In the novel The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, the reader follows the travels of expatriates Jake Barnes, and his friends Lady Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn, Mike Campbell, and Bill Gordon. As the characters travel around France and Spain, Hemingway describes their various interactions with people that both took part in the war and those that did not. The term “Lost Generation” is applied to the people that fought or witnessed the war and is “lost” because of their experiences in the war.
Through the characters, the reader can see how the Lost Generation is drastically different from the rest of society at the ime. For example, many of them drank heavily, lost faith in religion, and stayed up late through the night in order to avoid thinking about their past. An important difference with Lost Generation compared to the rest of society was the change in gender roles. Many men from World War I were scarred by the war and changed forever by it; and the females began to see their own roles changing also.
Throughout the novel, Hemingway demonstrates the changing gender roles and values of the Lost Generation through the character and characterization of Brett, by depicting Brett and her actions ividly and by comparing Brett’s masculinity to the expatriate boys’ more feminine like characteristics, showing that because of her masculinity, the relationships between the expatriates are the opposite of the “normal” relationships that one might expect.
The novel’s descriptions of Brett contrast sharply with the descriptions of a stereotypical female by seeming and acting more masculine: she looks masculine and is more controlling over the opposite sex. Jake’s first description of Brett occurs when she walks into the dancing club with a group of homosexuals. He describes her physical appearance as having spects of a boy and a girl; “Brett was good-looking … and her hair was brushed back like a boy’s. She started all that.
She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it” (29-30). When Jake says that her hair was like a boy’s, he really means that she has short hair. Brett’s appearance is different from the traditional woman; her short hair is like a boy. However, the men that she is with sometimes don’t like that, like Pedro: “He wanted me to grow my hair out. it would make me more womanly. I’d look a fright” (246). Brett does not want to look more like a woman; this makes her more masculine.
She forces the reader to question what masculinity really is; she acts very masculine but obviously is female. This may be because she does not be docile and submissive to men; her first marriage was difficult because her husband used to be very controlling over her: “He used to tell her he’d kill her.. she hasn’t had an absolutely happy life” (207). In order to prevent men from doing to that ever again, she controls them instead. She acts like the man in her relationships, causing the men to act like the woman.
This demonstrates how gender roles have shifted for the Lost Generation. The clash between her gender and her ppearance helps to show her as a very complex character. Brett also acts very controlling/dominating towards men and demonstrates this “power” during the novel, and especially during the fiesta. For example, Mike compares Brett to the mythological figure of Circe: “He [Cohn] claims she turns men into swine” (148). In Greek mythology, Circe was a sorceress who turned men into pigs.
Mike is saying here that Brett is similar because she causes men to fall in love with her, then leaves and ruins them, which in essence turns them into figurative pigs. This aspect of her is very masculine because usually men are the nes that stereotypically date a woman just because they want to sleep with her and then dumps them, ruining the woman. In the case of Brett, Brett sleeps with the man and then dumps them, and destroying/ruining them. Her masculinity leads to her being the most controlling character in the group of expatriates. Hemmingway demonstrates this with the various men of the book.
This occurs to Cohn, who sleeps with Brett in San Sebastian but then once she left him, he still thought that she liked him so he then “followed Brett around like a bloody steer [at the fiesta]” (146). Her power over men also affects Romero. He begins to act differently, to the chagrin of Montoya, and at the bullfight gives Brett the bull’s ear. In addition, although Jake can’t sleep with Brett because of his injury, he still runs off to help Brett multiple times: when he is on his fishing trip, when he brings Brett and Romero together, and when he leaves his vacation at San Sebastian.
However, their relationship is slightly more normal with Jake because he cannot sleep with her and thus she cannot really “destroy” him in that manner. She also doesn’t have to worry about him taking advantage of her as she may with every other man she is with; this may be the reason hy she doesn’t really settle down with one man for long. She and Jake have a more emotional-based relationship than she does with every other man. Descriptions of Brett demonstrate her different role among the expatriates as the most dominant and also her differences from traditional females.
The descriptions of Brett compared to those of the various boys made her seem more like a man and made the boys seem more feminine; this highlights the changed gender roles in the Lost Generation; they also shape a new definition of female that was created by the Lost Generation era. The men, in stark contrast o Brett, act like children/feminine sometimes. For example, both Jake and Cohn cry because of Brett and her influence on their lives. Near the beginning of the novel, Jake cries because of Brett; “I was thinking about Brett… ll of a sudden I started to cry” (39).
Cohn cries after Brett scolds him after Cohn beats up Romero; “Cohn was crying. There he was, face down on the bed, crying… [He said] ‘l couldn’t stand it about Bret. can’t stand it anymore” (197-198). In addition, the men are reduced to petty fighting over Brett; Cohn beats up Jake and Mike because of her, and the men often argue with each other whenever she is round in order to try and impress her/win her over. When men are with Brett they act like the female while she acts more like the male.
For example, Jake begs Brett “Couldn’t we just live together, Brett? Couldn’t we just live together? ” (62), to which Brett responds “I don’t think so. I’d just tromper you with everybody” (62). In a stereotypical relationship, the female is the one that acts all “lovey-dovey” while the male is more practical and serious. Here, one can see that it the other way around, with Jake begging and Brett being more practical. Comparing Brett to the other men helps the reader reshape their definition f masculinity and what the gender roles were of the Lost Generation.
The description of Brett and her actions along with contrasts expatriate boys showing helped the reader and the audience redefine masculinity and feminism along with defining what the Lost Generation values were like. The Lost Generation values represented a time in which the people were indeed “lost” and could not find their way. Eventually, the “sun” rose again with a new generation. However, things like the gender roles carried over to future generations and their impacts sometimes still affect us today.