The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 1, Chapter 1 | Summary



The novel opens with the narrator, Jake Barnes, describing his friend Robert Cohn. Jake's tone is somewhat sarcastic and snarky; he makes it clear that although they are friends he does not respect Cohn: "Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn." Cohn is an accomplished boxer and writer who has been coupled with a string of women who are much stronger than Cohn himself, in Jake's opinion. Cohn is Jewish, which deeply affects the way he views himself. Cohn clearly likes Jake and asks to holiday with him while he works on his second novel, though they disagree on where to go. Cohn doesn't want to go anywhere that might rouse his wife's jealousy.


Jake's decision to start his story by describing Cohn gives the reader great insight into Jake himself. Jake avoids introspection and emotionality, preferring either stoicism or downright avoidance, either of which could explain his choice to spotlight Cohn. As a member of the lost generation Jake has become apathetic after World War I; he has little interest in the world apart from his own selfish pleasures. The exception is Brett, with whom he is fascinated and in love. Cohn had an affair with Brett, which—although not directly referenced in this chapter—changed the way Jake feels about him. Cohn's success with Brett rouses a sense of competition in Jake; unable to compete with Cohn romantically, Jake now cuts him down in every other way.

Jake and Cohn are both quite similar and very different. Both men love Brett, both enjoy sport, and both are insecure writers. Jake is an injured war veteran; Cohn remained a civilian. Yet World War I extends its shadow over each of the characters.

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