Tuesday, January 7, 2014

50 Books in a Year Book #1: The Sun Also Rises

The first time I read this book I was a senior in high school. It didn't give me a lust for Spain, Paris or bullfights, but it did give me this itch to travel and explore the American Dream. This year I'm teaching this book in a separate unit with some Harlem Renaissance thrown in for good measure. I look forward to talking about it as a part of Modernist literature and as another aspect of the American Dream, our disillusionment, or the death of the dream as it were.

The second and third times I read it, I focused mostly on character development with emphasis on Lady Brett Ashley. I'm a sucker for guys like Jake Barnes (more about that later), truly he's the reason I love this novel, but he wouldn't be the totally flawed, screwed-up, believable man he is without Lady Brett Ashley.

You see, I think she's a pretty amazing look at the modern woman. I may not want to emulate her 100%, but there are aspects of her character that, like Wonder Woman and Laura Holt, are part of mine.

The traits I like are simple:

1] She does what she wants Drinking, yes please. Smoking, okie doke. A bullfighter, a count, Cohn, sign her up. During my first read I thought what my students always think about her (you know that she's a ho), but she really isn't. If she was a man doing what she's doing nobody would care. It would seem a lot of people can't get past this to realize that she is just coping with her unhappiness and it is just part of the drinking and the other stuff that they are all doing.

2] She is independent and what confines her is in her head. This is true of all women. Heck, this is true of all  people. In the 1920s I think this was just becoming the normal view of things.

3] She loves and wants to be loved Brett loves Jake. Jake loves her. Their lives are complicated. This is pretty real stuff.

4] She can run with the best of them She's pretty darned honest about who she is and what she does. Sometimes strangely so...she's not going to let anyone or anything get past her. Sure, she doesn't really have any dreams or goals, but none of them do really, and I'd pick her over Daisy Buchanan any day (honestly, can you read both novels without comparing the two).

This time around I read it as a person past her 20s enough that I can remember them fondly with only a tiny hint of nostalgia.

There's a review of the movie adaptation on IMDB, and while I don't recommend watching the movie if you love this book, it is only a shadow of the book, even if it does have some great name actors and in that respect reminds me of the movie for The Fountainhead, I do love this review for the following:
the 'Lost Generation' Hemingway wrote of were disillusioned young Americans, who, shattered by the horror and brutality of a meaningless 'Great War', lost their innocence, and became a 'live fast, die young' crowd of expatriates, settling in Paris. These were men and women in their twenties and thirties...
As a person now in my late thirties I understand the feelings of these characters, and while I've never been to war, I understand what it means to be lost...in some ways we are all at one time or another lost. In this novel we see Hemingway's understanding of that. We see, that although he must not have felt this hope himself, he wants us to see that we don't always live in this lost moment in our lives. He also wants us to see that this hedonistic time helps mold and shape us. It is one of the many pillars that hold up our foundation. Yes, foundation. I'd even go so far as to say that it's part of that stereotypical American journey.

I can't wait to read this book again.


  1. I love your blog, Mrs. Hasty!

    When I think of Brett and Jake, I think of Robin and Ted from How I Met Your Mother. I mean, they both love each other so much but know they will never be together in the end. Despite this, they try and try again to make it work throughout the entire series... And they're kind of lost in life, too. And Robin's really independent.

    Okay I'm done....I think I've been watching too much netflix over this long snow break....

    1. that is a wonderful analogy! i love robin and ted together more than robin and barney...i think i'm just a sucker for impossible relationships! :)



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