Ever wonder how writers start out? Or, about the process of writing a novel? If it were so easy wouldn’t everyone do it?

When I was studying undergrad, a student of English Lit, I drove four in a half hours to Hemingway’s archive at The JFK Library in Boston for research on my final project. The paper was a comparison between his first drafted manuscripts of The Sun Also Rises, vs. his final published version of the novel.

I spent nine hours rummaging through Hemingway’s journals, manuscripts, any paper with any mention of The Sun Also Rises. What an experience!!

As a reader, researcher and writer, I found it illuminating to see first hand Hemingway’s passion, work, and efforts that went into writing his first great novel.

Here is what I discovered:

Quick note, anything in {brackets} means I was either unable to read Hemingway’s handwriting to make out the word, or I am guessing the word he was intending to use. I apologize in advance for any confusion.

But first, the back-story!

         Ernest Hemingway’s first novel The Sun Also Riseswas not only the most popular book published by an American man in 1926, it was also a turning point, changing the prospect of literature throughout the world. Hemingway, known for shying away from fantasy and impractical illusions when it came to what he wrote about, focused more on reality- the hardships and tragedies life can bring us at times. He was not afraid of making his readers uncomfortable, writing about the pain and heartache people were faced with.
         The Sun Also Risescontains gaps and lacunae all through the story, compelling the reader to think – to have the knowledge and understanding to fill in the blanks. Hemingway leaves it up to the reader to feel the reality and the morality, which are his subject.

Here are some cool facts:

         In the first draft versions of the novel, Brett Ashley was known as Lady Duff Anthony, Mike was called Pat, and Robert Cohn was known as geraed Cohn, spelled with a lower case g. Yes, that’s right – A LOWER CASE g. It is also interesting to know, (as so many already assumed) Hemingway based these characters on real individuals involved in his life at that time. He did not change the names of the characters until Books 5 of his manuscripts.

The opening of Hemingway’s first draft: 

         Through Jake’s narrative voice, he informs the reader that his friends “drink profusely”. Jake explains that he, Duff, Pat, geraed, and Bill, were a group that called themselves “the five lot”. “That was the kind of chap crowd we were, a five lot, Bill was the best of the lot and he was on a hilarious drunk and thought everybody else was and became angry if they were not”(Book 1).

Interesting in how Hemingway’s first intention was to open the story with the imperfections of his characters.

The opening of the published novel:

         In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway starts the narrative with Jake sharing a story about Cohn and boxing. Not once in the story does Jake speak so openly of Bill and his group. Hemingway just leaves it to the reader to decide whether or not the characters in the novel drank too much. He never openly says it, as he does in book 1 of his manuscripts.

Back to the first draft:

         Jake further discusses some traits in Pat (who we know as Mike). “Pat sober was nice, Pat a little drunk was even nicer, Pat quite drunk began to be objectionable and Pat very drunk was embarrassing” (Book 1). Jake then continues with a description of Duff, (Brett) where it becomes clear that he secludes her and looks at her differently than he does the rest of the group. “Duff was a writer/ strain of her divorce caused her to drink a lot… Duff with drinking was quite different from Pat. She drank much more but she never lost her form, form being used in tennis or golf sense. She was always clean bred, generous and her lines were always [obarys]. It did not dissolve her in any way”(Book 1).

The detailed picture Jake provides causes the reader to have a preconceived attitude of each character from the start. The reader has no chance to form his or her own impressions and opinions about the characters. It sets a different tone from the sense of mystery that Hemingway presents in the published version of The Sun Also Rises.

And Get This!

         In the first draft, after Jake finishes explaining what kind of drunk Bill, Duff, and Pat are, he himself speaks to the reader directly. Jake says: “I don’t know why I put all this down. It may mix up the story but I wanted to show you what a five crowd we were; what a good crowd for a nineteen period [rid] to get [un] with” (Book1).

Can you believeHemingway himself openly admits (through Jake’s character) that he might have shared too much information with his readers?

