In the years following World War I, a group of disillusioned expatriates travel from Paris to Spain to watch bullfighting and participate in the festivities.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
“The Lost Generation” describes the political and social climate of a period of American history in which numerous highly celebrated authors and artists from the United States grew disillusioned with and disavowed their home country.
Have students read this text before beginning the novel, in order to provide them with background on the author and the period he was writing in. Ask students to discuss how an author’s personal experiences can shape their work. Considering the era in which Hemingway wrote the novel, in what ways might global events have shaped his attitudes? What sort of themes do students expect to find in a post-World War I book?
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (1886-1967) was an English writer, poet, and soldier. “Dreamers,” a poem about the dark side of war and its impact on soldiers, was likely inspired by Sassoon’s own experiences in World War I.
Introduce this text after Chapter IV, in order to have students discuss the mental and emotional toll that soldiers experienced during World War I. Ask students to compare the experiences of the soldiers in the poem to those of Jake. What do the soldiers in Sassoon’s poem dream of? What does Jake long for, now that the war is over?
Mike Kubic’s article “The Roaring Twenties” explores the ups and downs of this exciting era and the events that led to the Great Depression.
Have students read this text after finishing Book I, in order to compare and contrast character and setting. In Chapter VII, Jake, Brett, and their fellow expatriates go out drinking and dancing. Ask students to compare Hemingway’s vision of Paris to Kubic’s description of America in the 1920s. How do the characters in the novel share the attitudes of their counterparts in the U.S.? Why might Jake and Robert Cohn have decided to move to Europe during this time?
The informational text “Scientists Reveal Three Keys to Happiness” discusses Stephen and Rachel Kaplan’s findings on how to achieve happiness.
Introduce this text after Chapter XII, in order for students to apply scientific theory to their character analysis. In this chapter, Jake and Bill have spent a blissful five days fishing, but are about to return to the city. Ask students to evaluate the ways in which the characters seek happiness. How does their behavior compare with the advice in the informational text? How does being in nature affect them emotionally? Are they participating in life, or being ignored? Do they see themselves as having an impact on the world around them?
Dr. Gregory Burns, a professor of behavioral science, conducted several experiments to study why humans readily conform. ABC’s Primetime recreated these experiments using several unsuspecting people.
Have students read this text after they have completed Chapter XIV, and ask them to discuss how Robert Cohn might be an example of “following the crowd.” How does Cohn feel about the chaotic festivities, especially the bullfight? How does social pressure, as detailed in “Why Do People Follow the Crowd?”, cause Cohn to alter his views? Cohn is the outsider of the group, being both Jewish and of a lower social class than the others. Given how often he is harassed about this, why does he continue to stay with the group?
For a veteran returning home from Afghanistan or Iraq, the mental trauma of having killed someone can be just as devastating as physical injury. The Department of Veteran Affairs has called this problem “moral injury,” but some veterans think this phrase minimizes the horror of killing. In 2013, Timothy Kudo, a former Marine captain, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post about grappling with moral injury. In this text, he shares his experience with NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter XVII. In this section, Mike briefly describes how abusive Lord Ashley became towards Brett after returning from the war. Ask students to use Captain Kudo’s experiences in order to analyze Ashley’s transformation. How might ‘moral injury’ have affected Ashley? How might Jake and Brett be also carrying the war with them? Why do they rarely discuss their memories of the war?
In “Coping Mechanisms,” the author explains the difference between adaptive and maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Have students read this text after finishing Book II, in order for them to apply psychological theory to their character analysis. World War I has a strong impact on the characters, but they rarely discuss it and spend most of their time partying. Ask students to use the theories in “Coping Mechanisms” to discuss which coping mechanisms the believe Jake, Brett, Mike, Bill, and others might be using to deal with their pasts. With what attitude do they talk about the war? How might they be trying to forget their traumatic memories? What indications do they give that they may be in denial, or dissociating from their lives?
This text outlines the Strauss & Howe theory that each generation is shaped and defined by the notable historical events and social trends of their time.
Introduce this text to students after they have finished the novel and ask them to discuss how the characters in the novel might function within Strauss and Howes’ generational theory. How well do the characters represent the Lost Generation, as described in the text? In addition to World War I, what other events might have shaped this generation? How do other generations share similarities to the Lost Generation? What can we learn from past generations by reading key works like "The Sun Also Rises"?