Hemingway / Fitzgerald the Great Essay
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Unable to serve in the army, he too, like Jake is haunted by a feeling of vulnerability. His mother financially supports his career as a novelist, and he is highly dependant upon Frances, the woman with whom he is involved, even while he is lusting after Lady Brett. Likewise, Jake's feelings for Brett are characterized by male vulnerability: "I was thinking about Brett and my mind stopped jumping around and started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. Then after a while it was better and I lay in bed and listened to the heavy trams go by and way down the street, and then I went to sleep" (39).
In love, Jake is frustrated. However, Jake is far from impotent in other manly pursuits. Especially when he is away from Paris, the city of romance and love, he finds a new sense of personal pride in Spain, first by going fishing in the woods of Pamplona, and then witnessing the running of the bulls. Masculine pursuits like hunting and killing animals for sports become more pure expressions of manliness than sexuality, which is always 'tainted' by women. The language relating to the running of the bulls is even coyer than the language he uses relating to sexuality: "He always smiled as though there were something lewd about the secret to outsiders, but that it was something we understood. It would not do to expose it to people who would not understand" (136).
The novel is about a lack of belief, and a search for meaning
in life that never comes, except perhaps in the life and death struggles of the arena. Sexuality and proving himself through war are denied to Jake. He is continually reminded about what he could have had with Brett, had there been no war, but he now cannot enjoy:
"Were you ever in love with her?" "Sure." "For how long?" "Off and on for a hell of a long time." "Oh, hell!" Bill said. "I'm sorry, fella." (128).
However even the men who do enjoy Brett's affections sink into despair -- the bullfighter Romero can win in the bullring but is beaten by Cohen, who finds him in bed with Brett. Yet Cohen's prowess is far from unquestioned -- he was unable to serve in the war, despite his boxing ability. Cohen ultimately slinks back to his relationship with the American expatriate Frances, whom he does not love. There is no greater life philosophy to sustain any of the characters of the novel, even the exhilarating violence of bullfighting. Over and over again, Hemingway's novel stresses the failure of traditional models of meaning, like religion: "I.. regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time" (103). However, the novel offers little hope about the availability of a 'next time' for any of the characters that will lead to a more fulfilling life.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. May 11, 2009.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York:…
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