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The Sun Also Rises

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English Literature

In the epigraph of The Sun Also Rises (1926), Ernest Hemingway wrote "you are all a lost generation." This was originally said by his friend author Gertrude Stein to describe a group of writers who wrote in the post-war period. Having lived through the horrors of the first world war, they felt unable to connect to pre-war values or beliefs. The Sun Also Rises (Fiesta in England) follows the story of a group of American and British expatriates as they go to the San Fermin festival in Pamplona. The plot is simple, yet the novel explores in depth the complex reality of the sentiments felt in the post-war era.

Historical Context of The Sun Also Rises

The historical context of the sun also rises in view

World War I and the Lost Generation

The Sun Also Rises has many characters who fought in World War I, including the narrator, Jake Barnes. 4.7 million men in the United States joined the war effort when the US entered the war in 1917, which is why so many of the war veterans in The Sun Also Rises are American.

World War I broke out in 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by Serbian nationalists. War engulfed Europe as the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) fought the Allies (France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, and Japan). The US entered the war in 1917 to support the Allies. WWI was extraordinarily violent and many died due to the use of heavy machinery and artillery for the first time. The war ended in 1919, leaving behind destruction and grief as well as economic struggles.

The Sun Also Rises + Trench Warfare WWI/ernest hemingway the sun also rises 1926 + StudySmaterSoldiers in a Trench during WWI, pixabay.com

Many soldiers who survived the war came home traumatized by the horror they had witnessed. Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver in Italy during the war and the horrors he witnessed led to a feeling of disillusionment.

Disillusionment is the disappointment one feels upon learning that what one once thought was good is not as good as it appeared to be. Hemingway, along with many other war veterans, had a hard time returning to the beliefs and values they once held before the war, which led to a sense of alienation from society.

In the 1920s, Lost Generation writers expressed in words this feeling of disillusionment and alienation, focusing on characters who experienced existential dilemmas and feelings of nihilism. Hemingway is considered one of the most famous writers of this era and focused his novels and short stories, including The Sun Also Rises, on the major themes of the Lost Generation: disillusionment, death, and alienation.

Existentialism - a philosophical belief that individuals are free agents and have free will and control over their actions and choices.

Nihilism- A belief that life is meaningless and death is inevitable.

Biographical Context of The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises + Ernest Hemingway/ernest hemingway the sun also rises 1926 + StudySmaterPortrait of Ernest Hemingway, pixabay.com

Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899 in Cicero, Illinois to a conservative, middle-class household. He spent his childhood in nature, going on many hunting and fishing trips. Before joining WWI, he wrote for the Kansas City Star, where he learned his distinctive, direct writing style. In 1919, Hemingway volunteered with the American Red Cross as an ambulance driver in Italy, where he experienced war firsthand.

When he came home from the war, Hemingway was traumatized and disillusioned. His experience as a war veteran informs many characters in The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway married Hadley Richardson in 1921 and moved to Paris as a correspondent for the Toronto Star.

He joined an influential literary and artistic circle which included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. During his time in Paris, he also took a trip with fellow expatriates to Spain to watch the bullfights during the San Fermin Festival, which inspired his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.

Summary of The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises is narrated by Jake Barnes, a World War I veteran and a journalist based in Paris. It opens with Jake providing a biographical description of his friend Robert Cohn, an American expatriate living in Paris with his girlfriend Frances Clyne, who is very controlling. Cohn wants to travel to South America with Jake because he is feeling restless, but Jake doesn't want to and instead wants to rid himself of Cohn.

Did you know The Sun Also Rises was banned in Boston, MA, in 1930, and in San Jose, CA, in 1960? Additionally, it was banned in Ireland in 1953. It was banned for its use of language and sexual content, which was deemed offensive and obscene.

Later, Jake finds himself at a nightclub and runs into the love of his life, Lady Brett Ashley, who is a divorced socialite. She met Jake during the war when she treated Jake's wounds. Although Brett loves Jake, we found out in a conversation between the two that Brett cannot commit to Jake, for he is impotent. In the morning while lunching with Cohn, Jake informs Cohn that she is going to marry Mike Campbell, an alcoholic war veteran.

Cohn is interested in Brett, which bothers Jake, as is still in love with her. In the evening Brett runs into Jake once more, after standing him up, at his apartment. She is accompanied by the Greek expatriate, Count Mippipopolous. She informs Jake she is going to San Sebastian as she wants to be apart from him.

Several weeks later, Jake makes plans with Bill, an American war veteran, to go to Spain to fish and attend the festival in Pamplona called the Fiesta de San Fermin. The Fiesta de San Fermin is a weeklong festival in Pamplona full of celebrations. What attracts people most, including the characters in The Sun Also Rises, is the famous bull-fighting and bull runs that occur. Around this time, Jake runs into Brett, who has just returned to Paris with her fiance, Mike. They ask Jake if they can join him in Pamplona which he agrees to. Brett secretly reveals to Jake that while in San Sebastian she was together with Cohn.

Bill, Jake, and Cohn travel together to Pamplona and wait for Brett and Mike. After they fail to show up, Bill and Jake go to Burguete to fish while Cohn stays behind to wait for Brett. Five days later, Brett informs Jake she and Mike will be arriving soon, so Jake and Bill return. Once everyone arrives they all go to watch the unloading of the bulls who will be used in the bullfighting.

The festival begins and the city plunges into drinking, dancing, and debauchery. Notably, the group of friends watches Pedro Romero, a 19-year-old bullfighter as he takes on the first bullfight. It is violent, but Brett is enthralled, and later he is introduced to Romero by Jake. While this is happening Mike fights Cohn. Brett falls in love with Romero and gets Jake's help in finding him for her so she can spend the night with him. Which she does.

The Sun Also Rises + Bullfighting/ernest hemingway the sun also rises 1926 + StudySmaterBullfighting, pixabay.com

The fighting between Cohn and Mike continues, with Jake caught in the middle. Cohn also reveals that he beat up Romero when he caught him with Brett. Romero refuses Cohn's apology. Cohn leaves before the bullfight. During the bullfight, Romero kills a bull and offers the ear to Brett, before leaving with her for Madrid.

The remaining three stay for the rest of the festival and depart from Spain. They each go their separate ways, and Jake goes to San Sebastian to relax. He receives a telegram from Brett asking to meet her in Madrid. Jake finds her alone in a hotel room. Not wishing to ruin his career, she has broken up with Romero.

Jake and Brett go back to Madrid. The story closes with Brett lamenting that Jake and she could've been wonderful together. Her inability to be with someone who is impotent is the reason they could never be together.

Analysis with Quotes of The Sun Also Rises

Let us take a look at the analysis, characters and quotes.

Key Characters in The Sun Also Rises

Character Description Analysis Quote
Jake Barnes The narrator. An American WWI veteran and journalist working in Paris. Jake is in love with Lady Brett Ashley and must grapple with his anguish.Jake's character is revealed implicitly throughout the novel but through dialogue, we see that Jake represents masculine insecurity (his impotence), disillusionment post-war, and the restlessness and anxiety many felt post-war. "That was morality; things that make you disgusted afterward. No, that must be immorality (Chapter 14)."
Robert Cohn A wealthy Jewish American living in Paris who did not fight in the war. He is often the target of antagonism. He is interested in Lady Brett Ashley.Due to the fact that Cohn is Jewish and not a war veteran, he feels like an outsider and is often the target of cruelty. He represents the prewar value and belief systems, especially when it comes to love and honor. His traditionalism contrasts those of the other characters. "Cohn still sat at the table. His face had the sallow, yellow look it got when he was insulted, but somehow he seemed to be enjoying it. The childish, drunken heroics of it. It was his affair with a lady of title." (Chapter 16)
Lady Brett Ashley A British socialist who is divorced and living in Paris. She loves Jake but cannot commit to him because of his impotence. She is fiercely independent and has multiple affairs throughout the novel. Brett is another character who displays the restless felt post-war. She is unable to commit to a single man and jumps from affair to affair. Despite her independence, it is clear she is unhappy. Her freedom and openness are considered flaws and destructive to the men. "She was looking into my eyes with that way she had of looking that made you wonder whether she really saw out of her own eyes. They would look on and on after everyone else's eyes in the world would have stopped looking." (Chapter 4)
Bill GortonA war veteran who drinks heavily and uses humor to deal with his trauma from the war. He is close friends with Jake.Bill is one of the only true friends Jake has in the novel. They have an emotional connection that Jake does not with other characters, revealing the shallowness of friendships post-war. "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 cafés." (Chapter 12)
Mike Campbell A Scottish war veteran who is engaged to Brett. He has a terrible temper.Mike represents masculine insecurity. Despite being engaged to Brett, she frequently has affairs with other men, which results in Mike feeling self-pity and insecure. “I’m rather drunk,” Mike said. “I think I’ll stay rather drunk. This is all awfully amusing, but it’s not too pleasant. It’s not too pleasant for me." (Chapter 16)
Pedro RomeroA 19-year-old Spanish bullfighter who has a short affair with Brett. Romero is a foil for Jake and his circle of friends. He is able to securely and confidently find a purpose in life, unlike Jake and his friend“The bulls are my best friends." (Chapter 13)

Foil - a character who contrasts the attitudes and emotions of another character, which emphasizes certain qualities in that character.

