The Sun Also Rises Setting Essay Questions

Topic #1
Show how Hemingway uses setting to demonstrate his characters’ moral and ethical standards.

I. Thesis Statement: Hemingway uses a variety of settings to demonstrate various characters’ attitudes about life.

II. Paris
A. Excessive drinking
B. No religion
C. Idle rich
D. Abnormal sexual practices

III. Pamplona
A. Bullfighting
B. Cathedrals along countryside
C. Aficiónados

IV. Burguete
A. Fishing
B. Communing with nature
C. Harris

V. San Sebastian
A. Relaxation
B. Swimming
C. Bicycle race

VI. Madrid
A. All roads lead there
B. Comes to terms with Brett
C. Goes to Brett’s rescue

Topic #2
Show how Stein’s “lost generation” is represented in the novel. How does Hemingway feel about them?

I. Thesis Statement: By focusing on various characters’ injuries, Hemingway shows the lack of productivity and morals of the “lost generation.”

II. Jake
A. War injury
B. Impotent
C. Unable to satisfy his true love

III. Brett
A. Lost love
B. Alcoholic
C. Cannot find/keep true love
D. In abusive relationships

IV. Count Mippopolous
A. War injury
B. Self-satisfying
C. Shallow

V. Michael
A. War injury
B. Alcoholic
C. Financially bankrupt
D. Morally bankrupt
E. Mean to Robert

Topic #3
Show how Hemingway uses religion to demonstrate Jake’s code and his violation of it.

I. Thesis Statement: Hemingway uses a religious framework to develop Jake’s code and his violation of it.

II. Fishing in Burguete
A. Communion-like scene
B. Appreciation of nature
C. Simplicity of desires

III. Catholicism
A. On train to Burguete
B. Jake’s praying
C. Various cathedrals
D. Jake’s religion of record

IV. Pedro
A. Priest figure
B. Leader of three matadors
C. Aficiónado
D. Monastic room

V. Brett
A. Mary Magdalene figure
B. Sees she deserves Mike, not Romero
C. Tries to pray for Romero
D. Unable to make inner conversion

VI. Montoya
A. Laying on of hands
B. Secret with Jake
C. Aficiónado
D. Disapproves of Jake’s sin

VII. Bullfighting
A. Ritualistic
B. Spiritually awakening
C. Accompanied by extreme emotion

1924: Paris, France; Burguete, Spain; Pamplona, Spain; Madrid, Spain

We'll always have Paris: the first few chapters of the novel take place in a loosely fictionalized version of the famous community of expatriate writers and artists that Hemingway really lived in during the 1920's.

After the war, Paris became a mecca for English and American writers, including Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, among others. Jake and his friends move through the same world that Hemingway did, and they frequent the same bars, cafés, and nightclubs. Hemingway depicts the atmosphere in Paris ambivalently: it’s exciting but exhausting, simultaneously clean and dirty, thrilling and banal, and filled with a sense of unease and illness. Jake’s refuge is his newspaper office, where he can shut out the world and focus on his work.

Next up: Spain. We move through three locations in Spain, with varying degrees of country and city. First, Bill and Jake go to Burguete, a small country town where they fish and enjoy nature. This section is significant for its difference from the rest of the novel—the purity of the landscape, combined with their escape from the other characters, makes the fishing trip an exhilarating experience for both men.

But they soon move on to Pamplona, a small city famous for its bull-fights, where they meet up with the rest of the gang for the fiesta of San Fermin. The transition from countryside to fiesta is like Mike’s fall into bankruptcy: gradual, then all at once. When the fiesta really gets going, with its continual drunkenness and sense of lawlessness, the setting takes on an almost nightmarish quality.

Finally, after a brief stop to recover by the seaside at San Sebastian, Jake is drawn back into the nightmare urban space of Madrid, where he goes to comfort Brett after she ends her relationship with Romero. He experiences a kind of emotional numbness in this other city, caused by his own guilt over Brett and Romero’s affair. It’s important that Hemingway returns us to a purely urban setting for this last scene—its bleakness is emphasized by the distance from nature.

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