Ernest Hemingway

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The Pedagogy in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises Student: Emilia – Claudia Popa Group: Romanian – English Year: II; 2nd semesterProfessor: Dr. Ovidiu Matiu British LiteratureErnest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) was one of the most representative American novelists and short-story writers of the 20th century who awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Besides being a writer, Hemingway was a journalist and a war reporter. After he graduated from high-school, he tried hard to enroll in World War I, but was rejected because of his defective eye. Finally, he was accepted as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross, but, at 19 years old, he was injured and hospitalized in Milan. Here he fell in love with a nurse who refused to marry him, this fact being thought to be the starting point for his first novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926). He is also known for his works: A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1952), his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Hemingway approached in his novels subject matters such as the war and the existential quest full of purposelessness and meaninglessness of the Lost Generation.Hemingway’s novel I want to discuss in this essay is The Sun Also Rises (1926) – Fiesta in England –, his first novel and a depiction of the Lost Generation, “a novel that captures the attitudes of a hard-drinking, fast-living set of disillusioned young expatriates in postwar Paris”. This fact is emphasized even by Hemingway choosing as epigraph Gertrude Stein’s words: “You are all a lost generation”. This epigraph is a part from Stein’s conversations with Hemingway where she had told him that “All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation. […] You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death”. These words are referring to those who survived the World War I and left the United States, losing their faith in leaders, in patriotism, in religion, in human progress generally. This postwar world described by Hemingway is one full of despair, of hopelessness, of promiscuity, and of aimless wandering. Such a generation is the one portrayed by Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. The novel “captures a war-shaken culture losing itself in drink and drama, and eschewing all but the occasionally comforting illusion of meaningful experience”. It also tells the story of a group of friends, American expatriates, who travel from France to Spain in order to give their life a meaning, the main characters – Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley – being the perfect images of this generation: “Jake is lost because of his wound, which has left him not only physically emasculated, but also mentally. Brett has lost hope in the future due to her personal losses, and cannot commit to anybody – or anything at all. Cohn has not participated in the war like the others, but is confused by being caught between old and new values”. But, as Jakes Barnes, the narrator, says, not even this thing can help them heal their physical and emotional wounds got during the war: “Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”(6) Even if at the first reading the novel seems to be just the story of some people which have no purpose in life, are wasting their existence traveling from place to place just for fun, being drunk all the time, and cannot show loyalty to a lover, switching partners with every occasion, or a story about the unfulfilled love between Jake and Brett, it has a deeper meaning if you know how to take it. It is a novel that contains a real life lesson, even if it is hidden beneath the mere appearance of a text consisting of poor literary devices. These masques under which the complex and also pedagogical meaning is hidden are, on one hand, Robert Cohn’s college life, and, on the other hand, the journey to Pamplona, Spain, where the characters are going to watch the bullfights. Even Hemingway’s relationship to Spain is centered on bullfighting. “For Hemingway, bullfighting was not mere entertainment. It was an opportunity to witness the drama and violence of life distilled into a ceremonial art form […]The bullrings were the only place he could see this kind of violent death, ‘now that the wars were over’ and so he needed to go to Spain to ‘study it’. He became a real aficionado, a ‘lover of the bullfight’, someone who saw not only tragedy and horror in them, but also beauty and art”.Taking into consideration these aspects, there were many critics which did not stop at analyzing only the obvious issues related to the concept of ‘the Lost Generation’, and went further, managing to find a new interpretation for the novel. Such a critic is Terrance Doody, who calls The Sun Also Rises “a novel of education”. The fact that the novel is concerned with education, that contains a philosophy about teaching and learning, may be understood even in the first pages when Jake Barnes talks about his friend, Robert Cohn. We are told that Cohn did not like boxing but he “learned it painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton”(3). In this case, the rough ‘teacher’ is pain, because the pain brought about by fear, humiliation, alienation, and the feeling of inferiority, and also by the harsh nature of boxing, taught Robert that he could face up life even if he is overcome by struggles. But, discussing the educational level of the novel, we should not stop at the case of Robert Cohn, because the importance of teaching and learning goes beyond the boxing ring.Another critic that asserts that The Sun Also Rises is a pedagogical novel is Donald Daiker, who states that teaching and learning are central keys to the philosophy Jake’s life is guided upon. This thing may be seen even in Jake’s words: “―Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about”(78), he being the image of a life full of learning. Even if Jake’s philosophy is a very deep one, it could be quite hard to think of him as a model, as a potential teacher because of his disoriented life, and also because of the way he perceive learning – “one of the major sources of enjoyment in life”. So, in his view, education is related with enjoying life and with the principle of action – effect/consequence: “You paid some way for everything that was any good. I paid my way into enough things that I liked, so that I had a good time. Either you paid by learning about them, or by experience, or by taking chances, or by money. Enjoying living was learning to get your money’s worth and knowing when you had it”(78). The main source of pleasure, of enjoying life, and as well of learning for Jake is bullfighting, saying that “nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters”(6), a sport which he has also learned about “painfully and thoroughly”, exemplifying this way the very important role that bullfighting plays in the novel. For Jake, this sport is a way of escaping the harshness of real life and a symbol of the search for his lost manliness. Bullfighting is the central theme of the novel which can be interpreted