Genre and Writing Style

The Sun Also Rises is a modernist novel. The novel breaks from tradition, particularly with Hemingway's writing style. Hemingway preferred to write short sentences with short words and preferred direct, uncomplicated language. He wrote in prose style, which means the writing follows the natural flow and progression of spoken language.

Modernist Literature began in the late 19th century and continued into the 20th century. It was a conscious break from the writing style, themes, and structure of the traditional form of writing. It was a period of experimentation and increased technical and narrative freedom for others.

At noon of Sunday, the 6th of July, the fiesta exploded. There is no other way to describe it. People had been coming in all day from the country, but they were assimilated in the town and you did not notice them. The square was as quiet in the hot sun as on any other day. The peasants were in the outlying wine-shops. There they were drinking, getting ready for the fiesta. (Chapter 15)

Notice a few key elements of Hemingway's writing style in this excerpt. Notably, the sentences are very short and direct. We are provided a subject, for example, "the peasants", and the action, "were in the outlying wine-shops." There is no fancy description or overuse of adjectives.

Hemingway despised the traditional writing style of English literature that included long sentences full of adverbs and adjectives. His background as a journalist meant he was used to writing efficiently and directly and The Sun Also Rises is a perfect example of his journalistic tendencies shining through.

Hemingway also focused on quick dialogue that revealed certain characteristics of characters, rather than simply telling the reader about the character.

"Her name's Lady Ashley. Brett's her own name. She's a nice girl," I said. "She's getting a divorce and she's going to marry Mike Campbell. He's over in Scotland now. Why?"

"She's a remarkably attractive woman."

"Isn't she?"

"There's a certain quality about her, a certain fineness. She seems to be absolutely fine and straight."

"She's very nice. (Chapter 5)"

Here is a conversation between Jake and Cohn. Cohn is interested in Brett and asks Jake about her. Notice the short descriptions and quick back and forth between the characters. In this dialogue alone we learn about Brett, her qualities, and her fiance. We also learn about Cohn's attraction to her and Jake's growing dislike of Cohn, notable by the short, terse answers.

Themes in The Sun Also Rises

A theme is a central topic that occurs throughout a written work. Hemingway focuses on a few key themes in addressing the overall meaning of The Sun Also Rises: because of the war things that should be easy and comfortable are now distant, difficult, and uncomfortable. The resulting confusion causes the characters to question their life's purpose. In the face of such existential questions, we must simply resign ourselves to the coming and goings of life.

Disillusionment and Aimlessness

The majority of the characters in The Sun Also Rises are war veterans who must deal with the psychological and emotional trauma of having lived through so much violence. They have a hard time finding meaning in their lives and reject pre-war ideals and values of deep connections, romance, and commitment.

Cohn, who is not a war veteran, clings to these pre-war values, as seen through his romantic efforts towards Brett. However, the rest of the characters cannot find joy or meaning in their lives, not even with things that were once easy, such as merrymaking and friendships. In order to feel a sense of joy, they drink heavily, but they are never satisfied.

Similarly, Brett cannot commit to a single man and has multiple affairs. The restless sentiment of the characters who never stay in one setting long is representative of the overall atmosphere of the Lost Generation. Therefore, they spend the entire novel flitting from one thing to the next without an end goal.

Characters like Romero represent the opposite of disillusionment. He finds his purpose and passion in bullfighting and is able to ground himself. He is able to hold onto his pride, dignity, and honor, in contrast to the insecurity and anxiety of the other characters.

I stood up. I had heard them talking from a long way away. It all seemed like some bad play." (Chapter 17)

By describing the scene as a bad play, Hemingway wants the reader to feel how alienated Jake feels from reality. It is almost as if he is watching his life from the outside rather than fully experiencing it. This alienation is a result of disillusionment.

Masculine insecurity

The male characters, except Romero, all exhibit insecurity related to their masculinity. Pre-war ideals valued men who were stoic. However, the brutality of WWI meant that many of these masculine ideals of stoicism were broken down. The war veterans in the story feel anxiety and insecurity regarding their masculinity due to the psychological trauma they endured in the war.

