The Sun Also Rises
Both Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Bowle’s The Sheltering Sky illustrate the different modes of travel discussed in Erik Cohen’s “A Phenomenology of Tourist Experiences” and deal with the issues Cohen asserts these different modes can present.
In The Sun Also Rises the main protagonist, Jake, is an expatriate who has “lost touch with the soil,” (Hemingway 120). He spends much of his time drinking although he does also work as a writer. Jake can be seen as an experiential or experimental tourist. In Paris, as the role of an expatriate, he would be said to align with the experimental form of travel. He is “lacking clearly defined priorities and ultimate commitments,” (Cohen 189). He does not conform to the centre of the American society, which at the time had prohibition and his centre has been lost because of World War I, which undermined all of his beliefs in morality and justice; he is now “endowed with a ‘decentralized personality,’” (Cohen 189). The problem addressed by both Hemingway and Cohen about the expatriates of the Lost Generation and the experimental tourist is that both can “easily become an ‘eternal seeker,’” (Cohen 195).
Jake can also be said to be an experiential traveler – he travels to Spain because he is “unable to lead an authentic life at home” (Cohen 187) and he attempts to “recapture meaning by a vicarious, essentially aesthetic, experience of the authenticity of the life of others,” (Cohen 187). His aficion – or passion for bullfights – is Jake’s search for meaning through the experience of the bullfighters. Through Pedro Romero’s authentic bullfighting ("Romero never made any contortions, always it was straight and pure and natural in line…The others twisted themselves like corkscrews ... to give a faked look of danger" (167-68)), Jake gets the aesthetic experience that the experiential tourist seeks. Jake is also drawn to this Spanish masochism because he views this as the authentic masculinity that he is lacking. Through being an aficionado, Jake thus experiences this authenticity, although only aesthetically. This of course does not give Jake’s life any more meaning, as the “authenticity of others may reassure and uplift the tourist, but does not provide a new meaning and guidance to his life,” (Cohen 188).
Brett’s character can’t commit to anything and doesn’t seem to be sure of what she wants. She is an experimental tourist who is “in search of an in search of,” (Cohen 189). “The traveler in the ‘experimental mode engages in that authentic life, but refuses fully to commit himself to it; rather, he samples and compares the different alternatives, hoping eventually to discover on which will suit his particular needs and desires,” (Cohen 189). This is shown in her ambivalence towards men; she wanders from relationship to relationship just as she wanders from place to place. In the end when she leaves Pedro, she seems to “lose the faculty of making choices,” (Cohen 189) and to be unable to commit herself to one thing. The character of Brett again addressed the issue of the experiment tourist as an ‘eternal seeker.’
Robert Cohn’s reasons for travelling are seen as less authentic in The Sun Also Rises. He is still holds on to pre-war values of chivalry and honor but has felt alienated in society because of he was Jewish; especially when he attended Princeton. Cohn could at first be categorized as a recreational tourist since he doesn’t seem to be at first interested in the idea of authenticity – he wants to have an adventure like that of a book which was mostly fictionalized. Cohn is looked down upon by the other characters because he reminds the characters of the insecurity the feel about their search for the authentic that is missing in their lives and their absent value system. The characters in The Sun Also Rises represent the Lost Generation in many ways. The Lost Generation was full of ‘eternal seekers.’ The “inauthenticity of life in [their] own society, coupled with the ‘…reminder...of reality and authenticity elsewhere,’” (Cohen 188) fueled much of the Lost Generation to become expatriates in Europe. Travelers of the Lost Generation mostly fell into the experiential or experimental modes of tourism. Authenticity then must have been important for the Lost Generation who was trying to find meaning in the postwar world. The problem of commitment also seems to be a theme in The Sun Also Rises, as none of the characters seem to be able to stay grounded.
In The Sheltering Sky, Bowles presents us with Port and Kit. Both begin as experimental and experiential tourists – they consider themselves travelers not tourists. To them the difference was that “the traveler belonging no more to one place than the next, moves slowly, over periods of years,” as opposed to the tourist who has a specific time to get back home. This idea that Port and Kit don’t belong to any one place is typical of Cohen’s experimental tourist. Port and Kit definitely are “the more serious of the drifters, who, endowed with a decentralized personality’ and lacking clearly defined priorities and ultimate commitments, are pre-disposed to try out alternative life-ways in their quest for meaning,” (Cohen 189). They’re an example of “extreme cases (in which) the search itself may become a way of life, and the traveler an ‘eternal seeker’,” (Cohen 189). Because experimental tourism is concerned with an authenticity that cannot be found in the traveler’s own society, Port and Kit are also concerned with the authenticity of their experience – they travel further and further into the desert in search of something that hasn’t been westernized. Like the Lost Generation, Port and Kit feel their lives have lost meaning after the war (this time World War II).
