Printer Friendly

"Floating I saw only the sky": leisure and self-fulfillment in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

This article examines the important role leisure activity plays in Jake Barnes's emotional development over the course of The Sun Also Rises. Whereas the majority of characters seek to escape from their anxieties through inebriation, Jake finds respite by partaking in such activities as fishing and swimming, which help him come to terms with his war wound and prepare him for the emotional release from his tumultuous relationship with Brett Ashley. By contrasting his actions with those of his circle, the article shows that therapeutic leisure offers Jake a sense of self-fulfillment that the other characters are unable to obtain.


As a representative novel of the "Lost Generation, " Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926) offers an intriguing case study for the role of leisure in literature. The 1920s was "an age attempting a very public renegotiation of the values and limits of American leisure" (Gleason 213). Americans' concept of leisure had fundamentally changed in the early decades of the twentieth century due to advances in industry and limitations on the number of hours one could work per week. (1) The term leisure, however, encompasses far more than just time spent away from work. For some, leisure is synonymous with a reprieve, however temporary, from life's daily tribulations. Published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises, with its focus on an expatriate community, offers fertile ground for examining the shift regarding leisure time, a matter heretofore largely unconsidered by critics of the novel. The novel's core characters undertake an ostensibly enjoyable and relaxing venture into Pamplona, but the trip instead becomes an excuse to engage in unbridled alcohol consumption. The potentially enjoyable social situation thus devolves into a scene of betrayal and drunken violence. Seeing inebriation as a means to escape their respective burdens--from Mike's financial instability to Brett's unhappy series of relationships--the characters' actions fall under the category of "anti-leisure, " defined by Geoffrey Godbey as "activity which is undertaken compulsively, as a means to an end" (75).

For Jake Barnes, however, unrestrained leisure time offers not only relief from work but also the opportunity for self-reflection and personal fulfillment. Though commonly lumped in with his friends as a literary representative of "Lost Generation" aimlessness, Jake ultimately stands out from the group in his conception of leisure. As the novel progresses, Jake tires of the hedonistic and self-serving activities of his friends and makes a concerted effort to reconsider his attitudes about leisure by seeking out activities and locales for reflective, contemplative relaxation. For the others, however, leisure is based around ideas of escape and excess commonly associated with the "Lost Generation": Brett's sexual trysts leave her emotionally unsatisfied, and Mike Campbell's perpetual drunkenness causes numerous unnecessary, meaningless fights. (2) Other forms of leisure, too, fail to provide reprieve: Hemingway's depiction of Robert Cohn, for example, reveals that boxing does not provide an outlet for his frustrations.

These characterizations seemingly present a bleak portrait of expatriate life, and while some critics have offered more optimistic readings of individual characters, most others have offered interpretations that emphasize the moral waywardness commonly associated with the novel. (3) Jeffrey Herlihy for example, has examined the concept of expatriate exile and aimlessness showcased in the work. Similarly, several influential readings of Jake Barnes focus not on his growth over the course of the novel but rather on the nature of his devastating war wound and his relation to expatriate ennui. For much of the novel, Jake seems like his peers, especially in his emotional dependency on Brett, his tendency to drink nearly as much as those around him, and his constant struggle to cope with his physically and mentally debilitating war injury. Indeed, early criticism saw Jake as overly prone to cynicism, and the novel itself as emphasizing the frivolous nature of its characters without offering any positive moral development. Philip Young remarks that Jake "has very little use for most people. At times he has little use even for his friends. He exists on a fringe of the society he has renounced" (83). In his valuable work on Hemingway's structure and narrative style, Sheldon Grebstein maintains that the repetition in the novel (such as Jake and Brett's taxi rides) emphasizes "the anguish of Jake and Brett's relationship and the pointlessness of all their wanderings" (30). In addition, a good deal of critical discussion has centered on the causes of Jake's problems and disillusionment. Elizabeth Klaver has written on his psychological damage caused by unconsummated sexual desire, while Wolfgang Rudat has also discussed Jake's wound as symbolic of a loss of "manhood." Voicing a minority opinion, Donald Daiker argues that Jake undergoes a dramatic change, exhibiting "emotional growth and mastery of life" by the end of the novel. Daiker believes Jake's change is due in large part to his newfound knowledge about how to "get his money's worth of life's pleasures and satisfactions" (19). Similarly, Doris Helbig reads the novel as a confession narrative and sees the characters, including the often-isolated Jake, as a group who "look[s] for salvation in a predominantly Godless world and who find it, ultimately, in the community of other lost souls" (85).

