"'The Saloon Must Go and I Will Take It With Me': American Prohibition, Nationalism, and Expatriation in The Sun Also Rises" , by Jeffrey A. Schwartz
Studies In The Novel, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 180-201


Reviewed by Nakia S. Pope


Although noted for its lean style, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises contains a rich variety of themes, explored with considerable alacrity. One of these themes is exile, personified by Jake Barnes and the other expatriates who populate Paris. Jake and the other expatriates have become unmoored from traditional sources of meaning by the First World War. While the War and the Modern Situation prompted Hemingway to explore themes of exile in The Sun Also Rises, other factors contributed to the exile of Jake and his fellow expatriates. In his article "'The Salon Must Go, And I Will Take It With Me': American Prohibition, Nationalism, and Expatriation in The Sun Also Rises," Jeffrey A. Schwartz comments on the political and social factors noted by Hemingway in the text that led to expatriation.
Schwartz's argument is that Hemingway uses Jake, Bill, and the other expatriates of the novel to comment on American prohibition and the nationalism that accompanied it. According to Schwartz, this commentary is accomplished primarily through the fishing trip taken by Jake and Bill to Burguete. In this trip, Bill and Jake engage in a dialogue that references many of the outspoken proponents of prohibition, including William Jennings Bryan and Wayne B. Wheeler. These men were not only prohibitionists, but also American nationalists, fearful of immigrants corrupting the United States. Schwartz chronicles all the references given by Hemingway through Jake and Bill on their trip in order to explain how that dialogue satirizes these individuals for their conservatism, nationalism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-immigration stances.
Schwartz's argument regarding the political reasons for exile is further bolstered both by all the drinking in the novel and the general openness of the Basque culture in which the fishing and festival scenes are set. Dinking is a constant in The Sun Also Rises; it is also an activity that was then illegal in the United States. Much of this drinking takes place in the company of the Basque peoples, who warmly welcome Jake, Bill, and the others. Schwartz gives several examples of this welcome, centered around the sharing of the wine between Jake, Bill, and their fellow riders on the bus to Burguete. His point is that Hemingway is illustrating a culture that is open to visitors (and welcomes them with wine) at the same time American is restricting immigration and banning alcohol. Readers of Hemingway, particularly those readers who were his contemporaries, are meant to feel the force of the contrast.
Schwartz puts forth a well-developed and nuanced argument, commenting on the role Brett and Cohn play in Hemingway's critique the American social situation. I was certainly educated by the article and, for the most part, convinced by his argument. I had one point of significant disagreement, however. In his discussion of the significance of drinking in the novel, Schwartz lumps Jake in with Brett, Mike, and the other hard-drinking expatriates. While Schwartz differentiates Jake from Mike (who still lives in America but vacations in Europe) and Cohn (who fails to recognize the nationalism and discrimination of American despite his Jewishness), Jake serves as the ultimate exile for Schwartz. He is an exile not just because is way of viewing the world was irrevocably altered by the war, but also because he could no longer do the things he wanted to do in America. "For Jake, 'a good place' has a lot of liquor; following this logic, America was not 'a good place' because prohibition was in effect." While Schwartz is careful not to reduce Jake's exile to merely political or social terms, I believe he fails to properly differentiate Jake from the other expatriates. Jake does still have some core of values. These values may not be transcendent ones, but they are there. They emerge in his aficion and his tragic love for Brett.
While Schwartz's treatment of Jake may be a bit hasty, it does not significantly weaken his argument. Schwartz's article serves as both insightful criticism of The Sun Also Rises and as a perceptive contextualizing exposition. In a large survey class on American Literature, one cannot be exposed to the social and political trends and lines of thought that were contemporaneous with each work explored. Schwartz's article situates The Sun Also Rises within the time it was written without eliminating the contemporary value of the work. Thus, Schwartz is successful in both a critical and pedagogical sense.

RETURN TO REVIEWS 2 HOMEPAGE