Study Guide

The Sun Also Rises Man and the Natural World

By Ernest Hemingway

Man and the Natural World

Book 1, Chapter 3

"No, I don’t like Paris. It’s expensive and dirty."

"Really? I find it so extraordinarily clean. One of the cleanest cities in all Europe."

"I find it dirty."

"How strange! But perhaps you have not been here very long."

"I’ve been here long enough." (3.14)

This catty little exchange between Frances and Georgette again raises the issue of the dirty or decrepit condition of Paris—Georgette, like Jake, has the sense that there is something wrong with the urban space.

Book 2, Chapter 10

In the Basque country the land all looks very rich and green and the houses and villages look well-off and clean… the houses in the villages had red tiled roofs, and then the road turned off and commenced to climb and we were going way up close along a hillside, with a valley below and hills stretched off back toward the sea. (10.4)

Doesn’t this just sound like paradise? The closer Jake gets to the real country, the happier he is. Hemingway indulges in lengthy (and for him, rather lush) descriptions of the Basque countryside to help his readers appreciate it as much as Jake does.

Book 2, Chapter 12
Bill Gorton

Bill took a long drink.

"Utilize a little, brother," he handed me the bottle. "Let us not doubt, brother. Let us not pry in to the holy mysteries of the hen-coop with simian fingers. Let us accept on faith and simply say – I want you to join with me in saying – What shall we say brother?" he pointed the drumstick at me and went on. "Let me tell you. We will say, and I for one am proud to say – and I want to say with me, on your knees, brother. Let no man be ashamed to kneel here in the great out-of-doors. Remember the woods were God’s first temples. Let us kneel and say: ‘Don’t eat that, Lady – that’s Mencken.’" (12.39)

All of this "utilizing" business is silly and fun, but there’s also an edge of something real beneath it. Out in nature, Bill and Jake have an exuberant sense of liberty and exhilaration. Bill’s mock-sermon encourages his audience to utilize the products of the earth and celebrate them, and even while he’s mocking organized religion, he’s setting up the idea that we should worship nature instead of any manmade gods.

It was a beech wood and the trees were very old. Their roots bulked above the ground and the branches were twisted. We walked on the road between the thick trunks of the old beeches and the sunlight came through the leaves in light patches on the grass. The trees were big, and the foliage was thick but it was not gloomy. There was no undergrowth, only the smooth grass, very green and fresh, and the big gray trees well spaced as though it were a park.

"This is country," Bill said. (12.19)

Bill’s simple statement says it all. He and Jake have no need for discussion—they have found what they’re looking for.

We stayed five days at Burguete and had good fishing. The nights were cold and the days were hot, and there was always a breeze even in the heat of the day. It was hot enough so that it felt good to wade in a cold stream, and then the sun dried you when you came out and sat on the bank. We found a stream with a pool deep enough to swim in. In the evenings we played three-handed bridge with a man named Harris, who has walked over from Saint Jean Pied de Port and was stopping at the inn for the fishing. He was pleasant and went with us twice to the Irati River. There was no word from Robert Cohn nor from Brett and Mike. (12.48)

This is an idyllic break from everything that stresses Jake out; he’s in the country, living the simple life with pleasant companions. The lack of correspondence from Cohn or Mike is the icing on the cake.

As soon as I baited up and dropped in again I hooked another and brought him in the same way. In a little while I had six. They were all about the same size. I laid them out, side by side, all their heads pointing the same way, and looked at them. They were beautifully colored and firm and hard from the cold water. It was a hot day so I slit them all and shucked out the insides, gills and all, and tossed them over across the river. I took the trout ashore, washed them in the cold, smoothly heavy water above the dam, and then picked some ferns and packed them all in the bag, three trout on a layer of ferns, then another layer of ferns, then three more trout, and then covered them with ferns. They looked nice in the ferns, and now the bag was bulky, and I put it in the shade of the tree. (12.29)

Jake is totally satisfied with the simple chore of packing up his catch—he has the same aura of focus and straightforward pleasure that we saw in his work at the newspaper office.

Book 2, Chapter 13
Bill Gorton

We walked back down the road from Roncesvalles with Harris between us. We had lunch at the inn and Harris went with us to the bus. He gave us his card, with his address in London and his club and his business address, and as we got on the bus he handed us each an envelope. I opened mine and there were a dozen flies in it. Harris had tied them himself. He tied all his own flies. "I say, Harris – " I began.

"No, no!" he said. He was climbing down from the bus. "They’re not first rate flies at all. I only thought if you fished them sometime it might remind you of what a good time we had." (13. 69)

The strong bond that we see between Bill and Jake in their time in the country is also reflected in their relationship with Harris. Even though they don’t know each other very well, all three clearly feel that a true friendship has emerged in their common appreciation for the country life—here, Harris touchingly expresses his gratitude for this in the form of flies (hilarious, but genuinely sweet, in our opinion).

Book 2, Chapter 14

It was a good morning, there were high white clouds above the mountains. It had rained a little in the night and it was fresh and cool on the plateau, and there was a wonderful view. We all felt good and we felt healthy, and I felt quite friendly to Cohn. You could not be upset about anything on a day like that. That was the last day before the fiesta. (14. 12)

Jake’s mood is influenced by the beautiful weather; as we’ve noted before, his feelings are often connected to his environment.

Book 2, Chapter 16

In the morning it was raining. A fog had come over the mountains from the sea. You could not see the tops of the mountains. The plateau was dull and gloomy, and the shapes of the trees and the houses were changed. I walked out beyond the town to look at the weather. The bad weather was coming over the mountains from the sea. (16.1)

Yet again, the weather signals a change that is to come—the fog is coming, and with it a whole lot of negativity.

Book 3, Chapter 19

I undressed in one of the bath-cabins, crossed the narrow line of beach and went into the water. I swam out, trying to swim through the rollers, but having to dive sometimes. Then in the quiet water I turned and floated. Floating I saw only the sky and felt the drop and lift of the swells…. The water was buoyant and cold. It felt as though you could never sink. (19.28)

Alone in San Sebastian, Jake can commune with nature and recuperate. The sensation of never sinking that he experience is one of tranquil hopefulness. For poor Jake’s sake, we wish this could go on for longer…