Despite this rich critical discussion, scholars have largely overlooked the role Jake's chosen leisure activities play in this progression from cynicism and self-pity to gradual acceptance and equanimity. Joffre Dumazedier's concept of leisure as "the time whose content is oriented towards self-fulfillment as an ultimate end" and not as mere escapism (71) helps frame Jake's approach to leisure as one that favors solitude and reflection over communal scenes of revelry. Jake distinguishes himself from those around him by choosing to engage in activities of a more tranquil, salubrious nature, namely fishing and swimming. Whereas Brett's and Mike's copious alcohol consumption and Cohn's boxing are unreflective and offer only temporary respite from ongoing distress, Jake's leisure activities ultimately lead to a more reflective state of mind, one unburdened from compulsive behavior.

As the character whose emotional and physical scars are made most obvious to the reader, Jake's desire to engage in self-destructive or escapist behavior is understandable, especially in comparison with his friends. The Sun Also Rises, however, showcases a slow maturation and eventual acceptance not only of his war wound but also of his tempestuous relationship with Brett by tracking Jake's gradual discovery of therapeutic leisure activities. Although Jake's preoccupation with his wound and his relationship with Brett at first compromises his efforts at leisure such as fishing and attending the festival (Jake is the only member of the group who makes a concerted effort to embrace the religious component of San Fermin), his willingness to engage in such activity reveals that Jake, nearly alone amongst the characters, comes to understand that his free time may be used to accept and recover from his physical and mental wounds. While most of the expatriates seem to enjoy leisure time, they frequently prefer self-indulgent, compulsive activities in lieu of therapeutic, reflective ones. Jake, too, gives off the outward ideal of leisure; regarding his job in the newspaper business, he tells readers "it is such an important part of the ethics that you should never seem to be working" (19). Over the course of the novel, his ability to achieve a true state of leisure gradually develops before culminating in his swims in the waters of San Sebastian. Though critics such as Matts Djos regard The Sun Also Rises as "a portrait of degeneration without solution" (76), close examination of Jake's leisure activities suggests that by the time of his reunion with Brett in the closing pages, he is a new man, unburdened from his earlier anxieties.

"Why aren't you drunk?": Wasteful Spending, Alcohol, and Compulsive Behavior

Often regarded as the archetypal novel of American expatriates, The Sun Also Rises does include a pointed critique of the characters' mindset, especially their excessive consumption. In a comic sequence, Bill Gorton makes parodie remarks concerning postwar expatriation:

"You know what's the trouble with you? You're an expatriate. One of the worst type. Haven't you heard that? Nobody that ever left their own country ever wrote anything worth printing. Not even in the newspapers.... You're an expatriate. You've lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see?" (SAR 120)

Comic and stereotypical statements, to be sure, but also insightful and accurate. Every one of Bill's criteria for an expatriate is embodied by a character and his or her attempts to cure the malaise of the lost generation: Cohn is struggling as a writer; numerous characters, though chiefly Brett and Mike, drink excessively--she to cope with her ill-fated relationships and he over his financial failures. The characters believe traveling to Pamplona will provide a locale for relaxation, but only Jake and Bill are able to derive actual pleasure from the trip, due largely to the fact that they fail to escape from the preexisting concerns that plague them.

The privileged characters of Sun have ample time for leisure, but their hedonistic, self-serving approach to their leisure time, which is largely spent drinking or managing their sexual intrigues and troubled friendships, ultimately results only in frustration and embarrassment. As Matts Djos aptly points out, "Drinking isolates the characters and fragments their relationships" (69). Even during the festival, when the characters should ostensibly enjoy their vacation, friendly drinking frequently devolves into purposeless fights, with Cohn in particular suffering from the ire of the others. Social drinking fails as an enjoyable leisure activity in The Sun Also Rises because the focus is predominantly on escapism, culminating in destructive drunkenness.