It is interesting indeed to see Hemingway‘s process of realizing and becoming aware of the importance of mystery in his writing.

Back to the published version:

         In The Sun Also Rises, readers question the sincerity of Jake and Cohn’s friendship. Throughout the story you know that Jake and Cohn eat and drink together often, however, you question the closeness of their friendship, due to Cohn’s passiveness and sneaky behaviors.

But, did you know:
         In the manuscripts of Book 1, Hemingway reveals Jake’s perceptions of geared Cohn, which help close those questionable gaps concerning the nature of their relationship.
         After Henry (Harvey) gets into a tiff with geraed Cohn at lunch with Jake one afternoon, Henry (Harvey) asks Jake why he likes geraed Cohn so much. This is Jake’s response:
         “ I like him, I said. I’ve known him for a long time when everyone was down on him. There’s something nice and simple about him”(Book 1).

Of course Jake said this before he knew about Cohn sneaking behind his back to run off with Brett.

Note:In the published novel, you can only assume that Jake is hurt and feels betrayed by Brett and Cohn’s affair, but it is not directly expressed as it is in the first draft of the manuscript.

AfterJake learns that Cohn bails out on their fishing trip, to stay back and find Duff (Brett) this is what he has to say about it:



was about that time that I decided I was going to stop being a martyr and have a good time… then when I looked back on trying to hate Duff it seemed sophomoric and wartime and silly. About then she left Anthony (Ashley) and came to Paris with Michael. She took it for granted that I still loved her and found that I did. It gave me a bad time again. I knew [what] I had friends and I had things to see and the world to live in and I was through. No body was going to make me suffer anymore. I felt [undemptous/ despense] about suffering. Duff


hurt me now but it could not hurt me much”(Book 2).

It is obvious here that Jake is vividly communicating his pain towards feeling betrayed by the woman he loves and Cohn. Although, it is assumed in the published novel that Jake is okay and does move on after these disturbing events. In the manuscripts of book 2 Jake tellsyou he is okay, he states he has more friends to share his time with, and says he is moving on with a whole world to experience and live in. Jake’s relationship with Cohn continues to go downhill after learning about him running off with Brett, and after he bailed out on their planned fishing trip. Although Jake seems more bent out of shape and focuses on the constant disappointment he feels towards Brett rather than feeling let down by Cohn.

Okay, here’s what we’ve all been waiting for!

The love uncertainties between Jake and Brett were intensely revealing in the first drafted manuscripts of Hemingway.

         When reading the first drafts of the story, Hemingway expresses the devotion Jake and Brett felt for each other. The conversations were more in depth and some dialogue was left out of the published novel. The taxi ride home with Brett and Jake’s first encounter in the novel is similar to the manuscript but different in one way where Jake expresses his love for her, which he does not do in the published novel. Here is the dialogue between the two that we do not see in the published version:

         Duff (Brett): “[We’d] better keep away from each other.”
         Jake: “But darling I love you so much. We must see each other” (Book 1).

In this very first interaction between the two of them, the reader sees right away that Jake loves Brett and he wants to be with her.

But, in the published novel Jake does not tell Brett he loves her until he hears her say it first.

         In Book 1 of the manuscripts, Duff (Brett) tells Jake her true feelings in his bedroom after she sends the Count off to fetch the champagne.

         Jake: “Couldn’t we go off in the country for a while?”
         Duff (Brett) : “It wouldn’t be any good, I’ll go if you like, but I couldn’t live quietly, not with my own true love.”
         Jake: “I know.”
         Duff (Brett): “I [can’t] any use my telling you I love you. You know I love you. I love you and I’ll love you always. I never told any man that. I love you and I’ll love you always.”
         Jake: “It’s terrible loving when you loved so many times that you know [where] it is.”
         Duff (Brett) : “ I don’t know I never loved a lot of people.”
         Jake: “Yes you have.”
         Duff (Brett) : “Not in the same way” (Book 1).

