The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 1, Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Cohn returns to Paris from America, where he had been promoting his novel, and his success there seems to have changed him: "He was not so simple, and he was not so nice." He continues to press Jake about vacationing together in South America, but Jake still doesn't want to go even though Cohn insists he will pay for everything. Cohn is upset that his life is speeding past and he doesn't really feel as if he is living it. Jake says Cohn should not try to run from his problems. Jake feels bad for Cohn and invites him up to his office while he sends off some telegrams. Cohn promptly falls asleep, talks in his sleep, and admits to having slept poorly the night before. Jake pictures Cohn tossing and turning because "I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends."

Analysis

The comparison between Cohn and Jake continues as they discuss how to live one's life. Cohn expresses frustration about life passing him by. Jake, who has lived through the war and was profoundly affected by it, suggests the only way to fully live life is to constantly confront death, like a bullfighter: "Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bullfighters." When considering the symbolism of Brett as a bull and the men as bullfighters, Jake's statement also suggests Brett is the only person who makes Jake feel alive. Hemingway inverts this symbol later in the novel when Brett takes on the role of bullfighter and the men take on the roles of bulls.

Jake's apathy also shows in his refusal to vacation in South America with Cohn. Cohn, who was never in the war, still holds romantic notions of the world. He wants to experience new cultures and form strong friendships. Jake, on the other hand, remains skeptical. He returned from the war deeply unsatisfied with his life, and he now suggests there is no escape from that dissatisfaction: "You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another." He advises Cohn to accept dissatisfaction in life, as he has learned to do. For Jake this dissatisfaction is further revealed through his insomnia, which he battles by picturing the "bedroom scenes" of his friends. This nighttime habit provides the first hint into Jake's wartime injury, which resulted in his impotence.

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