For most of the characters, the transitory pleasures offered by alcohol trump any attempt at seeking out more therapeutic activities. Chris Rojek remarks that modernity assumes that leisure is "a civilizing influence and an ultimate moral value" when confined to "legitimate spaces and times" (39), but clearly drinking in Sun fails to function in this way. Characters view their leisure time solely as an opportunity for compulsive and, in the case of alcohol consumption, self-destructive behavior. During the festival, few Spaniards are portrayed as being negatively effected by drink, but Jake and his fellow expatriates find themselves confronting the insecurities and combativeness heightened by their alcohol consumption. Allyson Field has observed that Jake's constant mentions of the various cafes and bars the group frequents illustrates the "culture of drinking" prevalent in guidebooks and travelogues of the time, although his companions' drinking habits do not correlate with the more lighthearted appeals of social drinking in an exciting new environment (33). Rather than partake in any type of culinary tourism, the group reduces each bar into yet another location for drunken excess.

Mike is the group's worst offender when it comes to drunkenness. He badgers Cohn about his devotion to Brett and his unwillingness to get drunk at group outings. Despite being on vacation, Mike is riddled with insecurity over his precarious financial situation. Unlike Jake and Bill, who undertake a contemplative form of leisure in their decision to fish the Irati River, Mike eschews any form of reflective activity. Moreover, Mike's stories about attending parties with borrowed medals reveal that his preferred activities do little to sustain him. As sociologist George Lundberg noted in a 1934 discussion of leisure in the first decades of the twentieth century, "The round of club meetings, visiting, parties, and 'going places' are no longer ends in themselves, but have become part of the obligatory activities of life. They have become instrumental ends of various sorts and therefore have lost their essential nature as leisure" (82). Mike's failures regarding leisure are also decidedly more class based than the American expatriates; in his inability to maintain a stable social calendar, Mike finds himself increasingly anxious over his finances and Brett's infidelities. When drunk, he chides Cohn for his sobriety, asking, "Why aren't you drunk? Why don't you ever get drunk, Robert?". Though he derides Cohn for not having a good time and "looking like a bloody funeral" (SAR 146), Mike's actions reveal his own discontent and frustration. During his first appearance, Brett introduces Mike to Bill as both a "drunkard" and "an undischarged bankrupt" (85). Significantly, Mike is drinking when he tells the story of his financial ineptitude in which he was forced to bribe a tailor to prevent blackmail. Bill asks how he went bankrupt, to which the latter responds, "Gradually and then suddenly.... I had a lot of friends. False friends" (141). While his time in Spain should provide relief from past anxieties, the fact that Mike's only appraisal of his situation is derisive and mocking shows that he is drinking to escape his problems, but true relaxation is impossible for him.

Not until the end of the trip does his irresponsibility catch up to him. In a key scene, Hemingway reveals the consequences of both unbridled consumption and wasteful spending. While drinking with Jake and Bill, Mike bets on paying for a round in a game of poker dice. When he loses, Mike confesses, '"I'm so sorry.... I can't get it'" {SAR 233). Jake notes that "Bill's face sort of changed" (233) before Mike goes on to explain that he cannot write checks or pay in any form until some money comes through. He obliquely mentions "two weeks allowance" (233) that should arrive imminently, but the damage has been done. Bill is disgusted by Mike's inability to control himself both in terms of his sobriety and his bank account; indeed, after losing, Mike can only continue making crude jokes. When questioned about Brett, he references her irresponsibility with regard to money, cruelly remarking, "She never has any money. She gets five hundred quid a year and pays three hundred and fifty of it in interest to Jews" (234). By the end, the pair's combined financial carelessness has worn thin on the vastly more responsible Jake and Bill.

"What a good time we had": Fishing and Religion

Jake's gradual self-actualization is the result of his shifting conception of leisure activity. Over the course of the novel, his interpretation of leisure comes to resemble the concept of otium, which differs from other definitions of leisure in its emphasis on self-fulfillment. Though any free time--that is, time spent away from work--could be used for frivolous or immoral purposes, otium, according to Julia Bondanella, functions as a time "in which one cultivates intellectual or spiritual gifts" (14). One of the chief distinctions between Jake and Bill, who are able to enjoy their time in Spain, and Brett and Mike, is that the Americans are enjoying time off from work. The perhaps obvious dictum of "work before pleasure" nevertheless informs leisure theory; Gary Cross emphasizes the point that "Without meaningful work, leisure became mere escapism" (169), a concept easily applicable to Hemingway's novel. Since Brett and Mike are currently without an occupation, their vacation is less an opportunity for respite and instead more of a continuation of their frequently self-satisfying and chaotic behavior. Jake and Bill's willingness to allot the proper amount of time to engage in their chosen activities is also significant. Geoffrey Godbey observes that "Many forms of pleasure take time and there is no way for their time requirement to be shortened. A love affair takes time, preparing and enjoying a good meal takes time, writing a poem takes time, as does enjoying a game of darts" (76). Unlike, say, Cohn, Jake is willing to allot an ample amount of time to pursuing the leisure activities he values. In three different locales, he seeks an opportunity for extended respite: the Irati River, the San Fermin festival, and his brief stay in San Sebastian. After struggling at times to reach peace at the first two locales, Jake exhibits a profound sense of self-knowledge in San Sebastian, suggesting that the other characters' failure to capitalize on their leisure time for self-improvement is not necessarily endemic to the expatriate lifestyle associated with the postwar generation.

