© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

Identity Theme

This novel is just jam-packed with people who think they have their public images worked out, but really are just big old messes on the inside. Hemingway’s characters make a big show of being confident and witty, but we quickly realize that they’re just frontin’ – nobody is really that confident, and nobody is entirely true to themselves. Even our protagonist, who is one of the novel’s more grounded characters, faces deep anxieties about his beliefs and the ways in which his actions correspond with them. All of this has to do, of course, with the destabilizing trauma of the war; just as nations have to rebuild themselves after the war, so do individual people.

Questions About Identity

  1. Why do Jake, Brett, Bill, and Mike reject Robert Cohn’s code of ethics?
  2. In the newborn modern, postwar world that Hemingway depicts, what kinds of things do people use to define themselves?
  3. Brett’s character is often referred to as an example of the "New Woman." How conscious is she of her groundbreaking role in society?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The characters of The Sun Also Rises are all marked by the impossibility of claiming an identity, rather than by a clear understanding of themselves.

The postwar society Hemingway reveals in the novel is one in the midst of a universal identity crisis.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement