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Who's Who in 'The Sun Also Rises'

It is no secret that Ernest Hemingway drew on his personal experiences attending the bullfights in Pamplona to draft his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. He was particularly interested in the bullfights, and the surrounding fiesta, and had been twice before the fateful July of 1925.

Hemingway and a group of other expats travelled from Paris, France to Pamplona, Spain (this is the Lost Generation after all) to take in the festival. However, tensions were running high and no one seemed to be getting alongth. Yes, I am summarizing the plot of The Sun Also Rises, but I am also recounting Hemingway's firsthand account of the groups' visit that summer. After the group disbanded, on less than friendly terms, Hemingway would immediately begin work on what would become his first novel that brought him fame. Not only did Hemingway use his frenemies' personal histories as backstories for his characters, his first draft used their real names!

Below is a who's who of the real people in Hemingway's circle and the characters they 'became' in the novel:

  • Jake Barnes is meant to be Hemingway himself--the 'neutral' if unstable observer. Interesting then that Hemingway chose to make this character impotent.

  • The portrait of Lady Brett Ashley tarnished the reputation of Lady Duff Twysden. She was known for her jaunty hats, scandalous divorce, and drinking habits.

  • Robert Cohn is meant to portray Harold Loeb who had been a boxer at an ivy league school and had ties to two of New York's most well-known Jewish families. And he did have an affair with Lady Duff.

  • Mike Campbell is based on Patrick Guthrie who really was a Scotsman in need of money (and prone to violence).

  • Although she denied it, there are letters that indicate that Kathleen Eaton Cannell was the basis for Cohn's girlfriend Frances Clyne.

  • Bullfighter Pedro Romero is based on 19-year-old matador Cayetano Ordoñez.

Curious to learn more about your favourite classic novels? Check this out:

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