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Themes

World War I is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to mention (yes, it occurred to us that this is probably the only time anyone has ever compared World War I to an elephant). When the war does come up, characters attempt to make flippant comments about it, but there’s a lingering sense of uneasiness – the experience of war is still too fresh in people’s minds to even seriously discuss it. Our protagonist suffered a physical wound that left him impotent as a result of the war; the other characters’ wounds are mental and emotional, and society as a whole is scarred by this global event.

Questions About Warfare

  1. We know that Mike was something of a joke in the army – but what do you think Jake’s experience of the war was like?
  2. Brett was also involved in the war, as a V.A.D. nurse in Italy. Though she never voices her experience, how is that experience significant to her character?
  3. France was one of the nations most heavily impacted by the First World War. Do we see evidence of this in Paris of the 1920s as depicted by Hemingway?

Chew on This

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

The rupturing event of World War I makes it impossible for Jake to return to America, since he only feels comfortable in a community that shared the traumatic experience of the war first-hand.

In The Sun Also Rises, the central conflict (the impossibility of Jake and Brett’s relationship) is caused by a war-inflicted wound that renders Jake impotent; one might therefore say that the war itself is the main cause of conflict in the novel.

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