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The Lost Generation has faced an incomprehensible amount of pain and devastation caused by the war. Two of the major themes that exist in the novel are the empty lives of individuals and the failure of communication. These two themes are connected in various ways and complement each other yet neither would exist if the war had never taken place. The people of the war generation cannot express the impact the war has had on them, which heavily affects them emotionally and psychologically. The combination of having an empty life and keeping the dark, sad, lost, and lonely feelings inside results in alcoholism and depression. Hemingway’s objective was to allow readers of a different time period to have the ability to comprehend the impact the war had on war veterans and those around them. In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway explores how traumatic events lead to communication barriers as a result of a tragedy. Many of the characters have difficulty speaking frank and honestly, are only able to speak honestly in some circumstances, and do not know how to deal with their problems. The conversations between the characters are not completely honest and the characters are often not saying everything on their mind.
The characters keep many secrets and only seem to share confidential information when they are not good-spirited. The characters have difficulty speaking frankly and honestly, tending to hide their feelings, emotions, and intentions. Bill is a very good example of having difficulty speaking frankly and honestly. After being a war correspondent, Bill experienced traumatic memories from the war and constantly uses humour to deal with his emotional and psychological damages. Bill once stated, “Never be daunted.” (Hemingway, 79). Bill is telling Jake to not reveal his emotions in public and to keep his feelings and emotions to himself. If these two do not show their emotions in public they will never discuss them and will result in never overcoming their pain. An equally important reason the characters have difficulty speaking honestly is lack of trust, Jake says, “I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together” (Hemingway, 12). This is a big problem because if the characters do not trust each other they definitely will not share their sensitive troubles with each other. Furthermore, one night Jake reads through bullfighting newspapers and ends up crying himself to sleep. This is because he was feeling insecure about his masculinity because of his injury. Instead of discussing his feelings and emotions with his friends, Jake hides his feelings and uses the newspapers to feel better. Discussing problems with another person is much more effective and would allow Jake to release his problems by getting everything off his chest. Therefore, the characters have difficulty speaking frank and honestly, tending to hide their feelings, emotions, and intentions. The characters are only able to speak honestly in some circumstances, specifically when they are not in good spirits or when they are suffering. When Jake and Georgette are having drinks Jake claims to Georgette, “We would probably have gone on and discussed the war and agreed that it was in reality a calamity for civilization, and perhaps would have been better avoided.” (Hemingway, 24-25).
When Jake said this he was not in a good spirit whatsoever, otherwise, he would not have been with Georgette and told her something that would in his eyes, lower his masculinity. Likewise, when Bill and Jake are on their fishing trip they are more open and honest as it was just the two of them and they are affectionate of each other. During their trip, Bill says to Jake, “Listen. You’re a hell of a good guy, and I’m fonder of you than anybody on earth. I couldn’t tell you that in New York. It’d mean I was a faggot.” (Hemingway, 121). This quote reveals that Bill only told Jake this because in this circumstance they were away from the city and away from all the other characters and as Bill explained he would feel uncomfortable saying that in other circumstances. Moreover, as Jake and Brett are discussing their love for each other Jake says, “I know you’re right. I’m just low, and when I’m low I talk like a fool.” (Hemingway, 63).
Jake says it himself that he is only able to speak honestly in some circumstances, especially when he is not in a good spirit. Although Jake is the only one who specifically states this, all the characters are guilty of the same thing. Thus, the characters are only able to speak honestly in some circumstances specifically when they are not in good spirits or when they are suffering. The characters do not know how to deal with their problems which results in alcoholism and depression. Robert recognizes that himself and others are doing nothing good with their lives and says to Jake, “I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it” (Hemingway, 18). Jake then shuts him down responding, “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.” (Hemingway 18). This quotation reveals that Jake is making no effort to move on from his past and has simply given up. Jake understands the problems in the world and the people around him but very rarely does something to fix them because he does not know how. In a similar conversation, Jake says to Robert, “You can’t get away from yourself from moving from one place to another.” (Hemingway, 19). Again, Jake is shutting down Robert explaining that when someone goes somewhere their past follows them. It is fair to assume Jake believes there is no way to be able to forget his past and accept how his injury has changed his life forever. In addition, Jake says, “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.” (Hemingway, 42). In this quotation, the hard-boiled egg is a metaphor for depressed war veterans, which they are.
The metaphor is different during the night because throughout the day means that during the day the characters do not have the distraction of intoxication, which results in depression and hopelessness. Unlike at night, they can get drunk in order to distract themselves from their past and current issues. All in all, the characters do not know how to deal with their problems which results in alcoholism and depression. The complication with communication takes place throughout the entire novel between characters. Hemingway does a spectacular job demonstrating to the reader how the war caused the Lost Generation and how individuals’ lives were forever changed. The failure of communication was a major theme in the book since the characters could not overcome their suffering because they did not know how to express their feelings and emotions. If the war had not occurred there is the possibility of alcoholism, depression, and many other problems would never have been an issue. In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway explores how dreadful events lead to communication boundaries as a result of a tragedy.
The novel provides a taste of the Lost Generation and the pain and devastation people went through all because of the war. This makes the novel very significant as not many authors are able to explain the Lost Generation and the numerous issues brought with it. Ernest Hemingway’s writing style is very unique as a few things are very clear and interpretation plays a big role when reading the novel. A war ends in two ways; either someone loses their life serving their country, or they lose themselves.
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