Literary Masterpieces: The Sun Also Rises.
This second volume in the Literary Masterpieces series provides a wealth of information for readers of The Sun Also Rises. Primarily designed as a study guide for students, the volume also is useful to instructors with information on the writing of the novel, a summary of critical scholarship, and key biographical details, as well as pictures and sidebar comments. In fact, there is so much here in this relatively slim book that instructors may well wish to keep it to themselves until their classes have at least read the novel.
Albert DeFazio, the editor of this volume and meticulous bibliographer of Hemingway studies, organizes the book into eight logical and "user-friendly" sections: "About The Sun Also Rises" (containing chapter plot summaries, descriptions of the people in the hovel, biographical material on Hemingway, and a section on themes, metaphors and allusions); "The Evolution of The Sun Also Rises" (with notes on writing and revising the manuscript); "Themes in The Sun Also Rises" (explicating three themes: values, the new woman, and the hero); "Critical Response to The Sun Also Rises" (providing a fairly comprehensive summary and survey of critical opinion, as well as DeFazio's own thirteen page critical analysis); "The Sun Also Rises in History"; "Adaptations of The Sun Also Rises"; "Resources for Study of The Sun Also Rises" (including study questions and several glossaries to help readers with foreign terms and the historical Or popular culture references in the novel); and a Master Index.
Section one, "About The Sun Also Rises," is the most student-oriented of the sections with a chapter-by-chapter plot summary of the novel, sprinkled with quotations to anchor the key events in each chapter. Even in short chapter summaries, DeFazio chooses quotations that clearly elucidate the events as, for example, when Montoya "did not even nod" at Jake after he introduces Brett to Romero. In his discussion of each of the characters, DeFazio describes both the novel's characters and the real people on whom Hemingway based the character, helping readers to see how the novelist changes his acquaintances into fictional characters. A six page overview of Hemingway' life introduces readers to the author in a straightforward, objective way which helps temper the more sensational impressions that students are likely to have of Hemingway, based only on their knowledge of his lifestyle and suicide. For example, DeFazio rightly credits the plane crashes in Africa as contributing factors to Hemingway's ill health later in life and his subsequent suicide. Finally in this section, DeFazio sets forth several of the novel's major themes, metaphors, and allusions (to which he returns in greater depth in section three). Particularly useful to readers is his discussion of Hemingway's use of contrasts to reveal his themes, beginning with finding the epigraphs to the novel as "contradictory" rather than "complementary" (20).
The second section describing the writing and revising of the manuscript will be especially interesting to students and others who have had little exposure to an author's process of writing. Many students confuse their own difficulties with writing with what they see as a lack of intelligence or talent. When they see the false starts and muddled narrative of the beginning of the Sun Also Rises manuscript, they may begin to realize the difficulty that even Hemingway had in creating a work of fiction. They may begin to get some sense of the work that writing demands and the multiple revisions that are necessary to get a text to say what one wants it to say. Also interesting in this section are the discussions of commercial and legal considerations that arise between author and editor.
In the third section on themes, DeFazio does a superb job of explaining Hemingway's use of irony and ambiguity to a readership who may not readily understand those ideas as expressed in literature. In my experience, students don't often read carefully enough to spot irony, and ambiguity can frustrate the students who just want to know what this book means or what the instructor thinks this book means. When students are thrown back on their own resources as readers and interpreters, they sometimes resent having to make the effort: "Why can't the author just say what he means?" DeFazio's extensive discussion of values, Brett's role as a new kind of woman, and the presence or lack of a hero in The Sun Also Rises will provide much material for discussion because, as he points out, there is much ambiguity in Hemingway s treatment of these themes.
Section four on the critical response to the novel is an excellent chronological overview of the various reviews, early criticism, and evolving critical analysis of the novel. Critical excerpts allow readers to read selected critics for themselves within the context that DeFazio provides for understanding the excerpt. This section should provide excellent prompts for students to read the entire essays of critics that they find intriguing. DeFazio provides a wide-ranging selection of critics to show the breadth of Hemingway scholarship.
DeFazio has a deft touch in his choice of ancillary materials in this collection. The sidebars throughout the text allow readers to learn more about Hemingway's thoughts on writing and life from excerpts from his other books, speeches, and interviews. So here one finds a line from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech emphasizing the need for a writer to go beyond where other writers have gone, "to where no one can help him" (18). And here also DeFazio includes flashes of Hemingway's humor when he quotes an interviewer's question about the reason for Hemingway's rewriting the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times, "Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?" and Hemingway's reply, "Getting the words right" (34).
Similarly, the photographs are well-chosen for the book, showing Hemingway and his family in 1924 and also many of the people who were "models" for the characters in The Sun Also Rises, such as Duff Twysden, Harold Loeb, Donald Ogden Stewart, and Bill Smith. There are photos too of Paris in the 1920s, of San Sebastian, and of several bullfighting scenes. These images add to a reader's understanding of the context of the novel.
Study questions help direct students' attention to specific aspects of each of the novel's chapters. DeFazio asks questions that require critical thinking and the marshalling of evidence rather than mere factual recall. For example, he asks readers to evaluate the novel's point of view and to speculate how the novel might change if the point of view were different. The questions help readers to see that the ironies, ambiguities, and contrasts DeFazio has posited are central to the novel's development.
The three glossaries go far in de-mystifying many references in the novel that students find difficult, particularly historical allusions to American political and popular culture figures like William Jennings Bryan or H.L. Mencken, and foreign language terms like "cogida" "bal musette," "fiacre," "aficion," and the like. DeFazio's bibliography, annotated in some cases, and master index are (as one might expect) wide-ranging and extremely useful. He includes references to such classic older scholarship as that of Carlos Baker and Philip Young and more recent work by Michael Reynolds, Miriam Mandel, Mark Spilka, Carl Eby, and many others.
Albert DeFazio's writing and editing of Literary Masterpieces: The Sun Also Rises for the Gale Study Guides to Great Literature has yielded an enormously useful amount of material for a book under two hundred pages. Readers new to Hemingway will appreciate its clarity and information, while even Hemingway aficionados may find some surprises and reminders of forgotten connections.
--Ellen Andrews Knodt, Penn State Abington