Travel, of course, does not in itself guarantee quality leisure time. Jake is aware that free time must be coupled with a concentrated desire to pursue personal interests as is seen when he and Cohn argue about tourism as a viable form of leisure. Cohn, bored and frustrated as he struggles to begin his second novel, turns his thoughts toward escapism and romantic ideals after reading The Purple Land. Jake, noting that Cohn "took every word of 'The Purple Land' as though it had been an R. G. Dun report, " cuts through the books artifice, telling Cohn he can "see all the South Americans you want in Paris anyway" (SAR 17). Cohn is not persuaded and complains, "All my life I've wanted to go on a trip like that" (18). He continues to lament his present situation in Paris: "I'm sick of Paris, and I'm sick of the quarter.... Nothing happens to me" (19-20). Jake admits having felt similarly once but insists that "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" (19; emphasis added). Travel without purpose or without self-reflection provides merely a change in scenery, especially for someone like Cohn, who is unwilling to analyze his state of unhappiness beyond his platitudinous conclusion that "something" needs to happen to him. Jake understands that achieving a true state of leisure takes focus; simply changing locales and excessive consumption of food and alcohol will never produce anything beyond transitory pleasure.

During the bus ride to Pamplona, Bill and Jake watch the beautiful countryside and nod to each other knowingly as enlightened aficionados of the natural world while Robert Cohn sleeps (SAR 99). Cohn proceeds to meet up with Brett and Mike rather than accompany Jake and Bill fishing. In contrast to the others, Cohn's unwillingness to participate in a quiet, contemplative activity demonstrates his narrow sense of leisure's value. His perception of leisure originates from his boxing days at Princeton. Our knowledge of his fighting career is delivered by Jake in the novel's opening pages: "He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, 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" (11). Several times throughout the narrative, Cohn attempts to intimidate his rivals using his fighting skills. Jake remarks that for Cohn, "There was a certain inner comfort in knowing he could knock down anybody who was snooty to him" (11). Cohns "inner comfort" is established as a shallow form of self-fulfillment, predicated on the results of fighting--the ability to knock down those who anger him--rather than the internal reflection that stems from hours of training.

Though sports can offer a positive, healthy outlet as leisure activities, Cohns rationale for boxing is decidedly self-serving and unreflective. As with Mike's and Bretts excessive drinking to escape from their respective malaises, Cohn's overly aggressive nature spoils his ability to focus on the innate values of sport and challenges the concept of boxing as leisure activity. In Roger Caillois's famed reckoning of play and games, Cohn is overly invested in agon, the point of which "is for each player to have his superiority in a given area recognized" (15), rather than enjoying the game for its own sake. Cohn fails to compartmentalize the spheres of play/sport and outside life; as Johan Huizinga remarks, "The play-concept must always remain distinct from all the other forms of thought in which we express the structure of mental and social life" (7). Unable to view sports as anything beyond an opportunity to prove himself and physically dominate others, Cohn remains unsatisfied by boxing. In The Sun Also Rises, this unhappiness results both in his punching Jake and in the disastrous fight with Pedro Romero where, in spite of continuously knocking the bullfighter down, Cohn ends the fight crying and asking for Romero's and Brett's forgiveness. He then exits the novel in a frenzied state of despair, perpetually unfulfilled by the world around him.

