Literary Qualities

Examined in the context of early 1920s literature, Hemingway’s writing in The Sun Also Rises displays a combination of conventional and ground-breaking techniques. The chronological, first-person narrative structure of the novel is relatively standard, whereas the intense, almost poetic style is unique. Hemingway eliminates ornamentation-such as excessive adjectives or adverbs-from his writing and employs rigorous word selection in an effort to unite action, emotion, and text.

Hemingway carefully modulates the rhythm of the text, often through the use of repetition and short sentences. When Brett turns up on Jake’s doorstep at 4:30 a.m., she explains why she has left her escort: …Then he wanted me to go to Cannes with him. Told him I knew too many people in Cannes. Monte Carlo. Told him I knew too many people in Monte Carlo. Told him I knew too many people everywhere. Quite true, too. So I asked him to bring me here.

The dialogue in The Sun Also Rises, like that in all of Hemingway’s works, reveals character, carries the movement of the story, and generates tension. Brett’s breathless rundown of her evening’s activities highlights her flip, world-weary, and often drunken outlook on the world; whereas Cannes and Monte Carlo traditionally conjure up images of glamour and romance, behind Brett’s offhand mention of these locales lies the unspoken fact that she and Jake can never be lovers. Throughout the novel, Hemingway’s highly stylized dialogue contributes immensely to the book’s power.

Hemingway uses the symbolic landscape to reveal the psychological and emotional workings of his Characters. Landscapes are full of history and mirror the souls of the Characters who traverse them. As Jake and Bill drive through the Basque country, Jake observes “squares of green and brown on the hillsides. Making the horizon were the brown mountains. They were strangely shaped.” For Jake, as well as for his companions, travel is neither a novelty nor a means of escape; the peaceful countryside ringed by foreboding mountains represents the dark realities that mold human experience.

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