The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, would work well in conjunction with a history lesson about the aftermath of World War I, specifically about the effects of the war on the "Lost Generation." Receiving historical context of the time period and learning about Hemingway's own experience with the war are essential in order to understand the novel. Teachers should provide students with a brief overview of Hemingway's life and cite the reasons so many Americans, especially writers and artists, found themselves in Europe following the war.

A definition of the "Lost Generation" and information about the group of writers who defined that generation will also aid students in understanding the characters in the novel. Accompanying this book with other works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot, for example, will allow students to analyze the characteristics of a novel from the "Lost Generation."


Hailed as one of the definitive novels of the "Lost Generation," The Sun Also Rises examines the aftermath of World War I through a group of American and English expatriates living in Europe. Protagonist Jake Barnes and his cohorts travel from Paris, France to Pamplona, Spain for the festival of San Fermin. During their time in Spain, tensions arise as true feelings and personalities are exposed.

Objectives for Teaching
The Sun Also Rises

  • Cite and discuss the characters who possess the maturity and ability to control emotions in social situations to accept the flaws of others.
  • Discuss the author's style of writing regarding his short, simple sentences and use of dialogue to reveal character traits and motivations.
  • Define anti-Semitism and comment on the way this prejudice affects how Cohn is accepted by others.
  • Contrast Jake's realistic approach to life with Cohn's idealistic approach.
  • Identify three incidents in which water helps the protagonist experience renewal.
  • Write a character profile on Lady Ashley and discuss her affect on the story.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Anecdote
  • Humor
  • Realism
  • Sarcasm
  • Satire
  • Style

Themes and Motifs

  • The Lost Generation — The generation who came of age during World War I is called the Lost Generation because the war experiences and social upheaval lead to disillusioned or cynical outlooks, leaving them lost and with nothing to believe in. The characters in this novel are members of this generation —American expatriates restlessly wandering around Europe, disconnected from their home.
  • Masculinity — In this novel, Hemingway challenges the traditional traits of men. The insecurity of the male characters creates competition and rivalry surrounding the Lady Brett Ashley, the only female main character. The war has changed the men and the idea of masculinity. Jake Barnes serves as a symbol of lost masculine identity because he has been physically emasculated by an injury from the war, which prevents Brett from being with him.
  • Love —  From the beginning of the story, it is made clear that the two lovers, Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes, will not be together. Though it is evident that they love each other, Lady Ashley needs more than what Jake can offer her. Love for Lady Ashley also causes competition and jealousy amongst the group of friends.

Related Works

Theme of Lost Generation


Theme of Masculinity


Theme of Love

Key Facts

  • Length: 256 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 610
  • Publication Date: 1926
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9–10


The Sun Also Rises was adapted into a 1957 movie directed by Henry King, starring Tyrone Powers and Jake Gardener.

Your students will love:

  • The glamorous depictions of life in 1920s Europe
  • Learning about the lives of the Lost Generation

Students may have problems with:

  • The abrupt start of the story
  • Hemingway's terse, dialogue-driven writing style

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