Brett Lady Ashley Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises begins with Gertrude Stein's quotation "You are all a lost generation." In the book, Hemingway's world is a world where the power swifts from masculine hand to feminine, or at least where that shift helps to take power, so in the hands of Brett Lady Ashley. "Brett and Jake emerge as the paradigmatic couple who best represent the shift in the perception of gender following World War I. This redefinition of masculinity and femininity was not an abrupt rift in the cultural landscape but rather a gradual shifting of the ground on which the edifice of Victorian sexual identity was built." (Kept). With the loss of the confidence of masculine invincibility and authority after the war, came an indifferent attitude that is a compensatory position for a new awareness of vulnerability. "For a long time, I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stock yards in Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except by it" (Hemingway A Farewell to Arms).
Hemingway's definition of courage, which he succinctly phrased as "grace under pressure," is directed to women who felt helpless to meet the demands of their sacrificial role. Brett Lady Ashley illustrates feminism post World War I but pre-Valerie Solan as. Brett Lady Ashley's physical appearance presents her controlling stance in society. Not only does she wear a man's hat and have a man's haircut, but also her name is predominately associated with a male. Although she has many masculine features, she is the ideal woman as well. With her blonde hair and striking beauty the "blonde bombshell" theory comes in effect.
Brett also has a motherly instinct to nurture and be needed by the men she uses. Mike observes that Brett "loves looking after people" (203). Brett is caught between two modes of gender representation- that of a self-reliant modern woman and the idealized woman on the pedestal. She is both the idealized other whom men seek as a prize for their ability and the sovereign woman who tires to make her own decisions.
Although she has broken the connection between moral and physical purity, she still plays the redemptive role of trying to save men through her sexuality. Sex is ultimately Brett's weapon towards men. Brett is described as promiscuous because of this. Though Georgette is a prostitute, she is considered a more ethical character than Brett.
Brett is wanton simply for entertainment, where Georgette is dependent on it for financial support. Brett likes to keep her options open, diversify her investment of social and sexual energy, so that she may maximize her opportunities. Interestingly, Brett breaks up her relationships when her lovers attempt to claim her, that is, to exercise authority over her. She even leaves the bullfighter Romero, a man to whom she is overwhelmingly attracted, when he shows signs of wanted to domesticate her. He tell her to give up her mannish felt hat, to let her hair grow long, to wear more modest clothes.
But she has rejected the ideal of female dependence and delicacy. "He wanted me to grow my hair out. Me, with long hair. I'd look so like hell" (246). Brett is fickle and uses men for sex and money. Brett has some money from her second husband, from whom she has separated.
She also depends on her ability to attract men who will pay for her drinks, her dinners, her taxis and trains. And just as she expects men to pay for many of her self-indulgent pleasures, most of the men in the novel do. Brett's lack of financial and emotional independence is clearly stated in the opening paragraphs of the novel; Hemingway observes that Brett has a "grand vitality" but that she "has never been very good at being alone."Approximately 8 million soldiers died in the trenches on Western Europe in the years 1914-1918" (Fus sell "The Great War and Modern Memory"). This laid a foundation for the women to take a step forward, and become more independent- a large step for feminism. For a long time, men were men. But, sacrifice and glory redefined men and after a long time of being "men", men and women find themselves changed.
Nevertheless, Hemingway points out, the sun will rise in the morning.