Unlike Cohn, Jake and Bill, initiated aficionados of the natural world, hope to embark on a pleasurable and productive time on the Irati River. The fishing scene on the Irati appears to be representative of Hemingway's deep love for the activity, although a close reading shows that, at this time, Jake is not yet capable of truly appreciating its worth. As Christian Messenger writes in a discussion of The Old Man and the Sea, fishing is "Hemingway's cleanest and most functional sporting action, " an activity that "confers dignity" (294-95) on the participant. Upon reaching the river, however, Bill brings up Brett in conversation, prompting Jake to admit he was in love with her "off and on for a hell of a long time" but "I don't give a damn any more" (SAR 128). Though Warren Wedin suggests that Jake's preoccupation with his past reveals an "emotional deadness" (73) in his character, his admission of these facts--it is notable that he speaks them aloud, as if confessing to Bill--is an important step in Jake's acceptance of his and Brett's inability to consummate their relationship.

Hemingway's inclusion of the Englishman Harris further accentuates the value of fishing as a therapeutic leisure activity. Harris is a genuine lover of fishing, to the point of declining Jake's offer to join them in Pamplona for the festival in order to stay on the river. Harris has been able to plan his leisure accordingly; fishing is not mere escapism but rather an opportunity for personal fulfillment as he enjoys his time away from work. Hemingway links Bill and Harris, as the latter takes up Bill's term "utilizing" (SAR 133) during their time together. Jane Wilson has shown that as he revised the manuscript, Hemingway continuously bolstered Harris's importance by lengthening the fishing trip (186). As they bid farewell, Harris gives Jake and Bill each an envelope of hand-tied flies. That Harris ties his own flies is significant; it grants him credit and authority as a vibrant outdoorsman. Harris's remark, "I only thought if you fished them some time it might remind you of what a good time we had" (135), represents both a level of bonding and friendship far beyond what occurs for anyone in Pamplona and also a recognition of the true values of leisure. As a leisure artifact, the flies take on even more significance; unlike the bull's ear that Brett will leave behind, the flies stand as a lasting reminder of a meaningful relationship.

While the San Fermin festival offers his friends an avenue for drunkenness, Jake seeks to participate in the religious component of the festival. During the fishing trip before the festival begins, Jake visits a cathedral, praying for himself as well as his friends and the bullfighters. He admits his internal struggles with religion, telling readers he regrets being "such a rotten Catholic" (SAR 103). His self-deprecating sense of his religious beliefs appears later during a brief conversation with Bill, who asks Jake whether or not he is Catholic. He responds, "Technically" (129), but admits that he doesn't know what that means after being pressed by Bill.

Hemingway goes to great lengths to distinguish Jake and Brett's religious differences. During the festival Brett is portrayed in the manner of a pagan goddess, "stopped just inside the door" (SAR 159) of a church where a group of dancers forms a circle around her. Jake notes, "Brett wanted to dance but they did not want her to. They wanted her as an image to dance around" (159), both celebrating her as an icon of the bacchanalian element of the festival and distancing her from its Catholic context. Brett puts up no resistance to being stopped, accepting her transfiguration into a symbol. In addition, by being set up as an object of worship, Brett fails to offer the proper humility in order to pray successfully. Later, after remarking that she wants to "pray a little for [Romero] or something" (212), Brett accompanies Jake to church. She gives up after the briefest attempts at prayer, declaring that church makes her "damned nervous" and that she has "the wrong type of face" (212) for a religious atmosphere. Jake mildly chides Brett for her lack of religious feeling, telling her, "I'm pretty religious" (213), and claiming to have been helped by prayer. These declarations show a marked transition from his earlier failures and offer additional revelations in regard to his more optimistic outlook.

"It felt as though you could never sink": Swimming and Reflective Leisure

After the unexceptional results of his time on the Irati River and in Pamplona, Jake's desire for quality leisure culminates in San Sebastian. Swimming provides an opportunity for self-reflection, free from the stresses and burdens of the festival. Jake goes swimming twice in San Sebastian: the first scene emphasizes his ability to focus on the natural splendor of the area, while the second shows him in a state of uncompromised relaxation. On the first day, he tells readers, "The beach was smooth and firm," "The sand was warm under bare feet," and waves "came in like undulations in the water, gathered weight of water, and then broke smoothly on the warm sand" (SAR 238). During his stay, Jake is symbolically cleansed by the waters. He dives with his eyes open, representing a willingness to confront his issues head on: "I dove deep once, swimming down to the bottom. I swam with my eyes open and it was green and dark" (239). Ellen Knodt astutely points out that Jake's open eyes are significant because they contrast with his "being 'blind' with drink on the last night of the fiesta" (30). In addition to swimming, Jake has coffee with the manager of a bicycle manufacturing firm during his second day in San Sebastian, and the pair share a pleasant conversation about the Tour de France. Significantly, the two plan to meet again the next morning, though this appointment is thwarted by Brett's telegram. Considering the vast number of conversations in the novel that end poorly, due either to Mike's drunkenness or Cohn feeling somehow slighted and offended, the fact that Jake can easily chat with a stranger distinguishes him from his fellow expatriates.

