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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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Jake and Bill board a crowded bus to Burguete, where a lovely camaraderie develops between the Americans and the Spaniards. A big leather wine bag is passed around. The peasants are generous and uncomplicated; they want nothing in return. Neither city life nor the war has destroyed their simple enjoyment of life.

The Spanish countryside suddenly opens on a "green valley," like a vision of Eden. A stream goes through the center of town, and fields of grapes touch the houses. The cares of the city seem to fall away as Jake and Bill reach an inn high in the mountains, near the Irati River, where they will fish the next day. At first they think the proprietress is overcharging. But they needn't be suspicious; wine is included with the room. They eat and go to bed. "It felt good to be warm and in bed," says Jake, and we have to ask ourselves, is this the same man who was tortured by insomnia only days ago, back in Paris?


The next morning Jake wakes up early and goes out to dig worms for the fishing trip. Bill wants Jake to be ironical but Jake can't. Now that he's in Spain he wants everything simple and straightforward. (To be ironical is to make fun of things, something the count said one shouldn't do.)

Bill, unable to get Jake to be ironical with him, knocks him for being an expatriate.

You're an expatriate. You've lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes.

Bill is half-joking here, and Jake accepts all the criticism except that about his commitment to his work. He can't joke about that at all.


Notice how Hemingway's male characters avoid intimate or emotional conversations. The Hemingway hero handles his emotional burdens alone. For Jake it would be repulsive to speak to Bill about his impotence. Robert Cohn, who will confess his innermost feelings to anyone who will listen, is one of Hemingway's antiheroes.

Jake and Bill hike to the Irati River to fish. The falls are simply jumping with trout.


The river teeming with fish is a symbol of fertility, an antidote to the sterile wasteland of the modern city. Jake, as Fisher King, is right at home. The fish are even easy to catch. Jake simply baits his hook and the fish grab it. The fish themselves are beautiful, cool, and firm. Everything is perfect.

Jake reads a book, a fanciful tale of a man who has fallen into a glacier, and the woman who is going to wait 24 years for him to unfreeze. Some readers see this as an ironic comment on "true love": the person who waits for it never gets anything.

Bill mentions at lunch that Bryan died yesterday. He's referring to William Jennings Bryan, the famous politician and orator who fought against the right to teach evolutionary theory. Notice, when he makes fun of Bryan's beliefs, how Bill always has to be "on," always has to poke fun at someone or something. He seems able to stand only by crushing the rest of the world beneath him.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Study Guide

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