Throughout the different manuscripts Hemingway wrote, something changed in him that made him want to give his readers a realistic point of view rather than the ordinary love story we are all so used to reading. Could this be why he purposely left this dialogue out of the published novel? As a reader, you want to hear about the love between two people. You want that happy ending fairy-tale. Hemingway knew better. You cannot always get what you want, and realistically it takes more than love to make a relationship work.

Back to the first draft:
         In the manuscripts of Book 2, Jake articulates his feelings directly to the reader after Brett randomly tells him about her affair with Cohn.
         He says: “When she went off with Cohn it hurt me again. As badly as in the worst days” (Book 2).

In his manuscripts Jake not only tells you about his pain, you feel the sorrow he is suffering even more, thanks to his expressing his sadness to the reader. He compares Brett and Cohn’s love affair to the cruel and brutal war. How heartbreaking!

Yet, in the published version:
         The reader can only presume that Jake is in pain due to Brett constantly going off with other men. You get the feeling that the relationship between Brett and Jake is special, especially when seeing their time together during the Fiesta. It is understood that Jake is more than one of Brett’s random men for that week. The reader also see’s Jake begin to accept Brett for who she is and knows that they do love one another, but in a way that will last, and in a way that really matters in this new modern world. Brett knows that Jake truly cares about her and you see how Brett leans on Jake for love and support. However, all of this information is pieced together by the reader, not given to you straight, by the narrator.

In the last scene of the first draft:
         Jake rushes to Madrid to help Brett, the words exchanged between the two were exactly what the reader would want to hear:

         Jake: Her arms were around me, she held me very tight.
         Brett: “I knew you would come.”
         Jake: “Oh yes,” I said on the bed with my arms [around] her. She turned and kissed me very suddenly and fiercely. I tightened my arms around her against my chest.
         Brett: “You hate me don’t you.”
         Jake: “Just a little.”
         Brett: “It’s all right,” she said, “I deserve it.”
         Jake: “No you don’t.”
         Brett: “Do you still love me?”
         Jake: “I guess so.”
         Brett: “You don’t love me anymore. It’s alright.”
         Jake: “I love you. But still so damn hard not to.” She was trembling a little. She felt so [swell] (Book 3).

In this conversation between the two, Brett says everything you would have predicted her to say. She ran around with different men and treated Jake as if he did not matter to her. As a reader, you would have expected this monologue to be a part of the published book. Nevertheless, Hemingway left it up to the reader to interpret the ending in a way that you could translate and connect all the pieces together to form your own view and perspectives of this story.

         In the first draft, after the above scene with Jake and Brett in Madrid, Jake ends the story with one more thought for Brett:

         “Such a passion and longing could exist in me for Brett Ashley that I would sometimes feel that it would tear me to pieces and yet in the intervals when I was not seeing Brett, and they were the greater part of the time, I lived a very happy life. The world was to me a very fine and pleasant place and if I felt alone in it being alone was a comfortable feeling. It was only when I had Brett Ashley that I felt all of my world taken away, that it was all gone, even the shapes of things were changed, the trees and the houses and the fountains and [what or that] life was just something to be gone through. Brett Ashley could do that to me and no doubt she could do it to other people, and no doubt she did it to other people… As for how Brett Ashley felt and how what happened to her affected her. I am not a psychologist, I only put down what she did and what she said. You will have to figure that out by yourselves” (Book 7).

Can you believe it!Hemingway actually put his secret ingredient to his fame and success as the last line of his first draft. “You will have to figure that out by yourselves.”

How fascinating to see Hemingway himself work though and figure out how to make his very first novel stand out and shine through other writers during this time.

         Hemingway’s genius was deciding to leave pieces out of the story in his novel. His efforts paid off in writing his novel with simplicity. He was the first writer to publish a book with innovative lay out and complex themes, which were not revealed to the reader. Hemingway was brave to take this risk with his very first novel. It was the start of a new era for artists and writers in the twentieth century. Thanks to Hemingway’s boldness in writing The Sun Also Rises, he introduced a new period of writing, and his name was known throughout the world of literacy.
© Brittany DiGiacomo 2014