Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Code of "The Lost Generation"

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Ernest Hemingway believed the generation that came of age after World War I was a lost generation. “The Lost Generation” was simply defined as a bunch of disillusioned young men and women that survived World War I, who lost their morals, and direction of their lives. Like the characters in the novel they spent their time drinking, and traveling as a way to escape reality. Most of these young men and women had dreams, but after the war, they came back physically, and emotionally wounded. They spent most of their time in cafes; due to this they became bitter, and lost hope in life. In the novel The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, “The Lost Generation” is a theme that appears throughout. The code that is seemingly apparent for Jake Barnes and Frances Clyne in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is irresponsibility.


Jake Barnes being the narrator and protagonist of the novel is one of the characters that represents the worst of “The Lost Generation.” Due to the war Jake came back impotent, in other words he also lost his manhood. After going out with Georgette one night Jake states that, “She cuddled against me and I put my arm around her. She looks up to be kissed. She touched me with one hand and I put her hand away” (Hemingway 15). Instead of confronting his problem with Georgette, Jake is going around the truth, and just telling her that he is sick. This shows how irresponsible he is, and how he does not accept his condition. In “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot, there is a line that states, “Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain” (The Waste Land 1781). The “lilacs out of the dead land” represent Jake because he leads an emotionless life. This quote also links to the story because he has a desire to be intimate with women, but he has that constant reminder of the war. However, in order to forget his concerns Jake drinks, and he says, “I was a little drunk. Not drunk in any positive sense but just enough to be careless” (Hemingway 1). To get rid of all his feelings Jake drinks, he thinks that drinking is going to make him forget his issues. By drinking Jake runs from his problems, and hides from the truth because he cannot handle it. On the other hand, when Frances approaches Jake to talk about Robert, Jake says, “I do not know how people can say such terrible things to Robert Cohn. There are people to whom you could not say… Here it was, all going on right before me, and I did not even feel an impulse to try and stop it” (Hemingway 4). Jake is selfish and irresponsible because he is unwilling to help his own friend. Jake thinks that he has enough with his problems, so he blocks out other people’s problems, and keeps going on with his life.


Frances is portrayed as a careless character that suggests irresponsibility. She wants to marry Cohn for reasons other than love. This is apparent when she says, “Oh, he told every one that we were going to be married, and I told my mother and every one, and now he doesn’t want to do it” (Hemingway 46). Frances feels that she needs to get married because she is getting old, and wasted the best years of her life next to someone that never loved her. She also wants to get married soon because the older she gets, the harder it will be for her to find another man that is willing to marry her. Later in the novel, Frances makes a foolish remark, she says, “I never liked children much, but I don’t want to think I’ll never have them. I always thought I’d have them and then like them” (Hemingway 47). Frances displays a character that is irresponsible and immature, and that is not capable of raising a child. For Frances raising a child is like raising a doll, that can be left behind and forgotten about after a while. In a quote from Maxwell, he states that, “The lightest conversation in The Sun Also Rises seems quite inevitably to turn the screw upon the wounded spirits of this group” (Maxwell 5). Like all the characters in the novel, Frances suffers from excessive drinking, and it is not capable of controlling herself. This is a theme that appears throughout the novel, that portrays how irresponsible she is, and how she believes that her problems will be forgotten in the Parisian cafes.


Irresponsibility marks the life of all the characters. In a reading by Spilka he states that, “if one generation is lost and another comes, the earth abides forever” (Spilka ). The characters in The Sun Also Rises led a lifestyle that was set for them already. Everyone became so bitter that they gave up on life, and pretty much did anything they wanted. They believed that by drinking everything was going to be fine. But then realized that after the hangover everything was still the same. They were all nomads searching for answers in the Parisian cafes.


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