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Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
Type of Work and Year of Publication
.......The Sun Also Risesis a novel about the profound psychological, moral, and social changes in people who fought in or lived through the First World War. The book centers primarily on troubled or dysfunctional Americans and Britons living in Paris in
the postwar era. The book is a roman à clef in that several characters are fictional representations of real people. Charles Scribner's Sons published the novel in New York in 1926.
.......Ernest Hemingway first called the novel ¡Fiesta! but later changed the title to The Sun Also Rises. Some publishers—notably in England and Spain—still entitle the novel ¡Fiesta!
.......The novel has two epigraphs. (An epigraph is a quotation preceding a literary work.) They are as follows:
You are all a lost generation. Commentary
Hemingway attributed this quotation to Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), an American writer living in Paris when he resided there.
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever… The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose… The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to its circuits… All the rivers run
into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come thither they return again.
Old Testament of the Bible, Book of Ecclesiastes 1:4-7
.......World War I (1914-1918) shocked humankind with its brutality and high number of casualties. More than 20 million soldiers and civilians died, and more than 20 million combatants suffered battlefield wounds.
.......In the aftermath of the war, many people attempted to reclaim control over their destiny by rejecting old values and establishing new ones, often unbounded and unrestrained. They set themselves to creating new fashions and lifestyles and to developing new modes of expression in literature and art. And, because Paris was
the cultural capital of the world, tens of thousands of the new wave of young people, many from America, took up residence there. But in attempting to cope with the psychological and physical wounds of the war, some of them lost themselves in the comfort of alcohol and aimless behavior, neglecting their work and putting their future lives on hold. They became a "lost generation,"
as the first epigraph says.1
.......The Sun Also Risesfocuses on fictionalized versions of these lost souls. Whether they will eventually find their way before
their "generation passeth away" is a question that the novel does not answer. What is certain, however, is that the cycles of nature will continue ad infinitum without regard for the tribulations of mere man. Jake Barnes and Brett Ashley will die eventually. But the sun will rise again, and the rivers will continue to run to the sea. Human beings can choose to believe that a rebirth awaits them—a
spiritual rebirth—or they can choose to despair, like the lost generation, and let life happen to them.
.......The action takes place in 1924 and 1925 in the French cities of Paris, Tours, Bordeaux, Bayonne, and Saint Jean de Luz and in the Spanish towns of San Sebastian, Pamplona, Burguete, and Madrid. An indirect reference to a specific year occurs at the beginning of Chapter 9, when Jake Barnes mentions the
Ledoux-Francis boxing match of the previous evening. The actual fight took place on June 9, 1925, at the Cirque de Paris. In this batamweight contest, Kid Francis defeated Charles Ledoux. Hemingway (as Jake Barnes) erroneously reports that the fight took place on June 20.
.......Ernest Hemingway based the novel on his own memories of World War I and on his experiences living in Paris in the 1920s. During the war, he was an ambulance driver in Italy. After mortar fire wounded him in July 1918, he rescued an Italian soldier and received a medal for heroism. Hemingway decided to live
in Paris after the war in large part because so many other writers—such as James Joyce (1882-1941), Ezra Pound (1885-1972), and Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)—resided there. He hoped to learn from them.
Jacob (Jake) Barnes: The narrator and main character in the novel. He is an American journalist from Kansas City who lives and works in Paris. In the First World War, he suffered an injury in Italy that left him sexually impotent. He loves Lady Brett Ashley but his injury dooms his relationship with her. Like many of his friends who served in
the war, he rejects most prewar values and traditions—moral, cultural, literary, and otherwise—to lead a new, unencumbered life in Paris that includes plenty of booze and partying. However, he occasionally goes to churches (Roman Catholic) to pray. Jake is unable to escape the memories of the war, and the long shadow his injury has cast over his ability to lead a normal
Lady Brett Ashley: Beautiful Englishwoman who lives in Paris after serving as a nurse during the war. She met Jake Barnes while he was recuperating at a hospital in England. Although she says she loves Jake, she refuses to make any commitment to him because of his
injury. At the beginning of the novel, she is seeking a divorce from her second husband, Baronet Ashley. Her first husband died of dysentery during the war. She has agreed to marry Mike Campbell, a Scotsman, after the approval of her divorce. She fancies herself a modern, independent woman who is the equal of men. She even wears her hair short and often refers to herself as "chap." Brett leads a
promiscuous life, bedding down with whomever she pleases.
Robert Cohn: Jewish friend of Jake Barnes and a graduate of Princeton University, where he was a boxing champion. Cohn, who divorced his first wife, is pursuing a career in Paris as a writer. After enjoying success in the U.S.
with his first book, he is failing to make progress with his second. His fiancée, who came to Paris with him, dominates him; but he eventually abandons her to pursue Brett Ashley. Unlike Jake Barnes, Brett Ashley, and other friends of Jake, Cohn saw no service of any kind during the war. Moreover, unlike them, he still believes in the old prewar values and traditions—that is, he
is something of a romantic and an idealist.
Jake Barnes's friends regard Cohn as an outsider because he is a Jew and because he did not serve in the war as they did. They taunt him with anti-Semitic remarks.
Frances Clyne: Woman writer who accompanies Robert Cohn to Paris. He has pledged to marry her but later breaks up with her.
Bill Gorton: Successful writer, war veteran, and very good friend of Jake Barnes. He drinks heavily.
Mike Campbell: Scottish war veteran who has proposed to Brett Ashley. He is bankrupt and has no job but is expected to receive a large inheritance. Like Gorton, he drinks to excess.