Jake is impotent due to an injury he sustained during the war. The inability to have sex makes him feel less like a man, especially when it causes Brett to reject him. Mike is another example. Despite presenting as a large, strong man, he feels insecure in his ability to control Brett, who has many affairs. Because he cannot possess her, he feels insecure about his masculinity.

Cohn, who did not have to endure the war, is more secure in his masculinity and is often the target of antagonism for his friends, who pick on him. They project their insecurities on him by making fun of him for doing things, such as following Brett around—an unmasculine act. Brett's rejection of her feminity and somewhat masculine qualities, such as her short hair, masculine name, and fierce independence, also creates an emphasis on the "weakness" of the male characters.

Stoicism- a belief that one should not display their true feeling and emotions in the face of hardship or pain.

Oh, don't stand up and act as though you were going to hit me. That won't make any difference to me. Tell me, Robert. Why do you follow Brett around like a poor bloody steer? Don't you know you're not wanted? I know when I'm not wanted. Why don't you know when you're not wanted? You came down to San Sebastian where you weren't wanted, and followed Brett around like a bloody steer. Do you think that's right?" (Chapter 13)

Here Mike antagonizes Cohn. Mike feels insecure about his masculinity due to his own intimidation by Brett's sexuality, so he projects those insecurities by mocking Cohn. This causes Cohn to feel insecure about his own masculinity. The comparison to a steer who follows a woman around is Mike's way of saying Cohn is weak and under the influence of a woman. Women were seen as the subordinate sex to men, and here Cohn is not displaying his "masculine" domination.

Sex as a Destructive Force

Sex in the novel is a destructive force. Brett's freedom in sexuality causes jealousy, rage, and insecurity among the male characters. Hemingway was known to see an independent, strong woman as a negative force. Brett typifies the strong, independent woman, especially with her sexuality.

There are many instances where we can see that Brett's sexuality is dangerous. When Brett turns her attention towards Romero while in Pamplona, Cohn's jealousy leads him into a violent rage against Mike and Jake. Mike, too, antagonizes Cohn, who spent time with Brett in San Sebastian out of his own insecurity caused by Brett's sexual freedoms.

Brett breaks things off with Romero when she realizes her relationship with him will ruin his career. Jake's inability to have sex is the reason Brett will not commit to him, revealing once again that sex is a weapon. Hemingway wants the reader to see that sex is a powerful, destructive force that leads a majority of the male characters to feel miserable. Brett too is characterized as feeling unsatisfied and restless despite her many love affairs.

Oh, go to hell, Cohn," Mike called from the table. "Brett's gone off with the bull-fighter chap. They're on their honeymoon."

"You shut up."

"Oh, go to hell!" Mike said languidly.

"Is that where she is?" Cohn turned to me.

"Go to hell!" (Chapter 17)

Cohn, who has just found out Brett is having an affair with Romero, is sent into a jealous rage and attacks Mike and Jake. Here we can see the beginning of the turmoil that is caused by sexual jealousy.

Motifs

A motif is a repeating idea, image, or feature in a literary work that helps to further develop the central themes.

Drinking excessively

Drinking to the point of excess is found in nearly every chapter of The Sun Also Rises. A majority of the characters are alcoholics who drink to escape their reality. The war veterans in the novel, namely Jake, Mike, and Bill, have psychological and emotional trauma that is a result of the brutalities they endured in WWI.

To cope with the pain and suffering they feel as well as their inability to find meaning in their lives, the characters drink to excess. However, drinking only creates more conflict, as it usually brings out the worst in the characters. It leads Mike and Cohn to aggression and creates more psychological turmoil for Jake. There are scenes in which drinking a lot allows the characters to form bonds, such as when Jake and Bill go on a fishing trip.

Certainly like to drink,” Bill said. “You ought to try it sometimes, Jake." (Chapter 8)"

Here Bill recommends that Jake drink. Jake jokes that Bill has already had about 140 drinks ahead of him. This reveals Bill's reliance on alcohol to cope with his psychological and emotional traumas from the war.

Shallow Friendships

Meeting people after the war became easier, as many people had similar experiences they could bond over. However, these friendships were rather shallow and don't last long. The friendships were not based on affection or a deep emotional bond. This is particularly true in scenes in which Cohn and Jake interact.

It is clear Cohn likes Jake, but Jake makes it clear to the reader how much he dislikes Cohn. He even claims to hate Cohn when he finds out about Cohn's affair with Brett. Shallow friendships are seen throughout the book and further emphasize the aimlessness the characters feel, as a result of their disillusionment.

Just as they jump from bar to bar, city to city, they jump from friendship to friendship without creating a true emotional bond. Even Brett displays forms of shallow friendships through her short-lived affairs with multiple men. The only true emotional friendship that seems to exist in the novel is between Jake and Bill.

Significance

The Sun Also Rises is considered a great work of literature for its significance. The exploration of the sentiments felt by many after WWI reveals the inner psychology of many during this time, which is incredibly important in understanding how violence and brutality can affect a person.

Hemingway's writing style in The Sun Also Rises also had a major impact on literature. It helped introduce a writing style that stripped-down sentences to focus on the most important elements without excessive use of adjectives and adverbs. In this way, Hemingway contributed greatly to Modernist literature.

The Sun Also Rises - Key Takeaways

  • The Sun Also Rises was written in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway.
  • Ernest Hemingway was part of a group of writers called "The Lost Generation". They wrote about the psychological and emotional impact of living through WWI.
  • The novel follows the story of a group of expatriates traveling to Pamplona, Spain for a festival.
  • The theme explores themes such as disillusionment and aimlessness, masculine insecurity, and the powers of sex as a destructive force.
  • The main motifs in the novel are excess drinking and shallow friendships.
  • The overall meaning of the novel is that because of the war things that should be easy and comfortable are now distant, difficult, and uncomfortable, causing a questioning of one's life purpose.

The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway is the author of The Sun Also Rises. 

The Sun Also Rises is a fictional story but it is heavily inspired by Hemingway's own experiences in Pamplona during the Fiesta de San Fermin. 

The Sun Also Rises was banned in Boston, MA in 1930 and in San Jose, CA in 1960. Additionally, it was banned in Ireland in 1953. It was banned for its use of language and its sexual content. 

The Sun Also Rises is an important novel because it reveals the psychological and emotional effect of WWI on people in the post-war period. Its writing style of short, direct prose was an important development in the Modernist genre.  

The message of The Sun Also Rises is that because of the war things that should be easy and comfortable are now distant, difficult, and uncomfortable causing one to question their life purpose. In the face of such existential questions, we must simply resign ourselves to the coming and goings of life.

Final The Sun Also Rises Quiz

Question

Who wrote The Sun Also Rises?

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Answer

Ernest Hemingway 


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Question

When was The Sun Also Rises published?

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Answer

In 1926

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Question

What is 'The Lost Generation'?

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Answer

A group of writers who wrote in the post war period. Having lived through the horros of the first world war, they felt unable to connect to pre war values or beliefs. 

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Question

What is existentialism?

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Answer

A philosophical belief that individuals are free agents and have free will and control over their actions and choices. 

Show question

Question

What is nihilism?

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Answer

A belief that life is meaningless and death is inevitable. 

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Question

Who is Jake Barnes?

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Answer

The narrator. An American WWI veteran and journalist working in Paris. Jake is in love with Lady Brett Ashley and must grapple with his anguish.

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Question

Who is Robert Cohn?

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Answer

A wealthy Jewish American living in Paris who did not fight in the war. He is often the target of antagonism. He is interested in Lady Brett Ashley.

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Question

Who is Lady Brett Ashley?

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Answer

A British socialist who is divorced and living in Paris. She loves Jake but cannot commit to him because of his impotence. She is fiercely independent and has multiple affairs throughout the novel. 

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Question

What is a foil?

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Answer

A character who contrasts the attitudes and emotions of another character which emphasizes certain qualities in that character. 

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Question

What genre is The Sun Also Rises?

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Answer

Modernism 

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Question

What is modernist literature?

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Answer

a conscious break from the writing style, themes, and structure of the traditional form of writing. It was a period of experimentation and increased freedom for others. 

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Question

What are a few key characteristics of Hemingway's writing style?

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Answer

Short words, short sentences, direct sentences, snappy dialogue 

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Question

What is a theme?

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Answer

the central topic that occurs throughout a written work 

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Question

What are the central themes in The Sun Also Rises?

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Answer

Disillusionment and aimlessness, masculine insecurity, sex as a destructive force

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Question

What is motif?

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Answer

a repeating idea, image, or feature in a literary work that helps to further develop the central themes.  

Show question

Question

What are the main motifs in The Sun Also Rises?

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Answer

Drinking Excessively and Shallow Friendships

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