamplona, Spain; and of the towns of Spain's Basque country.

Positive Messages

Though the behavior of most of the characters in The Sun Also Rises ranges from selfish to atrocious, there is a quite positive feeling to be found in the travelogue aspect of the novel. From Paris to Pamplona, San Sebastian, and Madrid, Hemingway teaches his readers to appreciate European culture and life, and inspires us to see the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The long-suffering Jake Barnes is probably most like a role model in The Sun Also Rises, in that he has respect and curiosity regarding the locals and the places he encounters, and he seems more self-possessed than his comrades. But given the vast amounts of alcohol he consumes, and his excessively manly stoicism, he's not exactly someone parents would want their sons to emulate.

Violence

The parts of The Sun Also Rises that take place in Pamplona feature bullfights and the annual running of the bulls. People are gored by bulls in the street, and bulls are slain in the ring; this is all described matter-of-factly, and in detail. There are also a couple of fist fights between grown men.

Sex

There's palpable sexual tension between Jake Barnes and the beautiful Brett Ashley, though we only "see" them kiss or hold each other in the back of a taxi. We also learn that Brett has had sexual encounters with other characters.

Language

No curse words, but the frequent racial slurs may be more offensive. Characters use "Jew" as a disparaging term, and the "N" word is repeatedly used in reference to a black boxer. 

Consumerism

Characters mention certain brand names of alcohol -- mostly ones specific to the location. The growing consumerism, in Europe specifically, is looked upon with disdain by Jake and his friends. Metaphors of money are thrown around frequently, such as "something for nothing" and "getting your money's worth," which also portray the general attitude toward consumerism and its meaning to that particular generation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The characters are almost always drinking in The Sun Also Rises, and they speak and behave foolishly and/or rudely when they're drunk, which is pretty much all the time, too. Jake Barnes refers to drunkenness in the "positive sense" which may be rather suggestive of the appropriateness of alcohol consumption. Characters exhibit some alcoholic tendencies far beyond the concept of social drinking, such as anxiety and depression. Set and written in the 1920's, however, this novel accurately portrays the American reaction against Prohibition through excessive drinking.

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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Teen, 15 years old Written byEnglishPenguin December 19, 2017

Fantastic book is mature, but rightly so.

INTRO: Hemingway is a great writer. His writing is sparse and short, so it's easy to get the idea, but a bit harder to understand the meaning. Anyway, this... Continue reading

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?

Book details

For kids who love classics

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