Henry Braddocks: Friend of Barnes and Cohn.
Pedro Romero: Handsome and accomplished bullfighter who outshines the competition even though he is only nineteen. Brett Ashley seduces him.
Mrs. Braddocks: Wife of Henry Braddocks.
Count Mippipopolous: A bon vivant who accompanies Brett on nightclub rounds. He owns a chain of candy shops in the U.S. and spends his money freely, saying he has been in seven wars and four revolutions
and, therefore, has earned the right live lavishly. He is a pleasant, easygoing fellow.
Harvey Stone: Friend of Jake and a fellow American journalist. He's a gambler and doesn't have enough money to eat.
Madame Duzinell: Concierge where Jake rents a flat.
Georgette Hobin: Prostitute with whom Jake has a few drinks.
Prentiss: Promising New York writer whom Jake meets in Paris.
Woolsey and Krum: Journalist acquaintances of Jake Barnes.
Spider Kelly: Cohn's boxing mentor at
Henry: Chauffeur of Count Mippipopolous.
George: Bartender at the Hotel Crillon.
Madame Lavigne: Restaurateur in the Montmartre section of Paris.
Edna: Woman who intervenes to prevent a bar fight in Pamplona between Englishmen and Bill and Mike, who are
Wilson-Harris: English war veteran whom Bill and Jake encounter in Burguete on their fishing trip. He is good company.
Zizi: Greek portrait painter who
introduces Brett to Count Mippipopolous.
Montoya: Proprietor of a Pamplona hotel and, like Jake, an aficionado of bullfighting.
Juan Belmonte: Retired bullfighter
who was a legend in his time. He comes out of retirement to demonstrate classical bullfighting skills while competing for the favor of the crowd against Pedro Romero and other matadors, but he is no longer what he used to be.
Marcial Lalanda: Bullfighter whose skills cannot measure up
to those of Romero.
Marquez, Algabeno, Gallo: Other bullfighters.
Don Manuel Orquito: "Fireworks king," who puts on a dazzling show in Pamplona.
Brother of Pedro Romero: A banderillero. During a bullfight, a banderillero sticks small darts (banderillas) into the neck of a bull.
Rafael: Bullfighting critic.
Mr., Mrs. Aloysius Kirby: People who send Jake Barnes an invitation to the wedding of their daughter, Katherine.
Madame Lecomte: Proprietor of a popular Paris restaurant.
Vicente Girones: Man killed by one of the bulls running into the bullfighting ring.
Wife and Children of Girones
Man, Wife, Child: Family members who meet Jake and Bill on the train to Bayonne. The child's name is Hubert.
Sanchez Taberno: Breeder of bulls.
Night Watchman: Employee of the Hotel Montoya in Pamplona.
Charley Blackman: Acquaintance of Bill Gorton. Blackman is from Chicago.
Maître d'Hôtel: Annoying German head waiter at the Hotel Montoya in Pamplona.
American Ambassador: Spectator at one of Romero's bullfights in Pamplona.
Tailor: Man who gives Mike Campbell medals to wear on his suit for a dinner expected to be attended by the Prince of Wales.
Lett: Patron of a Paris dancing club that Jake visits.
Maid at Hotel Montana in Madrid
Fat Woman at Hotel Montana
Waitresses, Porters, Chambermaid, Carriage and Car Drivers, Train Conductors, Bartenders
.......Hemingway's work as a news reporter for the Kansas City Star and a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star helped him develop his literary writing style. It is simple and compact, with short sentences and paragraphs devoid of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. He deliberately omits
background details that other writers would include. For example, in The Sun Also Rises, he presents little biographical information about the protagonist, Jake Barnes. Was his childhood happy? Was he a good student? Does he have brothers and sisters? Hemingway does not answer any of these questions. He does not even reveal Jake's exact age.
.......Spareness of detail about characters allows readers to interpret them through dialogue and subtext, just as they "interpret" the people around them in real life—fellow students, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, politicians, clergymen, and so on. However, Hemingway
does provide an abundance of detail when describing street scenes in Paris and Pamplona. Here are two examples, the first presenting a scene in Paris and the second in Pamplona.
.......The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then levelled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, went smoothly down the asphalt, passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, then turned onto the cobbles of the
Rue Mouffetard. There were lighted bars and late open shops on each side of the street. We were sitting apart and we jolted close together going down the old street. Brett's hat was off. Her head was back. I saw her face in the lights from the open shops, then it was dark, then I saw her face clearly as we came out on the Avenue des Gobelins. The street was torn up and men were working on the
car-tracks by the light of acetylene flares. (Chapter 4)
.......Hemingway presents the events in the novel chronologically. As in other Hemingway works, these events often center on activities that usually appeal to men more than to women, such as boxing, fishing, and bullfighting.
All we could see of the procession through the closely pressed people that crowded all the side streets and curbs were the great giants, cigar-store Indians, thirty feet high, Moors, a King and Queen, whirling and waltzing solemnly to the riau-riau.2They were all
standing outside the chapel where San Fermin and the dignitaries had passed in, leaving a guard of soldiers, the giants, with the men who danced in them standing beside their resting frames, and the dwarfs moving with their whacking bladders through the crowd. We started inside and there was a smell of incense and people filing back into the church, but Brett was stopped just inside the door
because she had no hat, so we went out again and along the street that ran back from the chapel into town. The street was lined on both sides with people keeping their place at the curb for the return of the procession. Some dancers formed a circle around Brett and started to dance. They wore big wreaths of white garlics around their necks. They took Bill and me by the arms and put us in the
circle. Bill started to dance, too. They were all chanting. Brett wanted to dance but they did not want her to. They wanted her as an image to dance around. When the song ended with the sharp riau-riau! they rushed us into a wine-shop. (Chapter 15)
.......One of the hallmarks of his style is the frequent use of and as a conjunction, as in the following passage.
