The Sun Also Rises will maintain a place in history not only for its literary merit, but also for its documentation of what writer Gertrude Stein called the "Lost Generation." After WWI, many young Americans left their native country, bitter over the war and seeking adventure. A circle of artistic expatriates -- among them Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, and Pablo Picasso -- formed in Paris under Stein's guidance and shared their revolutionary ideas on art. While they helped define Modernist techniques in literature and painting, the Americans, in particular, catalogued the social upheaval in their homeland. While reeling from a huge blow to their innocence, Americans (at least the white middle- and upper-class) drifted irresponsibly through the prosperous era now known as the Roaring 20s. Hemingway and Fitzgerald employed their keen social observation in writing The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby, respectively, widely considered the two masterpieces of Lost Generation fiction. The novels are remarkably similar: a somewhat indistinct young man narrates a story of unrequited desire for an untouchable woman in a hedonistic social environment. The major difference is that in The Sun Also Rises, it is the narrator whose desire is unrequited, and because of a physical impairment, whereas in Fitzgerald's work, Gatsby (not the narrator) cannot have his love interest for other reasons.
While Hemingway, like Fitzgerald, explores and critiques the superficiality of his characters' indulgent lifestyles, he touches upon a number of other themes, many of which have to do with new notions of masculinity arising after the war. Jake's purported impotence is a powerful symbol for the emasculated postwar male psyche, and bull-fighting describes sex as warfare on several metaphorical levels. These ideas are delivered in Hemingway's spare, unadorned, journalistic prose (another contrast to Fitzgerald, whose more ornate writing has had an arguably equal stylistic influence over modern writers).
Hemingway conceived of the idea for The Sun Also Rises while attending the Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, with friends in July, 1925. Hemingway had set up the beautiful Lady Duff Twysden, the inspiration for Brett, with Cayetano Ordonez, the model for Romero (who is most likely named for Francisco Romero, an 18th-century bull-fighter who invented the modern rules for the sport). He felt guilty over compromising Ordonez's "aficion" with a foreign woman, and possibly wrote the story -- with "Hem" as his stand-in matchmaker -- as a means to exculpate himself. The real-life conflict spun out to Harold Loeb (Cohn) and Pat Guthrie (Twysden's fianc? and the model for Mike). Ogden Stewart rounded out the group in the novel as Bill Gorton.
Hemingway soon expanded the story into a novel originally entitled Fiesta: A Novel (it is still called this in British editions). He shifted the opening to Paris and heightened the relationship between Brett and the narrator -- now called Jake (Hemingway was wounded in WWI, though he was not rendered impotent). He ran through several more revisions, often with F. Scott Fitzgerald's help, and changed the novel to its current title just before printing in October 1926. The book was a success and established Hemingway as an internationally-known author.