Later on the second day, Jake is playful and at ease: "I swam out, trying to swim through the rollers, but having to dive sometimes. Then in the quiet water I turned and floated. Floating I saw only the sky, and felt the drop and lift of the swells" (SAR 241). In a novel as concerned with what people do with their free time as The Sun Also Rises, there are remarkably few instances of characters shown in a state of pure relaxation. In San Sebastian, Jake embraces his freedom from the debauchery that characterized the trip to Pamplona. By casting aside his anxieties he is free to immerse himself fully in the activity at hand. He tells readers, "Everything was fresh and cool and damp in the early morning" (241), heightening the paradisiacal atmosphere. Jake's observations of the people are also significant: "The Spanish children were beautiful. Some bootblacks sat together under a tree talking to a soldier. The soldier had only one arm. The tide was in and there was a good breeze and a surf on the beach" (241). The short, crisp sentences here suggest the detached quality of observation that accompanies Jake's leisure time. Rather than revealing a sense of disgust or pity for the soldier, as might be expected, Jake's observations quickly return to the natural splendor of the area. This shift does not indicate an inability to confront the idea of disability; conversely, his statement after his swim that the bathers on the beach "looked very small" (242) implies that Jake no longer has to dwell on the lives of others. Instead, his eye is drawn both inward and upward, toward the clear sky that emphasizes his symbolic baptism in the ocean bay. The understatement of these pages is significant. Jake's failure to even mention Brett before her telegram arrives suggests not that he is unreflective, but that for the first time he is in a state of mind where her presence in his life would be superfluous. After struggling with prayer throughout The Sun Also Rises, Jake reaches a state of inner peace through the cleansing activity of swimming.

Jake's stay in San Sebastian is cut short after Brett sends a telegram from Madrid asking for help. At first glance, Jake's decision to end his trip could be read as an indication of his Cohn-like subservience to her. His bitter response toward it, though, reveals his attitude has changed: "That seemed to handle it. That was it. Send a girl off with one man. Introduce her to another to go off with him. Now go and bring her back. And sign the wire with love. That was it all right." (SAR 243). In previous instances, Jake would have helped her without comment, so his annoyance here is significant; Brett has intruded into his leisure space, which means "San Sebastian [was] all shot to hell" (243). When he does see her, he is relatively taciturn, letting the clearly disheveled Brett open up to him about leaving Romero. When Brett attempts to tell Jake that she has learned something, that she will not "be one of these bitches that ruins children" (247), Jake merely responds "No," refusing to vocalize belief in her claims. Later, he even contradicts her statement that not being a bitch is "sort of what we have instead of God" by remarking "Some people have God.... Quite a lot" (249). Daiker has suggested that Brett's summary of the end of her affair with Romero is a lie and that her "acute depression" and "self-loathing" (77, 80) exposes the fact that she is shattered by Romero's actions and does not achieve the level of self-knowledge critics and readers often assign her, thus heightening her contrast with Jake. Whether or not Brett does in fact feel the depths of despair that Daiker suggests is perhaps up for debate, though it is clear that, in contrast to their conversations earlier in the novel, it is Brett, not Jake, who is the more emotionally fraught character at this point.