.......That winter Robert Cohn went over to America with his novel, and it was accepted by a fairly good publisher. His going made an awful row I heard, and I think that was where Frances lost him, because several women were nice to
him in New York, and when he came back he was quite changed. He was more enthusiastic about America than ever, and he was not so simple, and he was not so nice. The publishers had praised his novel pretty highly and it rather went to his head. Then
several women had put themselves out to be nice to him, and his horizons had all shifted. (Chapter 2)Point of View
.......In The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes tells the story in first-person point of view. Whenever Hemingway wants the reader to know about a happening at which the narrator was not present, he has another character tell Barnes about it. An example is Bill Gorton's recounting of the boxing match in Vienna
(Chapter 8).Plot Summary
Introduction of Cohn
.......After Robert Cohn graduated from a military academy, his wealthy Jewish family sent him to Princeton University, says the narrator, Jake Barnes. Cohn was shy and friendly—a nice boy. But his pleasant personality did not prevent the anti-Semitism he suffered during his years there. To counteract it, he
trained as a boxer under the tutelage of Spider Kelly and became middleweight champion.
.......“There was a certain inner comfort in knowing he could knock down anybody who was snooty to him, although . . . he never fought except in the gym,” Jake
says (Chapter 1).
.......After Princeton, Cohn married, fathered three children, and spent most of the money his father left him. When his marriage began to come apart, he was about to leave his wife when she beat him to the punch and ran off with
.......Once the divorce was settled, Cohn moved to California and dipped into his remaining inheritance to support a magazine devoted to a review of the arts. It began in Carmel, California, but moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts. By
that time, Cohn had become its editor. In time, however, the enterprise had drained away too much money, and he had to let it go. With a woman he began courting, Frances Clyne, he went to Europe at her urging to continue writing. She had gone to school in Europe. After traveling two years, they moved to Paris. There, says Barnes, a newspaperman from Kansas City, “Cohn had two friends, Braddocks
and myself. Braddocks was his literary friend. I was his tennis friend.”
.......After Frances's looks began to fade, she became very possessive of Cohn and insisted that they marry. Meanwhile, Cohn had written a book and practiced boxing at a gymnasium. The
next winter, he went to the U.S. and received a positive response from a publisher about his book. During this time, he met several women who treated him well, bolstering his ego. Consequently, he was not always pleasant to be around. He also won money playing bridge and bragged that he could make a living at the game.
......."Then there was another thing," Jake says.
He [Cohn] had been reading W. H. Hudson. That sounds like an innocent occupation, but Cohn had read and reread The Purple Land. The Purple Land is a very sinister book if read too late in life. It recounts splendid imaginary amorous adventures of a perfect English gentleman in an intensely romantic land, the scenery of which
is very well described. For a man to take it at thirty-four as a guide-book to what life holds is about as safe as it would be for a man of the same age to enter Wall Street direct from a French convent, equipped with a complete set of the more practical Alger books.In other words, Cohn was something of a romantic, something of an idealist. He still believed in the old prewar values that Jake and his fellow war veterans rejected.
The Main Story
.......After Cohn returns to Paris, he becomes bored with the city and tries to get Jake to go with him to South America. Jake says he's content where he is.
.......On a spring night at the Café Napolitain, Barnes catches the eye of a good-looking woman, a prostitute. She comes over and sits with him, and they both order a Pernod (a liqueur). After they make small talk, they go out, catch a horse-drawn cab, and travel up the Avenue de l'Opéra, then turn into the Rue des Pyramides, then take the Rue
de Rivoli to the Tuileries Gardens. He puts his arm around her but doesn't kiss her when she turns toward him. When she asks him whether he is sick, he says yes, adding, “Everybody's sick” (Chapter 3).
.......Later, at a restaurant where they are dining,
she asks what's wrong with him. He says he was injured in the war. At a table in another room are Cohn, Frances, Henry Braddocks, Mrs. Braddocks, and several others Barnes does not know. When Braddocks sees Barnes, he calls him over. Barnes and Georgette—her last name is Hobin—join them. Shortly thereafter, they all go to a dancing club on the Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève.
Everyone dances while the club owner plays an accordion and shakes bells attached to his ankle. Several young men come in with a woman named Lady Brett Ashley. Upon seeing Georgette, one of the men says, “I do declare. There is an actual harlot. I'm going to dance with her, Lett. You watch me.”
.......Barnes becomes angry at the arrogance of the man. To cool off, he goes down the street and has a beer and a cognac at another nightclub, then returns to the dancing club. The young men are taking turns dancing with Georgette. Barnes sits down with Cohn while Frances is dancing. Mrs. Braddocks introduces Barnes to Robert Prentiss, a supposedly
promising novelist from New York.
.......Cohn and Barnes go over to the bar to drink, and Brett joins them. She is beautiful and curvaceous. Barnes chides her mildly for associating with the young men who accompanied her into the dance club. She
asks Barnes where he found “it,” referring to Georgette. Barnes explains. When music begins, Cohn asks her to dance, but she says she promised to dance with Barnes. When Barnes and Brett are on the floor, Cohn watches intently. Brett asks to go elsewhere, so they stop briefly in a bar nearby and then ride around in a cab. Barnes kisses her, but in a moment she pulls away and tells him not to
touch her even though she is desperately in love with him. The problem is that Jake's war injury left him impotent. Consequently, when he touches her, he awakens her longing for him but can never fulfill it.