In contrast to Port and Kit, is their companion, Tunner. Tunner considers himself a tourist and would probably fit in the category of a recreational traveler. Tunner experiences culture shock as the three travel further into the desert which is described by Cohen as when “the tourist, adhering to the ‘spirtual centre’ of his own society or culture, prefers its lifeways and though-patterns, and feels threatened and incommoded when presented with the different, unfamiliar ones of the host country,” (Cohen 197). Kit and Port, instead take on a more existential mode view – “they experience a ‘shock’ upon arrival at their ‘elected’ external centre…from the fact that this ‘centre’ is too much like home and hence does not correspond to their idealized image,” (Cohen 197). This shock pushes Port and Kit further into the desert to get away from any western ideals.
When Port dies he seems to go from being an experimental to an existential tourist. He becomes “fully committed to an ‘elective’ spiritual centre,” (Cohen 190). Although instead of committing to any society or culture, he commits to death or the abyss. Kit also turns into an existential tourist, in the more conventional way. After Port dies, she attaches herself to the spiritual centre of the natives of the desert. Cohen says of existential tourists that are “most deeply committed to a new ‘spiritual’ centre may attach themselves permanently to it and start a new life there by ‘submitting’ themselves completely to the culture or society based on an orientation to that centre: they will desire to ‘go native,” (Cohen 190). Kit does this by walking into the desert and submitting to the man on the camel. By doing these things she becomes “savage.” The questions that the existential tourist brings up – “is the ‘true’ life at the centre indeed commensurable to his high hope and expectations? Does it enable the traveler to live authentically, to achieve self-realization?” (Cohen 195) are not directly answered in The Sheltering Sky but Kit’s running away from Miss Ferry (and society) could lead one to guess that the “elective spiritual centre” is better than one’s native culture and ideals.
"You are all a lost generation," resonates Gertrude Stein's voice in the epigram of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. As expatriates, Hemingway and his company surely were lost; disillusioned about their place in the world. Suffering through World War I, Hemingway's characters, who reflect his and his contemporaries' attitudes and emotions towards the times, have come to leave their country. Looking at them under the sociological lense, we observe that Jake and his pals fall into a category of tourists who seek renewal in the unknown. As Erik Cohen describes in his study, A Phemenology of Tourist Experiences, characters like Jake and Cohn are "experimental travelers" who "do not adhere any more to the spiritual centre of their own society," and so they "egage in a quest for an alternative in many different directions" (189). Indeed, the war seems to have destroyed a bit of these characters, taking something from them they seek to get back in other places. For Jake, whom the war rendered emasculated, spending time in Paris seemed like a possibly "re-creative" act, more than one of "recreation," a distinction Cohen establishes in his essay.
But, as their stay in Paris prolongs, these travelers cannot seem to find the spiritual grounding they seek. Advising Cohn against up and leaving to South America from Paris, Jake says, "Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn't make any difference. I've tried all that. You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There's nothing to that" (19). Jake understands that no matter where he goes, he will remain the same. In this way, he follows Cohen's description of the experimenter, who "seeks to discover a form of life which elicits a resonance in himself," while "refus[ing] to fully commit himself to it; rather, he samples and compares the different alternatives, hoping eventually to discover one which will suit his particular needs and desires" (189).
And so, Jake and his friends engage in continuous holidays: their fiesta is all-encompassing, and when they are not traveling, they are drinking excessively, or engaging in both. Their drinking is a form of travel for them, because their type of travel insists upon escape and seeks many possible paths, in a trial-and-error fashion, to goals they aren't necessarily cognizant of. Cohen points out in his article that "Internal and external quests for the centre are homologous" (Eliade, 1971: 18), and Jake looks outward to try to clarify something inward. When visiting Spain, as he does every year to witness the most authentic and meaningful symbol in his life, the bullfight, Jake enters a cathedral. Inside, distractedly praying, he says of his experience, "I was a little ashamed, and regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time" (103). Though he was raised Catholically and thereby is a Catholic, Jake cannot even find spiritual refuge in his own ethnic background. Instead, he looks to another culture's tradition of the bullfight, a symbol of commitment and meaning in the closeness the matador comes to death. This recalls to mind Don Marquis' "The Lesson of the Moth," in which the moth, always attracted to the electric light which will eventually kill him, says,
"it is better to be a part of beauty for one instant and then cease to exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life is come easy go easy we are like human beings used to be before they became too civilized to enjoy themselves"
Marquis' words warn us about what Cohen has observed occuring often with "experimental" travelers, whose search may eventually become a way of life, leaving no room for commitment or the "'leap of faith'" required to attach oneself to an idea. Indeed, Hemingway concludes his novel ambiguously, with many of his characters continuing to travel, seeking new places, new cultures to observe, while remaining foreign to them. "We could have had such a damned good time together," Brett says to Jake in the last few lines of the novel, exemplifying the hollow, tragic endlessness of a life in perpetual quest of the spiritual centre. For Jake, there is no redemption where there is no transcendence from this cycle, and his fault lies in witnessing the bullfights as a spectator instead of engaging in acts of equivalent value himself.