Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
The major theme of the novel is that war destroys more lives than just those on the battlefield. The theme is developed in the depiction of the degenerated society of the expatriate writers and artists in Paris, their malaise after the war, their dislocation from social values, their disdain for conventional thinking and values, and their inability to find a suitable alternative.
The minor theme of the novel is that love is often painful, as shown in the unrequited love affair between the protagonist and a temporary member of British royalty. Jake has been made impotent by the war and therefore cannot live with Brett as a lover. She has been hurt by the war too, when it took her young first love. As a result, she cannot make lasting commitments and instead has a series of brief, self-destructive sexual affairs. Jake and Brett love each other and torture each other with longing and obstructions. She reveals all of her affairs to him and, though it hurts him deeply, he withstands it in order to stay near her.
The mood of the novel is of irony and understated strong emotion. Hemingway, in his novel Death in the Afternoon, wrote "The dignity of the movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." It is in this artistic choice to show only the one-eighth, and to understate the rest, that Hemingway writes the mood of his novel, The Sun Also Rises. The protagonist and his close friends suffer constant shocks to their moral systems and act as though they are completely unaffected.