In Ernest Hemingway’s “Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises)” we are given an account of life in Europe, after the devastation of World War I. The main characters are expatriates living in Europe after all suffering through the War. Both their identity and their lives have been affected; consequently forcing them to be categorised as the lost generation1. In John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” we follow the Joad family as they travel west in search of a new, more prosperous life. The journey reveals the difficulties of creating an ordered, fully functioning society.
In contrast to the expatriates in “Fiesta”; the Joads’ migration can be categorised as an establishment of a new generation. That is to say, a new society built on ideals of individual success and prosperity, in western America. By exploring the major themes in both novels, we can see exactly what effects the First World War and westward migration have upon the main characters. Additionally, we can see how this relates to individual actions, and American society as a whole. In “Fiesta”, Hemingway presents us with a series of characters whose lives have been tragically altered by the effects of the First World War.
The characters are described as “expatriates” by Hemingway. An expatriate is defined as a person who lives outside their native country. This term usually applies to people who have fled from their home nation for particular reasons. The characters in “Fiesta” have taken refuge in Paris and Hemingway focuses upon their exploits in the city. The war has affected each of the main characters uniquely and significantly. Our protagonist is Jake Barnes. He was tragically wounded in the War; which has left him impotent. Then we have our second main character, Brett Ashley, a member of the English aristocracy.
She was a nurse during the war and her first love was killed. These two characters propel the novel’s main themes. They’re losses have significantly affected the way they live their lives in Paris. In Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” the Joad family leave their home in Oklahoma behind to fulfil their dreams of prosperity in the west. The Joad family suffers greatly during their search for happiness. The novel reveals the difficulties and corruption that existed during the formation of a western society. The Joads represent the innocent migrants, who were persecuted by a new, evolving society that expanded over the Great Plains.
Halliday makes the link of the expatriates in “Fiesta” to the experiences of the Joad family: “There are plains in many countries that could well serve as symbols of emptiness, desolation, disaster, and death- we have some in the American west. “2 Steinbeck criticises the glamorised perception that financial success is easily achievable in the west. For Steinbeck, only way you can achieve satisfaction in all areas, is after struggle and conflict. The Joad’s cope with their discrimination throughout by remaining united as a family. It is this method of survival and kindness that Steinbeck praises during the novel.
The effects of the War have lead critics to label the main characters in “Fiesta” as members of a lost generation. Their losses are significant in influencing the way they lead their lives in Paris. Being members of a lost generation, suggests that they have actually lost their sense of identity. This means that their lives no longer have any direction. The novel concentrates on the meaningless excess the main characters associate themselves with in Paris. Their lavish lifestyles lead us to believe that there is no moral boundaries in the world Hemingway has created here.
This is where we notice that gender roles have also been reversed. This is most evident with Jake and Brett. Jake’s wound, has in a sense removed his masculinity. He cannot maintain a relationship because of his impotence. This makes him feel less of a man; Jake’s impotence gives way to a society of sexual promiscuity where they live. There does not seem to be one successful relationship; even Robert Cohn’s relationship with Frances is spoiled. What Jake is left with, are the personal qualities of a woman. He becomes more interested in not being alone and has lost his control over his life and others.
It is his inevitable frustration that makes us pity him: “We thus find Jake Barnes’s war-wound impotence a kind of metaphor for the whole atmosphere of sterility and frustration… “3 Hemingway then uses Brett to show how gender roles are reversed in “Fiesta”. Brett also lost something during the war; “Her own true love had just kicked off with dysentery. “(p48) This is the only time that Brett has been in a meaningful relationship. With the loss of her fist love, Brett is no longer able to sustain a relationship built on love and trust. Hemingway reveals this by portraying Brett as a very masculine woman.
Her hair is short, she is boyish and she refers to the men as chaps. She is the promiscuous character in the novel; and behaves like a man, intimidating others and playing with the opposite sex. Spilka claims that this is the reason why love is not evident in the novel: “… when men no longer command respect, and women replace their natural warmth with masculine freedom and mobility, there can be no serious love. “4 The exchange in gender roles creates an additional misdirection in the lives of the main characters; without a sense of their own sexuality, they’re can be no internal identification of self.
