People have fun in this book, but that’s about it – what’s missing is a lasting sense of contentment or satisfaction with life in general. The cause of this is the massive social upheaval caused by the First World War; after the war, nobody seems to care about the things that used to be important, and the whole world has to re-define itself. Hemingway’s characters all struggle to discover their individual brands of happiness, but none of them succeed in doing so. The implication is that the postwar world is so disorderly and unstable that it’s impossible to just settle down and figure everything out. This is understandable – heck, it’s hard enough to do that when everything’s peaceful, much less in the aftermath of a catastrophic global event.
The pervasive sense that contentment is no longer possible in the postwar world means that The Sun Also Rises is doomed to end unhappily from page one.
Dissatisfaction fuels Jake’s productive working life, and therefore his discontentment is indispensable to him.