.......Barnes tells the driver to go to the
Café Select on the Boulevard Montparnasse. Inside are most of the people from the dance club. A greek portrait painter, Zizi, introduces Brett to a fat man, Count Mippipopolous, and small talk ensues. Braddocks calls Jake over to tell him that the girl with him earlier, Georgette, got in a “corking row” with the café owner's daughter. Then someone took her home.
When Jake asks whether anyone has seen Cohn, Mrs. Braddocks says he went home with Frances. She and Henry both note that Cohn looked very down. Jake decides to leave, and Brett tells him she will see him at 5 p.m. the next day at the Hotel Crillon.
.......Before going to bed, Jake reads a bullfight newspaper completely through. Then he thinks back to the war and his wound and to his stay at a hospital in Milan, where a liaison colonel told him, "You, a foreigner . . . have given more than your life."
.......After he falls asleep, it isn't long before Jake reawakens to noise outside. It is Brett, drunk, trying to get into the apartment building. When Jake goes out and vouches for her, the concierge lets her in. She was out with the Count Mippipopolous and says he offered her ten thousand dollars if she would go with him to the resort town of Biarritz.
Instead, she had him take her to Jake's place. The count was nice about it, she says, and invited her and Jake to have dinner with him the following night. Jake agrees to go.
.......The next day, after attending a press conference, Jake goes to lunch with
Cohn. When Cohn asks him about Brett, Jake tells him that she's about to divorce her present husband to marry a Scotsman, Mike Campbell. Noting that she is exceptionally attractive, Cohn says, “ I shouldn't wonder if I were in love with her.” Jake says she's a drunk and that she will, in fact, marry Campbell, who is expected to receive a handsome inheritance. Jake says he met Brett, now
thirty-four, at a hospital in England, where he was recuperating from his war wound. She was married to a baronet named Ashley. Her first husband died of dysentery during the war.
.......At five that afternoon, Jake goes to the Hotel Crillon, where Brett
had said she would meet him. He writes a few letters while he waits, but she doesn't appear. Then he goes to the Select in Montparnasse. There, he runs into Harvey Stone, another American journalist. The latter tells Jake he's out of money and hasn't eaten in days, so Jake lends him a hundred dollars. Cohn appears—he is is to meet Frances at 7:15—and Stone goes up the street to eat. When Jake
asks Cohn how his second book is coming along, Cohn says he's having a hard time with it. Jake notices that his arrogance—born of the success of his first book—has evaporated. Now he is less sure of himself again. Frances arrives and scolds Robert for not showing up for lunch. He says he wasn't supposed to, but she counters that he failed to tell the cook. Frances then says she wants to speak
with Jake alone, so they cross the street and sit at a table while Cohn waits for them. She tells Jake that Robert previously told everyone that he and she agreed to marry. Now, however, he has decided to break up with her, saying he has not yet lived enough. She could have had her pick of men a few years before, she says, but no one will want her now. Besides she says, “I'm fond of him . . . And
I'd like to have children” (Chapter 6).
.......When Jake returns to his flat, the concierge, Madame Duzinell, gives him his mail and a telegram, then says a woman and a man came looking for him when he was out. They fit the description of Brett and the
count. In his flat, Jake reads the telegram. It is from his friend Bill Gorton, who is coming to Paris. After taking a shower, he answers the doorbell. It is Brett and Count Mippipopolous. While Jake dresses, Brett sends the count out for champagne so that she and Jake can talk privately. Barnes asks, “Couldn't we live together, Brett? Couldn't we just live together?” (Chapter 7).
.......She says no. She would have to leave him frequently to be with other men, for she does wish to remain celibate. They both vow their love for each other, but they both know they can never have conjugal relations. She then reveals that she is going the next day to
San Sebastian, Spain. The count returns. His chauffeur, Henry, follows him in with a basket of champagne. After they have a drink, Brett asks for another. The count readily pours it for her, saying she is more charming when she is drunk. .......Brett asks the count what he has done with his life. He replies, "I have been in seven wars and four revolutions"
(Chapter 7). Moreover, he has suffered arrow wounds. She asks to see them, and he rises, opens his shirt, and displays wounds from fighting in Abyssinia. He says that his harrowing experiences have earned him the right to enjoy life to the fullest. The three of them then go out and dine at a restaurant. Afterward, they go to Zelli's, a nightclub in Montmartre, where Jake dances with Brett. When
Brett and Jake decide to leave, the count says he wants to stay. But he gives them the use of his car. The chauffeur drops off Brett and takes Jake home.
.......While Brett is in Spain, Frances Clyne returns to England. Jake receives a note from Cohn, who
is on a trip outside France. He reminds Jake about a fishing trip they had planned to take in Spain and wants to go ahead with it in the near future. Meanwhile, Bill Gorton arrives and stays a few days at Jake's flat. “Bill was very happy,” Jake says. “He had made a lot of money on his last book, and was going to make a lot more” (Chapter 8). Gorton then goes to Vienna and Budapest and returns to
Paris three weeks later. He and Jake run into Brett just after she returns from San Sebastian, and they have drinks together and meet again later at the Select Bar after Michael Campbell arrives from Scotland. Later, when Jake walks Brett to her hotel, she reveals that she was in San Sebastian with Robert Cohn.
