I loved this book in high school. I had to defend my love of this book to my closest friends. I bought it a couple years ago because I loved it, though I hadn’t read it again since high school, and I just wanted to have a copy of it because I like having copies of books and movies that I love. I decided to read it for the first time since high school to recall why I loved it so much.
This is a classic that I’m sure most people read in high school (unless you were like me and didn’t actually read half of the books you were supposed to in high school — this was one of the few I did), so I’m just going to share some random thoughts I had on this book:
1. Lady Ashley is one of the original Manic Pixie Dream Girls, if not THE original MPDG.
Every man falls in love with her. She somehow encompasses all of their desired traits. Yet no one can get her to settle down with them because they want of her what she doesn’t want to give. Making this correlation very early on in the book made me loath her more than I already would have. Of the four men she could potentially end up with, she picks the angry drunk who gets super fresh when another man shows interest because it is essentially what she thinks she deserves, even though you really just want her to be with Jake not because it will make her happy but you want Jake to be happy. This is essentially how I feel about the MPDG: The outcome of her storyline in my mind is not about her happiness but whether she can be compliant with the happiness of the character for whom I am rooting. And I was of course rooting for Jake because…
2. Jake Barnes is the fucking man.
He goes wherever and does whatever he wants. He keeps the company he wants to. He doesn’t keep company if he doesn’t want to. He can traipse about the continent and fish and drink and watch bull fights and drink. He makes friends with everyone effortlessly because he’s just a cool guy who knows how to be a proper member of society. He just knows what he’s fucking doing, and it’s awesome. The only thing not awesome about him is how he loves Brett and sometimes lets it dictate his life (like leaving San Sebastien after a day to tend to her), but it’s still pretty awesome that he doesn’t totally pine for her or make unrealistic expectations of their relationship because he’s actually a FUCKING NICE GUY. I am officially looking for my Jake Barnes.
3. I never knew who actually said what roughly 50% of the time.
Hemingway’s got a crazy dialogue writing style. Aside from the fact that absolutely everyone who said words in this book spoke in an absurdist drama style, Ernie was not very good and signifying who was saying what. Most of the time you could figure it out by what the dialogue was, but several times I would get lost in a conversation and have to read it a few times. I still have no idea who said some lines and probably never will. One of the friends to whom I had to defend the book in HS said the only way she got through it is by imagining all of the characters as sock puppets delivering this dialogue. I had to do that a couple times this read through. I have no idea if I could tolerate this writing style when I was in high school because I was massively into theater?
4. Also, not much really happens in this book.
Another observation based on writing style: Ernie likes to describe what’s going on in the moment a LOT. I feel like there could have been so many more zany adventures (and fishing trips with the random English guy they picked up!) if there wasn’t so much description of people, places and events coupled with the circular dialogue. I feel like this might be why I like non-fiction now, because it’s about things that happened, so things happen.
In summation, I’m starting to think I was maybe on drugs in high school, or my palate has just evolved since then. Please feel free to fight me on my assessment and explain some things to me. I never read the SparkNotes on this.