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Themes

Masculinity is somewhat problematic in the world of this novel. The insecurity of the central male characters produces an atmosphere of competition, rivalry, and mutual harassment, and we constantly witness petty arguments that are rooted in this sense of challenged masculinity. The novel revolves around several male characters and their various relationships with each other, and with one central female character; Hemingway plays up the tensions of competition and jealousy to demonstrate just how uncertain his male characters are. The shared sense of insecurity among many of the book’s central male characters suggests a redefinition of masculinity post-WWI; particularly notable is the fact that the protagonist’s impotence is caused by a wound he sustained in the war.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. In what way does WWI seem to have shaped the masculinity of the men in The Sun Also Rises?
  2. Compare Jake’s sense of insecurity and emasculation with Mike’s and Cohn’s. How are they the same? How are they different?
  3. How does Brett’s non-conformity to traditional female norms (for example her cropped hair, open sexuality, use of the word chap in reference to herself, etc.) impact the masculinity of the men that surround her?

Chew on This

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

While most of the men in The Sun Also Rises are insecure because of their shifting roles in a modern and alienating society, Pedro Romero’s youth and proximity to nature produce his sense of identity and confidence.

Because Cohn unsuccessfully clings to pre-war notions of honor and masculinity, his masculinity is targeted as a clear example of weakness in the post-war world.

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