.......“Congratulations,” Jake says (Chapter 9).
.......Brett says Cohn behaved well but can be boring.
.......Bill and Jake then go to a bantamweight boxing match between Charles Ledoux and Kid Francis.3The next morning Jake receives a letter from Cohn saying he is eager to start on the fishing trip. Jake writes back that he and Bill will leave Paris
on June 25 and meet him in Bayonne. From there, they will travel to Pamplona, Spain, then go on their fishing trip. Afterward, they will attend the Fiesta of San Fermín4in Pamplona and go to bullfights. Later, when Jake sees Brett and Mike Campbell, they ask to tag along. He welcomes their company. All
are to meet at the Hotel Montoya in Pamplona.
.......After Jake, Cohn, and Gorton arrive in Pamplona, they check into the Montoya. Jake receives a telegram from Brett and Campbell saying they stopped over at San Sebastian. When Gorton and Barnes
leave for their fishing trip the next day, Cohn decides to stay behind. Bill is glad, for he and Cohn do not get along. He tells Jake, “He makes me sick, and he can go to hell, and I'm damn glad he's staying here so we won't have him fishing with us” (Chapter 10).
.......They go to a small town called Burguete and enjoy several days of fishing and playing bridge with an Englishman named Wilson-Harris. While in Burguete, Jake receives a letter from Campbell saying he and Brett have arrived in Pamplona. After the fishing trip, Jake and Gorton check back into the Montoya, which is named after the owner. Montoya tells Barnes that Brett and
Campbell have checked in but went out to go to a pelota5match. Aware that Jake is a bullfighting aficionado, like himself, Montoya tells him that bulls will be unloaded that evening, beginning at 7 p.m., for the fights that will be part of the Pamplona festival. After tracking down Brett, Campbell, and Cohn, they all go
to see the bulls. When the bulls are unloaded into a corral, steers are there to calm them down. When one bull enters the corral, it charges two steers.
.......“My God, isn't he beautiful?" Brett says.
.......“Look how he knows how to use his horns," Jake says. "He's got a left and a right just like a boxer" (Chapter 13).
.......Afterward, they all stop at a café. When they discuss what they saw, Cohn says, “It's no life being a steer.” (Chapter 13).
.......Campbell—irked that Cohn has been following Brett around—says, “Don't you think
so? I would have thought you'd loved being a steer.”
.......Cohn becomes angry and Brett says, "Come off it, Michael. You're drunk."
......."I'm not drunk. I'm quite serious. Is Robert Cohn going to follow Brett around like a steer all the time?" (Chapter 13).
.......Several days later, the fiesta begins. Drinks flow. People dance. And at the
inaugural bullfighting competition, a nineteen-year-old named Pedro Romero shows real class compared with two competing matadors. Brett is fascinated by him.
.......The next day, when Bret sits between Campbell and Barnes, Romero again puts on a
spectacular show. Jake explains the subtlety of his moves to Brett.
I told her how since the death of Joselito6all the bull-fighters had been developing a technique that simulated this appearance of danger in order to give a fake emotional feeling, while the bull-fighter was really safe. Romero had the old thing, the holding of
his purity of line through the maximum of exposure, while he dominated the bull by making him realize he was unattainable, while he prepared him for the killing. (Chapter 15)......."I've never seen him do an awkward thing," Brett observes.
.......There is no fighting the next day. After Jakes takes a walk in the morning, he returns to the hotel,
finds “the gang” in the dining room, and sit downs and has some red wine. At the next table is Romero. When Jake nods hello, Romero invites him to his table. With him is a Madrid bullfight critic, and Romero introduces him to Jake. When Jake compliments Romero on his bullfighting, the matador says, “"I like it very much that you like my work. But you haven't seen it yet. To-morrow, if I get a
good bull, I will try and show it to you."
.......Brett calls over to Jake and asks for an introduction to Romero. Jake invites Romero and the critic to have coffee with the others and makes the introductions. They all move to a larger table with more
chairs. Brett sits next to Romero and begins talking to him. Mike, who is drunk, says, “Tell him Brett wants to see him put on those green pants.”
.......After Romero leaves, Brett comments on his extraordinary good looks and says, “And how I would love to
see him get into those clothes. He must use a shoe-horn.”
.......Mike then starts in on Cohn.
......."Do you think
you amount to something, Cohn? Do you think you belong here among us? People who are out to have a good time? For God's sake don't be so noisy, Cohn!"
......."Oh, cut it out, Mike," Cohn says.
......."Do you think Brett wants you here? Do you think you add to the party? Why don't you say something?" (Chapter 16)
.......Before a fight breaks out, Jake takes Mike, stumbling, away from the table and goes to a café. Gorton and Brett go with them. Brett eventually asks Jake to help her locate Romero, which he does, and she ends up in bed with the young matador.
.......Later, Bill and Mike—drunk as usual—cause a ruckus in the Bar Milano. When police are called to the scene, they eject Bill and Mike just as Jake arrives. With them is a woman, Edna, whom Mike and Bill befriended. She tells Jake that she "kept them out of four fights" (Chapter 17). At Jake's suggestion, they go to another bar, the
Café Suizo. There, they encounter Cohn. Addressing Jake, Cohn demands to know where Brett is. Jake, aware that she is with Romero, says he does not know. .......Cohn says, "The hell you don't." When Cohn presses Jake further, Mike says, "Brett's gone off with the bullfighter chap. They're on their honeymoon" (Chapter 17).