either strictly referring to the bullfights in Spain, or as a symbol of the conflict between the characters. Bullfighting may be also considered as an allegory to Jake’s life, especially to his emotional life, because what happens in the bullring is equivalent to what Jake has to face in everyday life. “In other words, the ritual of the fight is a carefully controlled performance in which all participants – aficionados, bullfighter, and bull – collectively enact a fiction of man triumph over real animal danger and symbolic human death”. As Jonathan Rowe also states, the bullfighting “is not only portrayed as a sport, but rather as a complex, mathematical art in the form of a dance between the bull and fighter. The matador scene in chapter 18 is perhaps one of the richest in the novel due to its use of symbols. The choreography between Romero and the bull is reflective of the characterization of Brett and Jake” During the journey to Pamplona, Jake is trying to teach Brett all about bullfighting, especially its importance and significance: “I sat beside Brett and explained to Brett what it was all about”(87). Despite all of his endeavors, the only one who learns something from this thing is Jake himself. All that Lady Brett manages to see is the difference between bullfighting as a “spectacle” and bullfighting as a form of ritual: “more something that was going on with a definite end, and less of a spectacle with unexplained horrors”(87).Lady Brett Ashley does not reach the deep meaning of Jake’s lessons, because she is more interested in the bullfighter than in bullfighting, ending to leave the city with Romero. If Brett is interested in him due to his appearance, to his sexuality, he being a handsome young man, a real symbol of masculinity, what catches Jake’s interest is actually his performance, his role in the bullring. So, especially in the final Madrid scene, Jake “is beginning to internalize his own teaching, to apply to his own life what he has tried but failed to teach Lady Brett”, a lesson concerning the “maximum exposure”, a technique used by the bullfighters to get closer to the bull in order to dominate the animal, and, finally, to kill it: “All the bull-fighters had been developing a technique that simulated this appearance of danger in order to give a fake emotional feeling, while the bullfighter was really safe. Romero had the old thing, the holding of his purity of line through the maximum of exposure, while he dominated the bull by making him realize he was unattainable, while he prepared him for the killing”(88). But, unlike Romero who fights the bull, the force Jake has to face is Brett. His moment of maximum exposure takes place when he is alone with Brett – “like the bulls she becomes most dangerous when detached from the herd”. This danger Brett represents when she is alone with Jake has its cause in his physical wound – he was emasculated in war – fact stated by Martin Lipkin: “Because of Jake‘s inability to be physically intimate, he has developed a fear of intimacy and has taken an observer role in life”. So, in this Madrid scene Jake agrees to meet Lady Brett at her hotel room when she asks so, leaving “the terrain of the bullfighter” to move to “the terrain of the bull”. Or, in other words, as literary critics affirm: “Characters, therefore, most move through it as if through enemy-territory, learning how to live while trying to stay alive. To survive they need all the cunning and expertise they can muster. They must be sure that they know at all times exactly where they are, both geographically and in relation to others. They must also learn exactly how to behave so as to minimize the risk of becoming vulnerable to error and the dangerous consequences of losing self-control”.In this bedroom scene, different to the first one where Jake felt himself a mess when Brett refused his proposal to live together, Jake, like Romero, is the one who takes control. Such as all of Romero’s moves are “so slow and so controlled”, the type of control that Jake exerts is a more subtle one, manifested through his sense of humor and irony, traits that symbolize his emotional detachment. When Brett asserts that Romero proposed to marry her and she was the one who rejected him, Jake’s response is full of irony: “Maybe he thought that would make him Lord Ashley”(127). Another scene that also suggests that Barnes makes use of the lessons of life implicit in Romero’s bullfighting, lessons he has learned from his endeavors to teach them to Brett, is the taxi scene, the last scene of the novel. What it’s happening in the bullring are accurately parallels of what happens in the taxi. He becomes “the metaphorical bullfighter” and so takes his disruptive relationship with Lady Brett to an end. So, leaving the hotel, Jake is the one who chooses where they will go, by contrast to the Paris ride where Brett was asked “Where should I tell him to drive?”(13), sign that now Jake takes control over Brett. The last reply of Brett “we could have had such a damned good time together” (129) is equivalent to the final confrontation in the bullring. Knowing that Jake loves her, she does not expect him to act so numb and indifferent, but expects him to share her yearning. He does not even look at her as before, another sign of emotional distance. Rather, he looks straight ahead to see “a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic” (129). This scene of a policeman with a raised baton is the perfect image of Jake’s full control over the situation, making him completely resemble Romero. Such as Romero is alone with the bull in the arena, being totally exposed, so is Jake when he is alone with his bull – Lady Brett. The raised baton of the policeman suggests, on one hand Jake’s authority and power, and on the other hand refers to the bullfighter’s sword, killing the bull. “Significantly, the last words in the novel are Jake’s”. Hence, according to the facts I stated above, I may say that the pedagogy of the novel is based on two principles: pain is the teaching emotion and he who teaches learns. And, after all the experiences he has been through, “Jake the teacher has evolved fully into Jake the learner”.Primary source:Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises.Bibliography:Daiker, Donald A., The Pedagogy of The Sun Also Rises in Bloom‘s Modern Critical Interpretations: The Sun Also Rises—New Edition; Published by: Infobase Publishing, New York, 2011.Foca, Anna, The Sun Also Rises. Published by Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. On May 07, 2018. Found at:, Martin, Survival Strategies in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Found at:Martin Linda Wagner, Scott Donaldson, Michael Shane Reynolds, Wendy Martin, Arnold E. Davidson, Cathy N. Davidson, John W. Aldridge, New Essays on The Sun Also Rises, Cambridge University Press, June 26, 1987.Rowe, Jonathan, No Bull in Bullfighting. Published on: March 28, 2010. Found at: Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Lost Generation. Published by Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. On March 06, 2019 . Found at: The Shakespeare Theatre Company Education Department, The First Folio Curriculum Guide. Found at: