Ernest Hemingway was a revolutionary figure in literature, and arguably one of the greatest American writers of all time. Though I must admit I am partial to him because of his good looks in the early years, it was his oh-so-famous writing that won me over. Now, as we begin to read and dissect this American legend in school, and I hear my friends’ laments over his various failings, I am ready to defend him.
Hemingway’s prose is said to be terse and rough, but I think he’s gentle, because he’s simple. He says what he sees without fancy words and loopy analogies that wind and twist. The prose, so stripped down and bare, is no affront to your senses, as, when in the wrong mood some prose can be, but rather it slowly pulls you in and gently carries you along, leaving you free to loll and float in its paragraphs and pages. This is never more so than with “The Sun Also Rises.”
And not only is it a current of his ever-individualistic diction in this first of the great novels of Hemingway, it is a current of characters, both flawed and entertaining. Hemingway introduces his readers to a colorful 1920s world of vice and purposelessness, giving us Jake Barnes as a guide. This early Hemingway protagonist watches from the sidelines as the others engage in endless folly and draws out the sympathy of the audience with his unrequited love for the shameless Lady Brett Ashley. Even this most disillusioned of characters has her charming traits – though loose and dissipated, she appears only to be like a lost child, and has a unique ability to endear herself to the reader even in her wild affairs and apparently aimless wanderings. And when all the characters come together for nights of riotous camaraderie, one can only smile.
Still, even with all these highly attractive qualities, I can imagine many of my friends would not be appeased, and would wail over a supposed lack of plot. Honestly, they would be right – but it doesn’t need one. The true story lies with the characters, and what better characters than the lively cast in “The Sun Also Rises”?
A typical so-called plot would serve only to distract the reader, but, as it stands, the ever-original outline of “The Sun” only functions to enhance the quality of weightlessness that this book offers.
In a world where we are constantly overstimulated by nearly all we encounter, “The Sun” offers a rare opportunity – a chance to drift along in a world of many colors, bombarded by no forced plots or taxing metaphors.
I know I read Hemingway the wrong way – but does it really matter? When you curl up on your couch at night to read, you seek only the enjoyment of the work, and Hemingway fully achieves just that in my favorite work of his.
Monica Wild is a sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy.