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The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

Drugs and Alcohol Theme

The characters in The Sun Also Rises are serious drinkers – they drink like it’s their job. Actually, alcoholism practically is a profession for one of the characters (Mike), a slacker whose major distinguishing factor is his ability to get drunk and stay drunk for days, possibly years, on end. Alcohol provides a much-needed escape from the realities of the world that Hemingway’s characters move through; it allows them to push away their personal doubts and fears, as well as renounce responsibility for their actions. Drinking is a largely ineffectual coping mechanism for this group of aimless, uncertain, and irresponsible people.

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. Is alcohol an effective mode of escapism in this novel?
  2. Does the constant drunkenness of all, or most, of the characters in the novel detract from the seriousness of their conversations? Do we/should we believe what they say?
  3. How does Robert Cohn’s reaction to drunkenness (he passes out) reflect on his character?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The characters in The Sun Also Rises attempt to use alcohol as an anaesthetic, to avoid the pain of dealing with their various identity crises.

Different characters have different uses for alcohol in the novel; while Mike uses drunkenness as an escape mechanism and an excuse for his outrageous behavior, Jake and Bill are both able to use alcohol productively to stimulate creativity.

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