Cohn calls Jake a "damned pimp" (Chapter 17). Jake swings at Cohn. Cohn knocks him to the pavement. When he tries to get up, Cohn hits him two more times. He also knocks down Mike. Later, in the hotel, Bill tells Jake that Cohn is "in bad shape" (Chapter 17). When Jake goes into Cohn's room to see him, the
latter is lying on the bed, crying. He apologizes and asks Jake to forgive him. He says he is leaving town. Jake is reluctant at first to accept the apology. But when Cohn repeats his plea, Jake forgives him.
.......The following day, Jake learns
that Cohn also attacked Romero when he found him with Brett. But whenever he knocked Romero down, the young matador got up. Again and again Cohn struck him. But he could not knock him unconscious. Finally, Cohn stopped. The bullfighter was a bloody mess. But he punched Cohn in the face and sat down, telling Cohn he would kill him if he did not leave town.
.......After the afternoon bullfight, in which Romero again distinguishes himself, the matador runs off with Brett to Madrid.
.......The day after the fiesta ends, Jake, Mike, and Bill leave Pamplona by car and cross the border into France. They stop at the resort town of Biarritz for drinks. Afterward, they move on. Mike gets out at Saint Jean de Luz, where he can live on credit for a while, and Bill gets out at Bayonne. From there, he will be taking a train back to Paris, then shipping out for his
return trip to the United States. After spending the night in Bayonne, Jake takes a train back into Spain—to San Sebastian—for the last week of his vacation. He sends telegrams to the Hotel Montoya and his Paris office asking that messages for him should be forwarded to his San Sebastian address. The next day he receives a telegram from Brett saying she is "rather in trouble" (Chapter 19) and
asking him to come to the Hotel Montana in Madrid. He sends a return message saying his will take an express train to Madrid and arrive the following day.
The next morning, a maid escorts Jake to Brett's room. Brett tells him she sent Romero away the previous day. "He shouldn't be living with
any one," she says. "I realized that right away. . . . . I'm thirty-four, you know. I'm not going to be one of these bitches that ruins children. . . . . You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch. . . . . It's sort of what we have instead of God."
......."Some people have God," Jake says. "Quite a lot."
.......On their way out of the city, Brett laments that they could have had a good life together if things had been different.
......."Yes," Jake says. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
.......The climax occurs when Robert Cohn adopts the attitude of Jake Barnes and others of the lost generation. Cohn, of course, is not the main character. But his rejection by Brett—whom he foolishly thought would respond to his quixotic ideals—devastates him in the same way that the war devastated Jake and his fellow
veterans. His disillusionment supports the Jake Barnes view of the world that life is an umbra of defeat that follows the vanquished everywhere. The climactic moment comes in the following passage.
Cohn: "I guess it isn't any use," he said. "I guess it isn't any damn use." Conflicts
.......The main conflict is the effort of Jake Barnes, Brett Ashley, Bill Gorton, and Mike Campbell—to cope with the memories, impact, and aftermath of World War I. In the case of Jake Barnes, this conflict manifests itself in the friction in his relationship with Brett Ashley. A secondary conflict pits Robert
Cohn against anyone seeking the attentions of Brett Ashley.
The Crippling Effects of World War I
.......A war injury renders Jake Barnes impotent. He deeply loves Brett Ashley, and she says she loves him. But because of his injury, he can never consummate a sexual act. Consequently, Brett refuses to marry him, saying she will not live with a man who is incapable of fully expressing his love for her. Moreover, while
seeing him, she also sees other men, becoming intimate with them. Jake stoically accepts his fate and does not outwardly object to Brett's liaisons. His injury is a metaphor and symbol for all the men who came home from the war physically, psychologically, and/or morally impaired.
.......Brett Ashley, Mike Campbell, and Robert Cohn tend to live from day to day without long-range goals. Mike and Brett go from from bar to bar or country to country, separately or with each other, to lose themselves. Mike has no job. Instead, he relies on the promise he will eventually receive an inheritance.
Cohn invests in a magazine and becomes its editor. After it fails, he goes to Paris with the woman he believes he loves, Frances Clyne. Then he wants to go to South America, but drops this plan—and Frances—after meeting Brett. He has a liaison with her in San Sebastian and then follows her to Pamplona, but she drops him after becoming enamored of bullfighter Pedro Romero. Meanwhile, Cohn fails to
advance his career as a novelist. However, he does succeed at one thing: bringing out the worst in Campbell, Gorton, and others, who frequently ridicule him.
.......As for Barnes, he has a job that he works at, although he tends to lose
himself—and his thoughts of Brett—in bar-hopping and traveling.
.......Jake, Brett, Mike Campbell, and Bill Gorton are little more than lumps of inertia. The more they drink and the more they travel, the more they remain the same. At the end of the novel—after the last bull dies and the fiesta ends—they return to the same life they were leading at the beginning of the novel.
Nothing has changed.
Escape Into Alcohol
.......Jake Barnes, Bill Gorton, and Mike Campbell drink often—Gorton and Campbell excessively. Drinking enables them to escape the memories of the war while providing each an opportunity to fraternize with his former comrades in arms. Brett also imbibes freely, partly to anesthetize herself against the pain of
loving an impotent man, partly to make connections with other men, partly to assert her equality with males, and partly to escape her personal problems.
.......Brett Ashley makes a religion of promiscuity and infidelity. She carouses with Count Mippipopolous, pledges to marry Mike Campbell, trysts with Robert Cohn, and seduces Pedro Romero.
