Question: Changed idea of masculinity in The Sun Also Rises. How did the idea of masculinity change after World War I as you find in “The Sun Also Rises’’?
Throughout Ernest Hemingway’s (1899 – 1961) “The Sun Also Rises” (1926), the idea of old-world masculinity is recalled. First World War or the Great War changed many things in society. In this novel, Hemingway reveals how a powerful woman is a threat to old masculinity within the changes in the era in which the novel was written.
People’s belief in new philosophy
After the Great War, the views of people in society changed extremely. The people believed that God is by their side and he will protect them; but after World War 1 they started to believe everything in a new way, followed a new philosophy, Modernism. During that time, artists changed their way of presentation of their work. The word ‘modern’ becomes generalized for all types of people. Writings as a piece of art showed the direct effect of modernism. Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” portrays an example of that through the changes in the idea of masculinity in society.
Regeneration of femininity
Regeneration of femininity was a response to the changes after the First World War. In that time, women not only had more opportunities but were needed to step up as managers to balance out the lack of masculine presence lost by the war.
In this novel, Hemingway shows the new type of man by Jake Barnes without old trending masculinity and a new woman through Lady Brett Ashley, the main female character, with independent thought. She is a selfish and careless woman. She is also beautiful and smart. During World War I, she was a nurse and was with Jake Barnes during his recovery from his wound.
In the war, Jake becomes injured and his injuries make him impotent, but his sexual desire is active. This laceration causes not only pain but a great deal of confusion regarding his relationship with Lady Brett Ashley. Lady Brett Ashley rejects Jake due to his inability to fulfill her sexual desire, though both the characters like each other. Here we realize that Jake’s wound still gives him the pain and hunts him every day, as he cannot escape from the injury that he got in World War I. Their relationship is ironic in that they both love each other but can never be together.
Physical and mental damage
The novel is set on the basis of the situation of the effect of World War I. In this period of time, the youth were greatly affected by this war. This caused the failure in values and standards in the young generation; this also damaged their thought to live. Ernest Hemingway portrays the lives of the people of this lost generation in his novel “The Sun Also Rises”. The novel shows the physical and emotional damage, the religious abandonment, and the way the members of the lost generation escape from their affected lives.
Over-activity of female
While Jake is impotent, Lady Brett is more open in her sexuality. The conflict between these two characters gives an image of a gender role reversal. It is visible that the changes had come because of the Great War. The character of Lady Brett is a direct threat to the old tradition of masculinity. Jake is unable to please Brett sexually and is at odds with himself. Jake says –
“All I wanted to know was how to live in it”.
Hemingway shows Jake searching for answers in an attempt to come to terms with his new life. The destruction of Jake’s old self and the start of a passive man can be seen as a feminine trait. This directly discourages old-fashioned masculinity and gives a space to the feminine thought to emphasize its intensity.
To sum up, Brett is the strongest character of all in the novel. On the contrary, Jake is much softer than the other characters. The feminine character in this novel is strengthened over masculinity which clearly beats the pre-war idea of masculinity.