Jake's relationship with Brett follows a trajectory set up earlier in the novel as he moves from fawning devotion to eventual self-sufficiency and independence. Lying in bed during the festival, Jake admits that at night people "look at things differently from when it is light," and begins his nocturnal musings by thinking "To hell with women, anyway. To hell with you, Brett Ashley" (SAR 151-52). During their final scene together, he puts into action what he formerly could only admit in his innermost thoughts. Though his famous final line, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" in response to Brett's assertion that they could have had "such a damned good time together" (251), is often read as summarizing Jake's cynical feelings toward Brett, this provides only a partial picture of the weight the line conveys. Whereas Brett is still considering the future that will never be, Jake has thought long and hard about the nature of their relationship. His ironic statement, the culmination of his development and self-acceptance, is possible only because he has been willing to engage in a personal quest for therapeutic leisure activities. In Hemingway's manuscript, the initial final line read "It's nice as hell to think so" (Facsimile 2: 616). The switch to the ironic "pretty" is crucial; rather than sharing Brett's longing for a relationship, Jake admits that their future would have never produced the joy and pleasure Brett envisions. In spite of Jake's forlorn attitude, the ending of The Sun Also Rises is optimistic and forward-looking; only Brett still clings to the self-deluded hopes of an impossible future.

An analysis of leisure in The Sun Also Rises demonstrates the importance of both epigraphs for the novel. Many characters fit the stereotypical frame of Gertrude Stein's disparaging declaration, "You are all a lost generation," due to an obsession with transitory pleasures like drinking and their purported aimlessness in the wake of the First World War. By examining the profligate drunkenness in the novel, critics and readers have tended to side with Stein's bleak summation of the expatriate lifestyle. Schuyler Ashley (writing for the Kansas City Star in 1926), referred to the novels characters as "ineffectual," leading "reckless lives" (39). Jake, nearly alone amongst the novel's major characters, realizes that leisure is about more than free time and free space; self-reflection and self-awareness, the greatest potential boons of leisure activity, cannot be achieved without active and thoughtful participation. As Huizinga remarks, leisure "seems to contain in itself all the joy and delight of life" (161), a realization Jake comes to over a prolonged period of time. Due to his war wound, Jake has a tangible explanation for his emotional and spiritual waywardness at the outset, but as the narrative progresses, Jake's determination to focus not on what he has lost but rather on the potential restorative qualities of his immediate surroundings helps him slowly process and accept his condition.

Writing three decades later, Hemingway furthered his attempts to dispel readers' notions of the novel's association with aimlessness. In the "Une Generation Perdue" chapter of A Moveable Feast, he refutes Stein's comments that he and his peers "have no respect for anything," stating "I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and egotism and mental laziness versus discipline and I thought who is calling who a lost generation?" Stating that he sought to "balance" Stein's "lost generation" comment with one from Ecclesiastes, Hemingway proclaims he was resistant to the pessimistic outlook rendered by Stein and that the moral waywardness associated with the characters in The Sun Also Rises is only a partial picture of the postwar generation (MF 61-62). While the entirety of Ecclesiastes hardly offers the most fertile ground for optimistic dictums to oppose Stein, Hemingway's selected excerpt does offer a lasting sense of hope: "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever.... The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose." Though the "Lost Generation" has long been characterized by its excesses and extremes, Jake demonstrates that these beliefs are not universal and that the generation is not inherently doomed to wallow in aimlessness and frivolity. Thanks to his increased willingness to seek out reflective leisure activities, Jake ends the novel reinvigorated and emotionally free, the proverbial rising sun of Hemingway's title.


Ashley, Schuyler. "Hemingway Leads Young Ineffectual Through Europe." Kansas City Star, 4 December 1926: 8. Reprinted in Critical Essays on The Sun Also Rises. Ed. James Nagel. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1995. Print.

Bondanella, Julia. "Petrarch's Rereading of Otium in De vita solitaria." Comparative Literature 60.1 (2008): 14-28. Print.

Caillois, Roger. Man, Play, and Games. Trans. Meyer Barash. New York: Glencoe, 1961. Print.

Cross, Gary. A Social History of Leisure Since 1600. State College, PA: Venture Publishing, Inc. 1990. Print.

Daiker, Donald. "The Affirmative Conclusion of The Sun Also Rises" McNeese Review 21 (1974-75). 3-19. Print.

--. '"Brett Couldn't Hold Him': Lady Ashley, Pedro Romero, and the Madrid Sequence of The Sun Also Rises'.' Hemingway Review 29.1 (2009): 73-86. Print.

Djos, Matts. "Alcoholism in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises" Hemingway Review 14.2 (1995): 64-78. Print.

Dumazedier, Joffre. Sociology of Leisure. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 1974. Print.

Field, Allyson Nadia. "Expatriate Lifestyle as Tourist Destination: The Sun Also Rises and Experiential Travelogues of the Twenties." Hemingway Review 25.2 (2006): 29-43. Print.

