The Sun Also Rises

by

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises: Allusions 3 key examples

Definition of Allusion
In literature, an allusion is an unexplained reference to someone or something outside of the text. Writers commonly allude to other literary works, famous individuals, historical events, or philosophical ideas... read full definition
In literature, an allusion is an unexplained reference to someone or something outside of the text. Writers commonly allude to other literary works, famous individuals... read full definition
In literature, an allusion is an unexplained reference to someone or something outside of the text. Writers commonly allude to... read full definition
Chapter 2
Explanation and Analysis—The Purple Land:

As Hemingway introduces readers to Robert Cohn, he establishes Cohn as a wistful and somewhat hopeless romantic. To drive the point home, in Chapter 1, he makes a double allusion to W. H. Hudson’s 19th-century novel The Purple Land and to the writing of Horatio Alger:

[...] Cohn had read and reread The Purple Land. The Purple Land is a very sinister book if read too late in life. It recounts splendid imaginary amorous adventures of a perfect English gentleman in an intensely romantic land, the scenery of which is very well described. For a man to take it at thirty-four as a guide-book to what life holds is about as safe as it would be for a man of the same age to enter Wall Street direct from a French convent, equipped with a complete set of the more practical Alger books.

The Purple Land recounts the tales of an Englishman adventuring as an expatriate in Uruguay with his Argentinian bride. It is a fantastical account of swashbuckling and romance with no obvious practical purpose as a life guide, just like the novels of Horatio Alger—known for his “rags-to-riches” stories—would be impractical as a guide for a man looking to become rich on Wall Street. Nevertheless, Cohn has found The Purple Land to be a clear comfort worth reading and re-reading. Through this allusion, therefore, the reader learns of Cohn's propensity for fantasy and his tendency to get caught up in the stories he tells himself. These qualities are on full display later in the novel, as Cohn’s infatuation with Brett and insistence that she is also in love with him begin to draw the ire of his companions.

Chapter 12
Explanation and Analysis—Jake the Bookworm:

Throughout the novel, Jake reads a number of books. The first of these he pages through while lounging against the trunk of a tree on his fishing trip with Bill, in Chapter 12:

It was a little past noon and there was not much shade, but I sat against the trunk of two of the trees that grew together, and read. The book was something by A. E. W. Mason, and I was reading a wonderful story about a man who had been frozen in the Alps and then fallen into a glacier and disappeared, and his bride was going to wait twenty-four years exactly for his body to come out on the moraine, while her true love waited too, and they were still waiting when Bill came up.

This is an allusion to the book Running Water by A. E. W. Mason. It is a mournful choice for Jake to fixate on a story of a doomed romance while in the midst of navigating his own, and it may represent some part of him that hopes Brett will hold out on her love despite his impotence.

In Chapter 14, as Jake struggles to fall asleep after a heavy night of drinking, he reads a different book:

I was reading a book by Turgenieff. Probably I read the same two pages over several times. It was one of the stories in “A Sportsman’s Sketches.” I had read it before, but it seemed quite new.

[…]

I knew that now, reading it in the oversensitized state of my mind after much too much brandy, I would remember it somewhere, and afterward it would seem as though it had really happened to me. I would always have it. That was another good thing you paid for and then had. Some time along toward daylight I went to sleep.

This is an allusion, as Hemingway himself makes explicit, to a work by Ivan Turgenev called A Sportsman’s Sketches or Sketches from a Hunter’s Album. It is a collection of short stories that Turgenev wrote about his experiences hunting in the nature surrounding his family’s estate, and it also contains stories based on his interactions with the peasants living in the area. Hemingway was quite the hunter, and Jake is quite the fisherman, so it makes sense that such a piece would be present in The Sun Also Rises.

Both these books reflect Jake's preoccupations: his obsession with love and romance despite his own impotence, as well as his incessant thoughts of sportsmanship and masculinity—found here with the sport of hunting and elsewhere with his knowledge of bullfighting. Through these allusions, Hemingway makes Jake that much more accessible to the reader by inviting speculation into his otherwise largely hidden inner life.

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Chapter 13
Explanation and Analysis—Circe:

In Chapter 13, Mike lets slip that Robert refers to Brett by the name Circe:

"I can't tell him. It's too ridiculous."

"I'll tell him."

"You won't, Michael. Don't be an ass."

"He calls her Circe," Mike said. "He claims she turns men into swine. Damn good. I wish I were one of these literary chaps."

This is an allusion to Homer’s Odyssey, in which the character Circe—an enchantress—curses men to turn into pigs. She also famously seduces Odysseus, the hero of the poem, and delays his return home from the Trojan war by an entire year. By referring to Brett as Circe, Robert articulates the incredible hold that Brett is able to have on men. This hold is visible throughout the story, as Robert, Mike, Jake, Romero, and Count Mippipopolous are all enamored with her (and numerous other characters comment on her beauty). This allusion also draws a comparison between the secluded getaway Robert shares with Brett in San Sebastian—during which the reader later learns they slept together—and Odysseus’ sequestered romance with Circe. Finally, making an allusion to such an old work of literature subtly suggests that the relational dynamic between Brett and her admirers is nothing new; it's as old as time.

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Chapter 14
Explanation and Analysis—Jake the Bookworm:

Throughout the novel, Jake reads a number of books. The first of these he pages through while lounging against the trunk of a tree on his fishing trip with Bill, in Chapter 12:

It was a little past noon and there was not much shade, but I sat against the trunk of two of the trees that grew together, and read. The book was something by A. E. W. Mason, and I was reading a wonderful story about a man who had been frozen in the Alps and then fallen into a glacier and disappeared, and his bride was going to wait twenty-four years exactly for his body to come out on the moraine, while her true love waited too, and they were still waiting when Bill came up.

This is an allusion to the book Running Water by A. E. W. Mason. It is a mournful choice for Jake to fixate on a story of a doomed romance while in the midst of navigating his own, and it may represent some part of him that hopes Brett will hold out on her love despite his impotence.

In Chapter 14, as Jake struggles to fall asleep after a heavy night of drinking, he reads a different book:

I was reading a book by Turgenieff. Probably I read the same two pages over several times. It was one of the stories in “A Sportsman’s Sketches.” I had read it before, but it seemed quite new.

[…]

I knew that now, reading it in the oversensitized state of my mind after much too much brandy, I would remember it somewhere, and afterward it would seem as though it had really happened to me. I would always have it. That was another good thing you paid for and then had. Some time along toward daylight I went to sleep.

This is an allusion, as Hemingway himself makes explicit, to a work by Ivan Turgenev called A Sportsman’s Sketches or Sketches from a Hunter’s Album. It is a collection of short stories that Turgenev wrote about his experiences hunting in the nature surrounding his family’s estate, and it also contains stories based on his interactions with the peasants living in the area. Hemingway was quite the hunter, and Jake is quite the fisherman, so it makes sense that such a piece would be present in The Sun Also Rises.

Both these books reflect Jake's preoccupations: his obsession with love and romance despite his own impotence, as well as his incessant thoughts of sportsmanship and masculinity—found here with the sport of hunting and elsewhere with his knowledge of bullfighting. Through these allusions, Hemingway makes Jake that much more accessible to the reader by inviting speculation into his otherwise largely hidden inner life.

Unlock with LitCharts A+