.......Apparently, she is seeking the fulfillment that her real love, Jakes Barnes, cannot provide and that her first two loveless marriages did not give her. Ironically, her descent into lust makes her just as dysfunctional as Barnes, for lust is not love. It leaves its victims empty.
.......Readers and critics often cite Brett as an example of the new, liberated female of the postwar era. True, Brett acts the part. Like many men, she smokes, drinks excessively, and plays around; she even wears a boyish hairstyle and a man's felt hat. And she has no
fear of speaking her mind. But this “liberated” woman is really a prisoner—a prisoner of her carnality. For example, after she sees the handsome young Pedro Romero performing, she has the following conversation with Jake.
"I'm a goner. I'm mad about the Romero boy. I'm in love with him, I think." Bigotry
"I wouldn't be if I were you."
"I can't help it. I'm a
goner. It's tearing me all up inside."
"Don't do it."
"I can't help it. I've never been able to help anything."
"You ought to stop it."
"How can I stop it? I can't stop things. Feel that?"
Her hand was trembling.
"I'm like that all through."
.......Robert Cohn is not a World War I veteran, like Jake, Bill, and Mike. But he is a veteran of his own war against anti-Semitism, which he first encountered at Princeton. There, he took up boxing “to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton,” Barnes
says. His Jewishness isolates him from Jake, Bill, and Mike and provokes bigoted remarks and observations. For example, when Cohn insists on going to South America, Jake observes to himself, “He had a hard, Jewish, stubborn streak.” After Brett's encounter with Cohn in San Sebastian, Mike tells Jake, “Brett's gone off with men. But they weren't ever Jews, and they didn't come and hang about
afterward." Before attending the bullfights at Pamplona, Bill says, “That Cohn gets me. He's got this Jewish superiority so strong that he thinks the only emotion he'll get out of the fight will be being bored." But the anti-Semitism is not limited to the men. Brett tells Jake, “Oh, darling, don't be difficult. What do you think it's meant to have that damned Jew about . . . ?
.......Jake Barnes and Bill Gorton both use the word nigger to refer to blacks. For example, in describing a bar scene, Jake writes, "Inside Zelli's it was crowded, smoky, and noisy. The music hit you as you went in. Brett and I danced. It was so crowded we could barely move. The nigger drummer waved at
Brett. We were caught in the jam, dancing in one place in front of him. In discussing a boxing match, Gorton says, "Remember something about a prizefight. Enormous Vienna prize-fight. Had a nigger in it. Remember the nigger perfectly."
and Bill do not deride blacks—in fact, Bill compliments the black fighter as an "[a]wfully noble-looking nigger"—their use of the term nigger nonetheless reflects the attitude of the times: that blacks were inferior. Gorton's phrase suggests that he thinks it is unusual for a black to look dignified and admirable.
.......Like the three Fates in Greek mythology, the war, the environment, and heredity all seem to have conspired against Jake Barnes and Brett Ashley At least that is what they appear to think.
.......Although Jake is not a complainer, he does think often about his bad luck, as in this passage: "Undressing, I looked at myself in the mirror of the big armoire beside the bed. Of all the ways to be wounded." In the Italian hospital where he was recuperating, an Italian liaison colonel told him, "Che mala fortuna! Che
.......Even what appears to be good luck for Jake is actually bad luck. As Jake notes, "Probably I never would have had any trouble if I hadn't run into Brett when they shipped me to England."
.......Brett also seems under the control of a force, as the following dialogue reveals.
"I'm a goner. I'm mad about the Romero boy. I'm in love with him, I think." Novel as a Roman à Clef
"I wouldn't be if I were you."
"I can't help it. I'm a
goner. It's tearing me all up inside."
"Don't do it."
"I can't help it. I've never been able to help anything."
.......The Sun also Risesis a roman à clef (French for novel with a key), which bases some or all of its fictional characters on real persons. Such a novel allows its author to satirize a person or reveal scandalous
details about him or her while minimizing the likelihood of a libel suit. It also enables an author to fictionalize some aspects of real person's life. Following are the names of fictional characters in The Sun Also Rises and their real-life counterparts.
Lady Brett Ashley: Lady Twysden Duff (1893-1938), British divorcée who attracted the attention of Hemingway in Paris but had a romantic encounter with Harold Loeb.
Baronet Ashley: Sir Roger Thomas Twysden
(1894-1934), a British naval officer and second husband of Lady Twysden Duff. Sir Roger and Lady Twysden divorced in 1926.
Robert Cohn: Novelist Harold Loeb (1891-1974), a Princeton Graduate and veteran of World War I.
Robert Prentiss: Glenway Wescott (1901-1987), an American novelist who lived in Paris in the 1920s.
Harvey Stone: Harold Stearns (1891-1943), American essayist and critic famous for his
drinking and panhandling.
Pedro Romero: Cayetono Ordóñez (1904-1961), celebrated bullfighter.
Mike Campbell: Pat Guthrie, a patron of Le
Dingo in Paris in the 1920s.
Frances Clyne: Kathleen Eaton Cannell (1891-1974), American writer who was a paramour of Harold Loeb (represented in the novel by Robert Cohn).
Henry Braddocks: Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), novelist, critic, editor, and publisher.
Following are definitions of bullfighting terms used in the novel.
el banderillero: Man who weakens a bull for the bullfighter by lodging barbed sticks, or darts, in the neck of the bull.
la banderilla: Barbed stick that the banderillero lodges in the neck of a bull.
la barrera: Barrier around a bullfighting arena.
la cogida: A goring.
la cornada: A goring.
la corrida: A dash; a run.
la corrida de toros: Bullfight.
el encierro: Corral; enclosure.
la lidia: Bullfighting.
matador: Top bullfighter; main bullfighter.
la muleta: Red cape draped from a wooden rod. The bullfighter taunts the bull by waving the muleta in front of it.
picador: Horseman who pricks the neck of a bull with a lance during a bullfight.
el torero: Bullfighter or another participant in a bullfight, such as a picador or a banderillero
la verónica: Maneuver in which a bullfighter holds out his red cape, allowing a bull to charge it, then pivots and sweeps the cape over the bull's head.
Bull: (1) Life: You can conquer the bull or let it run over you. (2) Masculinity: The bull's piercing horns are phallic symbols. But Pedro Romero kills several bulls, just as Brett Ashley kills the hopes of men who pursue her.
Jake's impotence: See Main Theme.
Bankruptcy: Mike Campbell's bankruptcy—and the apparent impoverishment of Harvey Stone—symbolize the moral and spiritual bankruptcy and impoverishment of the Lost Generation.
German waiter: The annoying maître d'hôtel at the hotel in Pamplona represents image of postwar Germany, as the following exchange between Jake and Bill suggests.
Jake: "I won't eat down-stairs with that German head waiter. He was damned snotty when I was getting Mike up-stairs."
Bill: "He was snotty to us, too."
The Running of the Bulls
.......The running of the bulls at the festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain, is the most famous event of its kind. (Similar events take place in Portugal and Mexico, as well as in other Spanish cities.) The festival is held annually July 6 to 14. On the morning of July 7, keepers release bulls
scheduled for fights. The bulls then run through city streets on a route leading to the bullfighting arena. Side streets are barricaded. Men aged 18 or older run just ahead of them in the narrow streets a display of bravado. Many of them suffer injuries, occasionally a fatal one. The bulls run again on each day of the bullfighting competition. In The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes describes
the scene from a balcony.
When I woke it was the sound of the rocket exploding that announced the release of the bulls from the corrals at the edge of town. They would race through the streets and out to the bull-ring. I had been sleeping heavily and I woke feeling I was too late. I put on a coat of Cohn's and went out on the balcony. Down below the narrow street
was empty. All the balconies were crowded with people. Suddenly a crowd came down the street. They were all running, packed close together. They passed along and up the street toward the bullring and behind them came more men running faster, and then some stragglers who were really running. Behind them was a little bare space, and then the bulls galloping, tossing their heads up and down. It all
went out of sight around the corner. One man fell, rolled to the gutter, and lay quiet. But the bulls went right on and did not notice him. They were all running together. After they went out of sight a great roar came from the bullring. It kept on. Then finally the pop of the rocket that meant the bulls had gotten through the people in the ring and into the corrals.Notes
1...riau-riau: A dance through the streets of Pamplona, from city hall to the chapel of San Fermín, on July 6, beginning at 4:30 p.m. A band plays a waltz.
2...lost . . . says: Although Hemingway attributed the quotation to Gertrude Stein, she reportedly said it originated with the owner of an auto-repair shop, a Monsieur Pernollet. He used the phrase une génération perdue (a lost generation) in referring to the young men who had fought in the First World War, inasmuch as they had
missed their formative teen years.
3...batamweight . . . Francis: Kid Francis defeated Charles Ledoux on June 9, 1925, at the Cirque de Paris. Hemingway (as Jake Barnes) says the fight took place on June 20.
4...San Fermín: Saint Fermín, a Roman Catholic bishop who was martyred circa AD 302.
5...pelota: Two-man game resembling handball in which each player uses a curved wicker basket to retrieve a ball bounced from a wall and hurl it back against the wall. The game is similar to jai alai.
José Gómez Ortega, a celebrated matador who died in a bullfight when he was only twenty-five.
7...Fates: In Greek mythology, they were three goddesses—Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis—who controlled the destiny of each
.......Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was an
American writer of novels and short stories. Before turning to fiction, he worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star and served as a First World War ambulance driver. Then he enlisted with the Italian infantry and suffered a wound. After the war, he worked for the Toronto Star and lived for a time in Paris and Key West, Fla. During the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War,
he served as a newspaper correspondent, then lived in Cuba until 1958 and Idaho until 1961, the year of his death by suicide.
.......His narratives frequently contain masculine motifs, such as bull-fighting (Death in the Afternoon), hunting (The Green Hills of
Africa), war (A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell
Tolls), and fishing (The Old Man and the Sea). All of these motifs derive from Hemingway’s own experiences as a traveler, a soldier, and an adventurer. Arguably, he was a better short-story writer than a novelist,
although it was his longer works that built his reputation.
Study Questions and Writing Topics
- Who is the most admirable character in the novel. Who is the least admirable?
- Robert Cohn is a skilled amateur boxer. Pedro Romero is skilled professional matator—and a very young and handsome one. Jake Barnes is a somewhat sedentary war veteran who was rendered impotent by mortar fire. But is he less of a man than Cohn or Romero? Explain your answer.
- Was Jake Barnes a mouthpiece for Hemingway's feelings and ideas? Explain your answer.
- Write an informative essay that explains Hemingway's "iceberg theory," which guided his literary style. You will need to conduct library and Internet research to marshal the information you need. For an introduction to the iceberg theory, click here.
- Write an informative essay centering on Paris as a cultural center in the 1920s.