By viewing the Joad family as the new generation, we can understand the significance of their rites of passage to the west. They are in a sense, on a pilgrimage to the Promised Land. It is necessary that tests must be passed during a pilgrimage; in order to achieve success and fulfilment. The entire journey is a search for new identity. They are no longer from Oklahoma; they have left it behind. Steinbeck has characters referring to the Joads as “Okies” throughout; nevertheless, all the migrants are united in the search for land and prosperity. They labour on the land but it is never fully theirs.
We recognize that the Joads will only feel like westerners when they’re blood and sweat has spilled onto their own land. For a new generation to be born, the older generation must give way. This is indicated with the death of both grandparents during the journey to the west. The grandparents are unable in making the transition to a new area or identification of self. They are tied to the land in Oklahoma; it is particularly significant that Grandma dies on the border to the west. She knows she cannot survive the difficulties that will face the rest of the family. Her own death is the beginning of the Joads progression into a new generation.
It is apparent throughout the novel, that the characters in “Fiesta” have no meaning or direction in their lives. Their days are filled with drinking, eating and dancing. Their lavish lifestyles have no structure, and they respect wealth. Count Mippipopolous is admired for his generosity and wealth. Brett only remains friends with him because of his generosity. His wealth represents his masculinity; Brett therefore admires him, while Jake cannot help but feel threatened: “‘Isn’t it wonderful,’ said Brett. ‘We all have titles.
Why haven’t you a title, Jake? ‘”(p68) The Count also comments on Brett’s lifestyle: “You’re always drinking my dear. (p70) Hemingway emphasises the extravagance of Brett and Jake’s lifestyle, through the outside characters. Robert Cohn is the prime example; he wants to escape it all and go to South America. Jake does not want to join him and we get the sense that he is afraid to start his life over again after the life he leads created by the aftermath of the war. The fact that Jake is hesitant in going also represents his dependence on a life with no structure or direction. In “The Grapes of Wrath” the only figures who experience excess and luxury, are the wealthy farm owners.
Steinbeck intentionally makes these characters anonymous; they are myths among the poor, oppressed workers in the west. Their wealth is in direct contrast to the poverty of the workers. The wealth of the farm owners is further increased due to the oppression of the labourers. Steinbeck makes a direct insult towards the wealthy who exploited the unskilled, western workforce. The Joad’s suffer to feed themselves and the feeling of injustice and subordination is reiterated during the Joad’s stay in the camps. The injustice of worker exploitation is linked with the theme of the overall lack of justice in “The Grapes of Wrath. The government run camps are personifications of injustice. There seems to be no structure of law or moral order. Steinbeck reveals that those who control the social and economic structures of the west are the complete antithesis of legality and order. This is the cause of the Joads’ persecution. Wealth and injustice also link into the Joads conversion into a new generation. Chapter 7 is the most effective example in revealing how the Joads have not yet crossed over into a modern lifestyle. The car salesmen, however, are fast talking opportunists.
They are out to exploit they’re customers; and the Joads are exploited throughout the text. Steinbeck is making the point that the modern, capitalist economy is dominated by greed and corruption: “Watch the woman’s face. If the woman likes it we can screw the old man. “(p68) It is a main theme throughout the novel that the Joads are representing the traditional, family values that Steinbeck believes America was built on. As the Joads struggle to survive in the exploitation and corruption of western capitalism; they are also struggling to promote their traditional values of kindness and togetherness: “… wenty families became one family, the children were the children of all. “(p206) In “Fiesta” none of the characters offer any meaningful advice to each other. They are blunt and sometimes extremely cruel during their conversations. The only person who does not retaliate is Robert: “I do not know how people could say such terrible things to Robert Cohn. “(p59) Robert is different to the other characters in the novel. He accepts the way the war has affected the others. He understands that they are incapable of being considerate to other people’s feelings. That is why he suffers so much humiliation.
His life has not been so drastically been poisoned by the aftermath of the war. As Spilka reveals, Robert has been affected in a different way: “… it turns him into an armed romantic, a man who can damage others in defense of his own beliefs. “5 By distinguishing the difference between Robert and the other characters, we understand his role in the novel. He is envied by all the men, except Romero. When he is introduced it is always under formal circumstances; either as “Robert Cohn” or simply just “Cohn. ” Jake especially admires his stubborn moral values and his ability to have an affectionate relationship with Frances.
Linked to the exchange of gender roles in “Fiesta”; we see the effects this has on the characters sexually. For example, Jake Barnes picks up a prostitute early on in the novel. He does not intend to sleep with her because he is impotent; instead he takes her out to dinner and dancing. The fact that he is impotent is the most relevant here, he says he feels sick: “She looked up to be kissed. She touched me with one hand and I put her hand away… ‘What’s the matter? You sick? ‘ ‘Yes. ‘ “(p21) His impotence has distanced him from women; therefore, rendering him unable to sustain a relationship or even feel sexually close to a woman ever again.
The only woman he can clearly show his affections to is Brett. Unfortunately, Jake cannot rescue her from her promiscuity, because they’re relationship can never be sexual. Leslie Fielder argues that Brett can never be saved because of Jake’s wound: “In the end, not only are her physical lovers unmanned and degraded, but even Jake, who is her priest and is protected by his terrible wound, is humiliated. “6 The only man capable of redeeming Brett is Romero the bullfighter. This is because he is different to every man in the rest of the novel. He has not lost his masculinity in any way shape or form.
He is respected as an aficionado and as a man. His relationship with Brett threatens her independent sexuality: “He wanted me to grow my hair out. Me, with long hair… He said it would make me more womanly. “(p280) Romero is in a sense nai?? ve that he thinks he can change Brett; however, Brett is also unwilling to be freed from her sexual confinement into a meaningful relationship. In “The Grapes of Wrath” the mother is the leader of the family. She takes the role of the father as he gradually fades away into insignificance, to direct and inspire her family into persevering against discrimination.
She is the foundation of the family; without her, we get the feeling that the family would not survive through its journey. Steinbeck describes her as a strong, muscular woman. As previously identified, both grandparents died before the family got to the west. There are many examples of death in the novel, yet there is only one distinct example of birth. Tied into the theme of birth, is the theme of motherhood. The only woman capable of both is Rose of Sharon. Towards the end of the novel, she gives birth to a stillborn child. This is extremely significant to the novel’s overall theme of the new generation.
The birth of the child represents the family’s success in converting to a new generation of westerners. The death of the old generation gives way for the new. Nevertheless, Steinbeck has the birth of the baby result in a death. This paradox reveals that the family has still not fully made its pilgrimage into the new generation. Rather than deal with the death as a disaster, the family continue on their journey, confident they will prevail. Steinbeck is showing the reader that even in death, there is hope; again linked with the death of the grandparents before the Joads reach the west.
The ending of the novel has Rose of Sharon acting like a mother, sustaining life with her body. Our final thought is that the family will be sustained by the land, like Rose of Sharon preserving life with her natural instinct as a mother. In “Fiesta” and “The Grapes of Wrath” we are presented with two distinct generations struggling to define each other. To fully integrate the texts into one identification of self; we must look at the basis of each novel. In the epigraph to “Fiesta” Hemingway uses two phrases; one from Gertrude Stein and an extract from Ecclesiastes, in the Bible.
Stein called the expatriates of the First World War the “lost generation. ” While in Ecclesiastes, Hemingway uses the quote: “One generation passeth away, and another generation commeth. ” The epigraph is important in revealing how Hemingway still believes there is hope for man’s salvation and that the lost generation will be replaced. Similarly, in “The Grapes of Wrath”, Steinbeck insisted on including the full version of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in its first edition: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming Lord/ He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored… 7 Steinbeck believed it had great significance and portrayed all types of American identity. Both authors used these sources for the original titles of both novels. “Fiesta” is also known as “The Sun Also Rises. ” Hemingway and Steinbeck are both making the point that man will find salvation against the persecution of society; and that the only form of life that will always remain is the earth. To conclude, we can see how both novels are linked in the search for identity and the salvation of man. Hemingway and Steinbeck criticise extravagance, because it fuels greed and corruption.
It is the traditional values portrayed by Romero and the Joads, which will save mankind. This is shown in “Fiesta”, when during the men’s fishing trip, Wilson-Harris confesses that “I’ve not had so much fun since the war… ” Their break from the city into a rural setting; away from the excess and greed of Paris convinces them that they can still escape from the effects of the war. In “The Grapes of Wrath” the Joads search for their identity as a family, trampling out the seeds of wrath planted by the corruption of man in the west. We get the sense that all the characters will be saved from their oppression and that man will always have hope.