Fox, Richard Wightman. "Epitaph for Middletown: Robert S. Lynd and the Analysis of Consumer Culture." The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880-1980. Ed. Richard Wightman Fox and T. J. Jackson Lears. New York: Pantheon, 1983. 103. Print.

Gleason, William. The Leisure Ethic: Work and Play in American Literature, 1840-1940. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999. Print.

Godbey, Geoffrey. "Anti-Leisure and Public Recreation Policy." Freedom and Constraint: The Paradoxes of Leisure: Ten Years of the Leisure Studies Association. Ed. Fred Coalter. London: Routledge, 1989. 74-86. Print.

Grebstein, Sheldon. Hemingway's Craft. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1973. Print.

Helbig, Doris. "Confession, Charity, and Community in The Sun Also Rises? South Atlantic Review 58.2 (1993). Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast-Restored Edition. Ed. Sean Hemingway. New York: Scribner: 2009. Print.

--. The Sun Also Rises. 1926. New York: Scribner's, 2003. Print.

--. The Sun Also Rises: A Facsimile Edition. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. Vol. 2. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990. Print.

Herlihy, Jeffrey. "The Complications of Exile in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises" North Dakota Quarterly 76.1-2 (2009): 40-49. Print.

Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon P, 1950. Print.

Klaver, Elizabeth. "Erectile Dysfunction and the Post War Novel: The Sun Also Rises and In Country" Literature and Medicine 30.1 (2012): 86-102. Print.

Knodt, Ellen. "Diving Deep: Jake's Moment of Truth at San Sebastian." Hemingway Review 17.1 (1997): 28-37. Print.

Lundberg, George A., Mirra Komarovsky, and Mary Alice McInerny. Leisure: A Suburban Study. New York: Columbia UP, 1934. Print.

"Marital Tragedy." New York Times Book Review, 31 October 1926: 7. Reprinted in Critical Essays on The Sun Also Rises. Ed. lames Nagel. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1995. 35. Print.

Martin, Wendy. "Brett Ashley as New Woman in The Sun Also Rises." Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: A Casebook. Ed. Linda Wagner-Martin. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 47-62. Print.

Messenger, Christian. Sport and the Spirit of Play in American Fiction: Hawthorne to Faulkner. New York: Columbia UP, 1981. Print.

Rojek, Chris. Decentring Leisure. London: SAGE Publications, 1995. Print.

Rudat, Wolfgang E. H. "Sexual Dilemmas in The Sun Also Rises: Hemingway's Count and the Education of Jake Barnes." Hemingway Review 8.2 (1989): 2-13. Print.

--. "Wounds to Manhood: Hemingway, Jake Barnes, and Tristram Shandy," Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 14. 3-4 (1993): 223-37. Print

"Sad Young Men." Time, 1 November 1926: 48. Reprinted in Critical Essays on The Sun Also Rises. Ed. James Nagel. New York: G. K. Hall, 1995. Print.

Wedin, Warren "Trout Fishing and Self-Betrayal in The Sun Also Rises." Arizona Quarterly 37.1 (1981): 63-74. Print.

Wilson, Jane E. "Good Old Harris in The Sun Also Rises." Critical Essays on The Sun Also Rises. Ed. James Nagel. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1995. 185-90. Print.

Young, Philip. Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1966. Print.


(1.) For a discussion of the five-day workweek, see Fox 103.

(2.) The novels early reviews had a great deal to do with perpetuating the stereotype: the New York Times Book Review remarked that the novel was about "certain of those younger Americans concerning whom Gertrude Stein has remarked: You are all a lost generation" (35), while Time claimed that "the picture of cosmopolitan castaways going to prizefights, bars, bedrooms, bullrings is excessively accurate but not as trite as it might be" (37).

(3.) Brett Ashley, for example, has been read as a "New Woman" by Wendy Martin, one who "represents Hemingway's idealized rendering of the woman free of sexual repression" (51).

Justin Mellette

The Pennsylvania State University
COPYRIGHT 2014 Ernest Hemingway Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Mellette, Justin
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Sep 22, 2014
Previous Article:Harry Morgan's identity crisis: orientalism and slumming during the great depression in Hemingway's To Have and Have Not.
Next Article:Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: the dog in the window and other war allusions.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters