Mrs. Jane Everest
31 January 2012
The Sun Also Rises: The Design of an Alcoholic
Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is permeated with a multitude of references to alcohol. Hemingway once described it as a “book about a few drunks” (qtd. in Dardis 163). Matt Djos, author of “Alcoholism in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: A Wine and Roses Perspective on the Lost Generation” and English professor at Mesa State College in Colorado, goes as far as to describe the novel as a “description of the alcoholic mentality” (64). The copious amounts of alcohol consumed by the characters of the novel can presumably be attributed to boredom. As the official biographer of ...view middle of the document...
Jake, Brett, Mike, and Bill Gorton fit this description quite remarkably. For a novel that only takes place over a two week time period, an abnormal amount of that time spent involved alcohol or some sort of alcohol-endorsing atmosphere.
Jake’s alcoholism can be contributed to his past. Due to his time spent fighting in the war, he has adopted a self-mutilating lifestyle. His life is full of self-pity and the idea of powerlessness haunts him. Jake finds solace in the fact that he views himself as not having fault, but rather as being unique. This is “a trait common among unrecovered alcoholics” (Djos 67). Djos Beautifully describes Jake’s emotional situation by stating that “more often than not, [Jake] gets drunk or ends up alone in a hotel room or in his flat, staring at a ceiling while grousing about the hopelessness of his condition” (Djos 67). Jake chooses to suppress any feeling that there may in fact be something wrong with him; he chooses to just not think about it. Jake states that he just tries to “play along and just not make trouble for people” (Hemingway 39). Jake’s refusal to accept his circumstances is the main contributing factor that leads to his alcoholism.
Brett is constantly avoiding the conventional image of who a woman is supposed to be. She overcompensates for this fear of womanhood by seducing and attempting to control men. As Djos describes it, “Brett personifies the general female alcoholic with a remarkable prejudice for manipulation and orchestration” (68). She seduces men, lures them into her trap, and then abandons ship so to speak. Brett tends to target men’s emotions and she is relentless. If she sees an advantage to seducing a man, she will do so without hesitation. She seeks assurance in her ability to break the hearts of men, so she is constantly looking for a new victim. Alcohol makes it easier for Brett to seduce and play with the emotions of men; because of this she develops a dependency on alcohol.
Like Brett, Mike seeks pleasure in controlling others; he uses his money and connections to facilitate this. If given the opportunity, he will not hesitate to pick on someone he views as weaker than himself. This is “a typical enough character of any fear-ridden alcoholic” (Djos 68). Mike’s life has been full of failure in the past; his marriage life, work life, and sex life have all been failures. This does not bother him; however, he seems to take pride in this fact. In order to compensate this, Mike adopts the image of a ladies man and a playful drunk. He has no intentions of becoming sober or changing his ways; on page 207 Mike says, “I’m drunk, I think I’ll stay rather drunk” (Hemingway). Mike, unlike some of the other characters, knows he has a problem but refuses to address it.
At first, it is not apparent that Cohn suffers from alcoholism. Cohn shows all the signs of an alcoholic, yet...