Note: This post is part of The Hemingway Collection, an archive of essays, images, and hyperlinks to interesting articles about the great American author.
An essay on The Sun Also Rises by Nathan Kotas
The remarkable thing about the book was its liberal use of dialogue and how Hemingway used it to carry the reader through the book. There was no plot in the book in the sense that there was no twists, intrigue, or goals for any of the characters and the dialogue was the only thing that moved the reader through the book. Hemingway used so much dialogue that it was difficult at times to follow who was saying what, but I believe this didn’t matter because any of the characters, except for maybe Jake, could have been carrying on those conversations.
I say anyone except Jake because he was different than all the other characters in more ways than just being the narrator. He obviously had received a wound from W.W.I that caused him to be sexually scarred and thus set him apart from anyone else. Jake seemed to be an observer who was watching the lives of his friends unfold and happen around him, but without his participation. I read that Hemingway had purposely re-written the book in first person and this was probably to spell out that Jake was an observer and was thus aware of what was written on the pages. There is a scene towards the end of the book where Jake finds all of his friends eating at a restaurant and thinks to himself that he is too far behind to catch up. Jake always seems behind, or at least only a marginal player put so in his position because of his injury. He must have had relations with Brett before the injury and was a “player” before it, so this leads to the assumption that Jake purposely removed himself from being a participant.
As I was reading I was trying to make connections and read into the story to try and understand if there was more there than what was just on the page. It was hard, for me, to see more than just the story, but perhaps Hemingway just wanted the reader to experience other people’s lives. I say this because many of the experiences that occurred to the characters also took place in Hemingway’s life and maybe he just wanted to share with us what it was like.