I don’t own this book, so I don’t have to decide whether to keep or toss The Sun Also Rises. However, it is a volume that made a lasting impression on me, and definitely deserves a post.
In Hemingway’s typical style, the book dragged on and on and on. I had to force myself to read it to the end, but some invisible drive inside pushed me to keep going. It was my freshman year in high school, and the book was an extra credit assignment. I believe something along the lines of “you don’t have to take the final exam if you read this book and write a paragraph on it.” Of course, that’s what I chose, because I was an avid reader. It may not have even involved a free pass from an exam actually. But I was an overachiever back then, so extra credit seemed like a wonderful idea! Turns out it was one of the best decisions of my life.
As a senior I took AP English. That meant that if I took the AP test at the end of the year, I would get college credit and wouldn’t have to take an English class in college. I hated English because I dreaded writing essays (funny how things turn out… ). The final essay question on that AP test gave a selection of books to write on. “The Sun Also Rises” was on there, and it was the ONLY book on the list which I remembered vividly enough to write on. The others I either haven’t read or didn’t recall the plot line and character names. I wrote the essay, passed the test, and never ever had to take any English classes again!
I still remember the story well, even though I haven’t read the book since high school. It took place in the 1920’s Europe, right after World War I. The characters were Americans traveling from Paris to Spain to see the festival of the bulls. It was reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, but overseas. A time where the characters wandered aimlessly, attempting to find their purpose. There was also an injury of the type that prevented a love story from unfolding, although Hemingway never mentioned directly what was going on. It was a “read between the lines” type of deal, and all you had to go on were the people’s actions which somehow clearly depicted their emotions.
What I related to in the novel was the freedom that the characters had to aimlessly wander. I longed for that. As a 14 year-old I couldn’t wait to grow up and have the ability to go where I pleased! The closest I got to the freedom was when I paid off my college loans and moved out of my parents at 22. Although I realized that doing whatever they wanted didn’t give the characters peace or happiness, I still wanted what they had. I wanted that experience of searching for myself, because for a 14-year-old I had things surprisingly too well figured out. But they were figured out in a very narrow frame placed on me by family and church, which was just a tad too narrow and weighed on me heavily until I had the guts to throw it off and test my limits. I got to experience the search for self in real life during the few years between parents and marriage, so in essence I got what I longed for while reading “The Sun Also Rises.” I am very thankful for that time in my life, as it gave me a chance to develop a broader personality and outlook on the world, and truly figure out who I am, what I stand for, and what my goals are in life.