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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Sun Also Rises

It's your way or the Hemingway.

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Hemingway defined a generation of disillusioned young people…but it's different generation of disillusioned young people than the one you're dealing with. Hemingway's young people are now old people (or, more likely, dead people), so you'll have to help your generation figure 'em out.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity which explores the psychological effects of war (WWI, to be precise).
  • strategies to broach the controversial topics of the novel, like anti-Semitism, sexism, and homophobia.
  • modern pop culture connections to Woody Allen and even Vampire Diaries.

And much more.

We won't let it get dark in your classroom. The Shmoop also rises.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: One of Hemingway's Big Important Ideas in The Sun Also Rises is to explore the psychological effects that emerge in the aftermath of WWI. To fully understand the characters and settings Hemingway creates, students will need some background info on the Great War.

In this lesson, students will research a specific aspect of WWI. Then students will connect the events of the novel with their research in order to understand the sense of calamity felt at this period in history. This lesson will require one class to introduce and one for student presentations, but we recommend about a week for students to complete their projects.

Materials Needed:

  • Copies of The Sun Also Rises
  • Internet-enabled computer
  • Library resources for research

Step 1: When you introduce the novel to students, it's a good idea to give a bit of historical background. Students are typically very familiar with WWII, but WWI is more like, "Oh yeah, that war that happened before the Nazis." They will likely be fuzzy on the details and may not even know exactly who was fighting who or why. Check out Shmoop's intro and summary of World War I for help introducing the history to your students.

Pre-reading assignment: Ask students to think critically about Hemingway's subtle introduction of WWI in the background when they read The Sun Also Rises. As they read, students should highlight and take notes on moments in the novel that refer to the war in any way. Remind students to look for both obvious and subtle references.

Step 2: During and/or at the conclusion of the novel, lead a discussion based on the students' reading and notes about the theme of WWI in The Sun Also Rises. It should come as no surprise that we've prepared a list of helpful questions to get you started:

  • How do characters react to the war, when it's mentioned? Give some specific examples from the text of their reactions.
  • Of the war, Jake says: "We would probably have gone on and discussed the war and agreed that it was in reality a calamity for civilization, and perhaps would have been better avoided. I was bored enough" (3.9). Why is the war a "boring" subject for Jake, despite the fact that he agrees it was a "calamity for civilization." What is the tone of this passage?
  • Does Hemingway show civilization to be profoundly affected by the War, or to be able to withstand such events?
  • Why does Hemingway make Jake's injury central to the plot of the novel? (It seems to be the reason he and Brett can't be together.)
  • Why doesn't Hemingway explain how Jake got this injury, or discuss it or Jake's experience in the war in more detail?
  • How might the war relate to the two major attitudes displayed by characters in this novel: a wild party-seeking lifestyle, and a widespread dissatisfaction or depression?

Step 3: Time to hit the books! Explain that students will perform research on WWI and write an essay on a specific aspect of the war, showing how it relates to the themes, characters, and events in The Sun Also Rises. Essays should begin by giving historical background on some aspect of the war (trench warfare, chemical weapons, shell shock, etc.) and then explain how this information enhances our understanding of how Hemingway treats the war in the novel. Students should, of course, support their findings with relevant quotations from the novel.

Your school librarian may be able to pull some research materials for you, but other good resources for students are Shmoop's take on WWI and this site full of multimedia resources. Oh, and be sure to check out Shmoop's discussion of the theme of warfare as well.

Step 4: Give students about a week to research and write the essay. Shmoop loves to debrief, so we also recommend having students give a short presentation of their research. These presentations can jumpstart further discussions into the themes of the novel and the importance of the time period to the story.

Instructions for Your Students

One of Hemingway's Big Important Ideas in The Sun Also Rises is to explore the psychological effects that emerge in the aftermath of WWI. This means…wait for it…you'll need to find out some stuff about WWI; you know, the one before WWII.

In this lesson, you will research a specific aspect of WWI. Then you will connect the events of the novel with your research in order to understand the sense of calamity and trauma that lurks underneath the wild partying of the novel.

Step 1: Admit it; some of you aren't even sure who was fighting who in WWI, right? It's not your fault, though; we teachers tend to gloss over WWI in favor of lots of details and lessons about WWII, so it's natural for you to know more about part two. However, WWI was its own, very important thing, so we do need a few specifics in order to understand Hemingway's novel. Before we get started with The Sun Also Rises, let's check out the Shmoop summary version of World War I to get a few facts straight.

Now, as you are reading the book, pay attention to how Hemingway discusses the war in the background of the characters' stories. Be sure to highlight and take notes on moments in the novel that refer to the war in any way, and remember to look for both obvious and subtle references (you know how Hemingway likes to hide things underwater).

Step 2: Let's talk: What did you discover about the theme of WWI in The Sun Also Rises?

  • How do characters react to the war, when it's mentioned? Give some specific examples from the text of their reactions.
  • Of the war, Jake says: "We would probably have gone on and discussed the war and agreed that it was in reality a calamity for civilization, and perhaps would have been better avoided. I was bored enough" (3.9). Why is the war a "boring" subject for Jake, despite the fact that he agrees it was a "calamity for civilization." What is the tone of this passage?
  • Does Hemingway show civilization to be profoundly affected by the War, or to be able to withstand such events?
  • Why does Hemingway make Jake's injury central to the plot of the novel? (It seems to be the reason he and Brett can't be together.)
  • Why doesn't Hemingway explain how Jake got this injury, or discuss it or Jake's experience in the war in more detail?
  • How might the war relate to the two major attitudes displayed by characters in this novel: a wild party-seeking lifestyle, and a widespread dissatisfaction or depression?

Step 3: Time to hit the books! You will perform research on WWI and write an essay on a specific aspect of the war, showing how it relates to the themes, characters, and events in The Sun Also Rises. Essays should begin by giving historical background on some aspect of the war (trench warfare, chemical weapons, shell shock, etc.) and then explain how this information enhances our understanding of how Hemingway treats the war in the novel. You should, of course, support your findings with relevant quotations from the novel. Try to contain your excitement.

For help with the research (you didn't think we'd leave you hanging, did you?), check out Shmoop's take on WWI and this site full of multimedia resources. Oh, and be sure to stop by Shmoop's discussion of the theme of warfare as well.

Step 4: You'll have about a week to research and write the essay, and then you'll give a short presentation of your research to the class so we can further discuss the themes of the novel and the importance of the time period to the story.

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE SUN ALSO RISES?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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