I recently finished Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It was an excellent read, and afterwards I found myself wondering why its clipped sentences and narrative structure were so appealing. I could not understand why the book was so good, because I’m not literate enough to appreciate the nuances of writing. Here, I’d like to talk about what inferences I arrived at in the ruminations that followed. I hope anyone who reads this and has thoughts about Hemingway’s writing will put something down in the comments.
First of all, it struck me as one of the most realistic pieces of fiction I’ve read. Perhaps this was because I knew Hemingway was a Bullfighting enthusiast. I might have supposed that while tackling a theme so close to his heart, the man would have told the truth as it happened. Whatever the reason, I ended up ‘believing’ in what he was saying.
Secondly, the use of dialogue is impressive. The author frequently has three or more characters conversing in back to back lines of dialogue, without any narrative indication of who is talking when. The speaker is implicit in the speech. Just by looking at what has been said, it is easy for the reader to determine who it was that said it.
There is also the matter of Hemingway’s iceberg theory, which I read about and could not grasp fully. The name refers to the characteristic of icebergs to be only one-tenth above the waters’ surface. The rest of an iceberg is lurking beneath, invisible to a viewer above sea level. Hemingway theorizes that omitting from the text elements the writer has firm knowledge of leaves only a sense of them with the reader. Leaving out what can be felt, he seems to say, gives more strength to the story’s structure. He also warns that leaving out something the author does not know gives the impression of holes in the narrative.
In The Sun Also Rises, it is clear that the narrator, Jake, has suffered a war wound that has left him disabled in some manner. It is only through implication that it is made known that the effect the wound has had on him is to make him impotent. This fact becomes very clear to the reader, although it is never stated. Is this an application of the Iceberg Theory? All the examples I’ve read about of the theory being in practice have been more relating to the overall theme of a work than specific instances like this.
The novel appears quite blatantly to slander Jews. I suppose Anti-Semitism and racism were more accepted in the early twentieth century than they are now. Also, the characters’ prodigious consumption of alcohol seemed to me, in parts, a little funny.