Embracing Otherness: Mastery of Submission in The Sun Also Rises

Embracing Otherness: Mastery of Submission in The Sun Also Rises

Ng Lay Sion


The Sun Also Rises can be read as a psychological novel in which it embodies postwar symptoms such as the splitting of self, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, sexual dysfunction and so forth. This paper attempts to analyze both the negative and positive outcomes from the love-hatred triangle relationships—desire for oneness verse paradox of oneness—between Robert Cohn, Brett Ashley, and Jake Barnes through the lens of queer masochism. It is suggested that masochism serves as a crucial phycological device in transcending each character’s otherness (the marginalized identities), leading them to self-mastery. As for Cohn, it is through the destructive force of boxing and the act of a hand-shake that leads him to accept his Jewish identity; through encountering the traditional masculine values held by Pedro Romero, Brett comes to see herself as a liberal New Woman who would chase alternative relationships regardless of its social and cultural stigma; it is through the energy-cultivation of mother nature that Jake is led to embrace his lack of and reconstruct his alternative masculinity. The ambiguous ending of the novel further presents a positive trend, in which Jake and Brett sit close to each other in a taxi that is going up hill, symbolizing the growth of their love. Drawing on Brett’s earlier description, it is possible to make a hyphothesized interpretation: their relationship could involve a third person (polyamory) in order to consume their love.

Keywords: oneness, otherness, queer masochism, self-mastery, polyamory.


This article has been published in the International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies (ISSN: 2356-5926), Vol. 4, No.1, 2017, page 233-256.

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