The Lost Generation Through Cohn, Brett And Jake

1777 words - 8 pages

In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes, Robert Cohn and Lady Brett Ashley’s lives have been impacted by the outbreak of World War One. However, Cohn still lives by the pre-war values, mainly due to the fact that the war had little impact on him, unlike Jake who was injured in combat, or Brett, who lost her true love during the war. They all have characteristics that are similar with many people who were a part of what Gertrude Stein called “the lost generation”, a generation of people whose previous values were figuratively destroyed by the outbreak of World War I, and they wandered the post-war world without guidance, without a purpose. (Britannia 1 ) This is because ...view middle of the document...

The people that Cohn represents were living representations of the old Imperialist States, to many of the war veterans, and their societal beliefs of patriotism, self-sacrifice for the state and the glory of war. While Cohn never saw it, many saw the carnage, death, destruction and barbarity of the war, and all of their beliefs of the world changed when the war finally ended. Cohn never saw the failure of the old system, even after his fight with Romero. After Cohn completely beat up Romero when he found him with Brett, he tried to “shake hands with the bull-fighter fellow. No hard feelings… All for forgiveness.” (Hemingway 206) and he did this because it was his idea of the righteous thing to do after a fight. He even wanted to “take Brett away. [He] wanted to make an honest woman out of her” (Hemingway 205) because this is Cohn’s romanticized view of the world. Fighting with honor, all for a good cause, and trying to be romantic by “saving” Brett. But neither Brett nor Romero cared for what Cohn was doing. Romero refused to shake Cohn’s hand and “Brett gave [Cohn] what for. She told him off.” (Hemingway 205). Afterwards, Cohn ends up crying, mainly because he could not leave with Brett and make her a better woman, but also because no one follows his outdated social values. On the contrary, Cohn never adapts and changes this, instead, he keeps on reading fictional romanticized books about a distorted reality and continues living by the pre-war values. This is why Jake continually spites Cohn, because to Jake, Cohn represents all of the ideals that used to guide the people of their generation until the war broke out. Afterwards, many abandoned these values, and wandered aimlessly in life, searching for a purpose. This is who Jake represents.
Jake Barnes, the main character and combat veteran in Hemingway’s short story, represents almost the entirety of the lost generation. Those who had abandoned their previous values and traits after the end of World War One, losing the guidance that they had grew up with, and continually searching for a sense of purpose or direction in their life, but never really finding it. Jake’s life is constantly marred by the war, having seen combat and suffering an injury that prevents him from having sex. Gertrude Stein’s basis for the coining of the term “lost generation” was through the lifestyle many of these people lived during the 1920’s. Like many other men and women of his generation, Jake is very upset with the post-war world. Before the war, it is very likely that Jake could have shared similar values as Cohn does. However, due to the barbarity that Jake saw, he has a difficult time finding purpose to something. It is not hard to understand why Jake would be living a life void of a purpose. The new mechanized weapons in World War I demonstrated that there doesn’t need to be a reason for anything. Journalist Harry Mount stated that World War I was “the war that changed us all” (1). Just like many others,...

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