Impact of World War I in the lives of characters of The Sun Also Rises

Question: Discuss the impact of World War I in the lives of characters of The Sun Also Rises. Or, Show how “The Sun Also Rises’ reflects some of the problems left behind by the First World War?


The Sun Hour Rises is the famous and the largest novel published in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). The novel has depicted the frustrating lifestyle of a “lost generation”. The direct and indirect effects of war on different characters are described in detail in the story. There is no character in the novel who does not suffer from the direct and indirect impact of the war.

The vast variety of impact

The Sun Also Rises’ shows the physical and emotional trauma, the religious abandonment, and the way in which the members of the lost generation escape from their affected lives. All the characters affected by World War I feel the direct and indirect impact of war on different levels. Some injuries are physical; and some are internal, which produces even greater emotional and psychological trauma on the character.  The word “Everybody’s sick. I’m sick too” by a prostitute indicates that the war has caused everyone a certain degree of sickness and suffering.

The direct harmful aspect of war

The protagonist, Jake Barnes, suffers from the worst impact of the war. Jake was a World War I soldier who received a wound and because of his injury, he has to suffer a lot including sexual impotence. Therefore, he refuses to have intercourse with the woman he loves, especially Lady Brett Ashley. It remains an endless struggle throughout the novel and is a direct result of the war. So, war became the main problem of the novel.

Psychological and emotional downfall

If we properly observe, we will see that all the characters who took part in the war are disoriented in various ways. Jake’s psychological and emotional breakdown results from his physical injury and it becomes transparent when he states;

“Listen, Robert, 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”.

From this statement, we can understand that Jake is not interested at all in his present condition of life but he can’t get rid of it.

Alcoholism and bohemian life

The rise of alcoholism is another effect of World War I. Excessive drinking is an endless theme throughout the novel. It is a problem that has been left behind by the war and the new generation has to suffer from it. Jake and the other characters are constantly wandering from bar to bar and are always drunk. For example, Jake finds a current dinner party related to the war memories and he cannot but say:

“It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine, I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy”.

Thus, Jake suggests that the effects of alcohol alone can make him lose this ill feeling and be happy. But Jake is unable to avoid this feeling, although traveling or alcohol helps him for a while. So, the matter of fact is that though war lasts for a certain moment, the impacts remain in the memories of the people generation after generation.

Immoral mentality

In the novel, the values ​​of this young group of the lost generation are widely extinct. Relationships with God and religion as well as love and sex are very shaky in the novel. There is no attempt and token of a marital relationship. Throughout their lives, they just want to escape from the panic of the war. They even don’t get the opportunity to build up a moral life since they are vagrants.

Indifferent to real life

Hemingway has clearly shown that war is a source of fascination and suffering, especially for Jake. The characters of the novel wander aimlessly. They drink and travel to fill a void that would only be a temporary solution. The war has left scars on the characters, both physically and mentally, which lead to their constant drunkenness and the endless search for the meaning of life. From beginning to end, the novel suggests that Jake’s wounds are the cause of his problems. They prevent him to improve his future. So, in this short description, it is realizable that Hemingway wants to scatter that the destruction of war makes people unreal and sadistic.

Absence of religious faith

The Sun Also Rises is a novel that is enriched with catholic elements but the lost generation is totally devoid of religious faith. Since it is universally known to all that when a pious man feels frustration about his life, he prays to Omnipotent with tearful eyes for the removal of his anxiety. Contrarywise this, the lost generation of the novel dive into alcoholism and illicit sexuality to drive away their frustration and ill feelings. Thus, the war leads people miles away from religion.


In short, it will be logical enough to declare that war means destruction, not only for the properties but also for humanity and hopes of life. None can deny the bad impacts of war. So, Hemingway tries to enhance the morality that it is better to be aloof from war.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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