The Sun Also Rises is written in Hemingway's trademark modernist prose, marked by short, staccato sentences and rapid-fire dialogue that aims to capture the energy and tone of a conversation without spending much time on the actual description. In keeping with his “iceberg theory” of writing, it is largely left up to the reader to piece together the subtext and inner themes of the novel—this is the unseen “bottom” of the iceberg that Hemingway uses to represent his writing style and the idea of using concealment instead of outright revelation.
Frequently, Hemingway injects the surface of his writing with wry humor and bitter sarcasm. This is on full display in his description of Madame Lecomte’s restaurant in Chapter 8:
It was crowded with Americans and we had to stand up and wait for a place. Some one had put it in the American Women’s Club list as a quaint restaurant on the Paris quais as yet untouched by Americans, so we had to wait forty-five minutes for a table.
In this set of matter-of-fact statements, Hemingway expresses Jake’s expatriate bemusement at the tourists overtaking his favorite haunts in Paris, revealing his penchant for snark by juxtaposing the restaurant’s favorable review as “quaint” with the resultant crowd drawn in by this review.
Hemingway also makes ample use of dialogue to convey the relationships between his characters and capture the conversational spirit of his time. Dialogue is largely unattributed, and the short comments from each character lead to extended back-and-forths that carry a frenetic momentum but force the reader to carefully track their flow:
“You know I met my ex-partner yesterday in London. Chap who did me in.”
“What did he say?”
“Bought me a drink. […] I say, Brett, you are a lovely piece. Don’t you think she’s beautiful?”
“Beautiful. With this nose?”
“It’s a lovely nose. Go on, point it at me. Isn’t she a lovely piece?”
“Couldn’t we have kept the man in Scotland?”
“I say, Brett, let’s turn in early.”
“Don’t be indecent, Michael. Remember there are ladies at this bar.”
“Isn’t she a lovely piece? Don’t you think so, Jake?”
“There’s a fight to-night,” Bill said. “Like to go?”
In one go, this conversation flows through all manner of subjects—from Mike Campbell’s drama in London to his repeated confessions of love for Brett to Brett’s nose to an upcoming boxing match. Hemingway keeps his characters moving through these subjects at a relentless clip, keeping the conversation moving and illustrating the chaotic nature of a drunken interaction between friends at a bar.