What, really, is liberation? In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Lady Brett Ashley appears, on the surface, to be a liberated woman- she refuses to commit to any one man, and makes her decisions based upon what she wants to do. Upon further analysis, though, Lady Brett Ashley’s independence is shallow. Having decided that she is in love with Pedro Romero, a young bullfighter, and needs him for her own self-respect, she loses control over herself. She relies on Jake Barnes, a longtime friend, to help her find him, and he complies, becoming an outlet for her control as well as a necessary assistance.
In this passage, Ernest Hemmingway uses language, word choice, and sentence structure as well as many other literary devices to portray the loss of control in both Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes. Lady Brett Ashley’s loss of control is probably most evident from her repetition of the statement “I’m a goner. ” The childish word choice and use of onomatopoeia almost make her appear hysterical- a true illustration of her inability to manage herself. However, this manifests itself in a number of ways- she loses the ability to manage herself physically, as well- her hand trembles, for instance. I can’t stop things. Feel that? ” The words “I can’t” are repeated throughout the dialogue- not only in her feelings toward Romero when she says “I can’t help it,” but even when she is talking about her future lifestyle- “I can’t just stay tight all the time. ” This repetition reiterates the notion that Lady Brett Ashley does not have control over things, as she appears to on the surface from her desire to stay autonomous from men and domineering relationships. The contradictory role of Brett as both independent and dependent is exemplified by her inability to comprehend what is and is not right.
She says, “I don’t say it’s right. It is right though for me. ” This nonsensical paradox of her imprudent desire to leave and find Romero indicate that she is only shallowly committed to her image of independence. The effect that her deep desire for Romero has on her makes her autonomous position even more unconvincing: “It’s tearing me all up inside. ” Here, desire is having an almost violent effect on her. By making herself the direct object, she is indicating that she is not the autonomous force- her desire for Romero is.
The perception of Brett as independent is shaken, as well, by the analysis of her strength- her opinions do not hold, and they appear capricious. Her fleeting nature is reflected in the fleeting sentence structure of her sentences, which are quick and choppy: “I’m a goner. I’m mad about the Romero boy. I’m in love with him, I think. ” Brett manifests her vulnerability in the language of her requests to Jake: “Oh, darling. Please stay by me. Please stay by me and see me through this. ” By repeating her request, Hemmingway makes Brett appear frantic. She is begging and relying on Jake for emotional support.
However, although she relies on him, Jake exhibits a sense of compliance. Although he clearly does not approve of Brett leaving Mike and running off with Romero, he replies with “sure. ” Brett is able to manipulate him by using diminutive words such as “darling,” which make Jake seem more pliable. Furthermore, she directs him using commands such as “don’t be difficult” and “come on,” which are contrasted with his feebler responses of, “you oughtn’t to do it,” and “you ought to stop it. ”- they appear mere requests. Finally, Jake is sucked in- when Brett says “let’s go and find him,” the dialogue ends.
Jake’s lack of a response indicates his forced compliance, and the dialogue is followed by an indication that he has left to go with her- “together we walked in the park in the dark…” They leave together, a symbol of their dependence upon each other. Brett is dependent on Pedro Romero, as well, for a sense of achievement- she cites “self-respect” as her reason for needing to find Romero, despite the fact that she does not “say it’s right”. Indeed, Romero himself seems to be an uncertain reason for leaving to go find him. She dilutes the forceful statement of “I’m in love with him” with “I think” juxtaposed at the end.
She refers to Romero as “the Romero boy,” an indication that her search for him is really not so much about him specifically, but more about her and her search for self-respect. In this regard, Brett is searching for internal fulfillment from external forces- she is depending on Romero for self-respect in the same way she relies on Jake for emotional support regarding her search for Romero. By repeating words and phrases that indicate Brett’s inability to deal with her problems, Hemmingway a picture of her that is contrary to the image painted by her lightly-tethered nature regarding nightlife and habits with men.
The paradoxes in this text are manifold, though, and they include Brett’s dependence on Jake but also a control over him, as well as her belief that leaving with Romero is both right and not right at the same time. And from her nondescript manner of describing Romero we can see that this attempt to find him is not about him or the love she feels for him, but her desire to gain control over her life and her self-respect. In this way, Brett is not truly liberated, as she lacks the control in her life that she needs to find personal fulfillment from within herself.
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