Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises Summary and Analysis | Ernest Hemingway

The narrator plays a great role in any kind of literary work. He tells a story to his readers through his own perception, expressing his feelings, emotions, and attitudes towards a particular person or action. But usually, the reader is the one to decide whether the narrator is reliable and can be trusted in. The narrator of every writer or poet is different and has his own features. Some of them can interest and intrigue the reader, the other can cause disgust and dislike. The narrator of Ernest Hemingway’s books requires special attention. He is usually extremely calm, steady and reserved that can bewilder the reader. The paper will focus on the idea and role of the narrator in Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises.

The Sun Also Rises Analysis

Porter Abbott in his book The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative writes that while reading “we may never have a good understanding of the real author, but we do have a chance of understanding the author implied by the narrative” (Abbott). He means that the reader tends to attribute his own feelings and emotions that influence the perception of the narration. The narrator of the novel The Sun Also Rises Jack Barns puts the reader in an uncomfortable situation. He informs nothing about his own character and makes the reader only guess about his real feelings and attitudes, thus creating an implied author. As Porter Abbott mentions, every person has a tendency to overread and underread the text, depending on our “different backgrounds, different sets of associations, different fears and desires” (Abbott). It means that every reader sees Jack as a different implied author and understands his words and actions in diverse ways.

The Sun Also Rises Characters

In my opinion, The Sun Also Rises is exactly a type of novel, where “the primacy effect” plays a great role. The first impression of narration and the narrator influences the further attitude and interpretation of discourse. The novel is written in the first-person narration and the narrator, Jake Barns, is also a member of events he describes. The way Jack talks about Cohn seems to be, for an unprepared and casual reader, simple and unemotional. But indeed, under the mask of reserve and restraint hides Jack’s real personality.

The very first chapter triggers “the primacy effect”. Jack starts his narration by introducing to the reader Robert Cohn.  Jake tells everything about Robert’s private and social life, but mentions nothing about himself, except being Cohn’s “tennis friend” (Hemingway). Talking about Cohn, Jack Barns reveals a lot of information about himself thanks to his individualism and bitter honesty (Halliday). He starts his story with a sentence that introduces his friend. From first sight, it may seem that Jack in such a way wants to concentrate the narration on Robert Cohn. But the second sentence dispels this assumption: “Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn” (Hemingway). With this very clause, Jack discloses his real attitude towards Cohn and puts under a question being his friend at all. The whole first chapter is a kind of criticizing Robert Cohn and his lifestyle. Jack, being an impotent, as we reveal later, talks very disapprovingly about his friend’s relations with women. He says: “he [Cohn] was married by the first girl who was nice to him”, “when he had made up his mind to leave his wife she left him”, “he had been taken in hand by a lady” (Hemingway). To my mind, such as irony and mocking, reveals Jack’s jealousy of being rejected by women because of his ‘battle wound’. Such a hidden hatred of Robert Cohn unfolds later. His unanswered beloved Lady Brett Ashley preferred Cohn over him.

All in all, through the whole novel Jack avoids talking about his true feelings. Being sad and disappointed because Brett did not show up on the date he says: “She was not there, so I set down and wrote some letters. They were not very good letters” (Hemingway). In such a way Jack disguises his being “not very good” because of Brett. To make a conclusion, Jake’s unwillingness, as a narrator, to write about and share his emotions, can characterize him as “a strong but physically and morally injured man”, who prefers to hide in “a shell of disillusionment” (Halliday). Providing such a form of narration Hemingway also avoids expressing his real feelings. That contributes to the comparison of the real author to an implied author and with the narrator.

Abbott, H. (2008). The Cambridge introduction to narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Halliday, E.M. (1952). Hemingway’s Narrative Perspective. The Sun Also Rises Themes. The Sewanee Review, 60(2), 202-218.
Hemingway, E. (1996). The sun also rises pdf. New York: Scribner.