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Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises Essay

1551 words - 7 pages

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is a work which weaves together many themes and gives life to the era of disillusionment, ambiguity, the modern world, and sexuality. As a whole, sexuality can be described in terms of who one is sexually attracted to. A major focus of this lens is homosexuality, but it is not limited to just that. This literary criticism can include the behaviors of heterosexuals as well and how their acts tie into the machine of the “invisible center,” or societal normalcy (Davies). These norms are defined by the unseen majority—the white, heterosexual, middle class male. Females may also be included in the majority if they meet all of the other criteria for the sake of examining sexuality in this essay. The very visible outliers of the norm include any group that is unlike the center. Here, it is those who act differently than their heterosexual counterparts (all whom have specific ways they are expected to act sexually, or they get ostracized.) Analyzing Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises through the lens of sexuality proves to be valuable in understanding how sexuality defined WWI’s so-called lost generation.
Hemingway has always been known for his portrayal of masculinity. In a time where things were becoming slightly more socially lenient than in the Victorian Era, there was still a heavy rejection of men that didn’t fit the criteria for the archetype of masculinity. Jake Barnes, the main character in this novel, gives a perfect example of this when he sees two homosexual men at a night club with his ex-lover, Brett. “I saw white hands, wavy hair, white faces, grimacing, gesturing, talking… I was very angry. Somehow they always made me angry. I know they are supposed to be amusing, and you should be tolerant, but I wanted to swing on one…” (Hemingway 30). In this quote, Jake is explaining the men Brett is with. He then goes on to describe how he wants to hurt one even though he knows he should be tolerant. As well, he refers to the men as “they” in a way that singles them out as abnormal. At first glance, it may not be apparent that these men are homosexual, but upon further examination it becomes clear that they are. To further prove this, Brett tells Jake, “’…when one's with the crowd I'm with, one can drink in such safety, too.’"(Hemingway 30) Brett feels safe being drunk around the men she is with because of their homosexuality. She can trust them not to take advantage of her as well as to defend her if straight men attempt to harass her. This scene is important because it shows that homosexuality is present in the historical setting and not entirely disapproved of, but still looked down upon by the societal majority (represented by Jake.) As well, homosexuality is typically linked with stereotypes. Men who identify as such may be especially feminine; a threat to the masculinity Jake and the rest of the war veterans hold dear due to the loss of their own during the war.
What the critical lens of sexuality considers...

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