The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 1, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Jake and Brett take the taxi back to Brett's hotel. During the drive Jake marvels at Brett's beauty. Outside he kisses her, but she begs him not to. She admits she loves him but says she doesn't want to "go through that hell again." She feels her suffering with Jake is a result of having put "chaps" through "hell." Jake tries to make her laugh by saying his injury is "funny," but Brett is difficult to cheer up. They sit in silence, "like two strangers," before deciding to meet back up with their friends for another drink. At the bar Brett quickly befriends the wealthy Count Mippipopolous who buys her expensive champagne. Jake feigns a headache and leaves when he hears someone else took Georgette home.

Back at his hotel Jake checks his bank balance, reads the newspaper, and begins thinking about his wartime injury: "My head started to work. The old grievance." He admits to himself he would probably be okay with his injury if he hadn't fallen in love with Brett. Thinking of this he begins to weep. When he has finished crying the concierge knocks to say he has a visitor. It is Brett, tipsy from the many glasses of champagne she shared with the Count. She regales the Count's many offers of money and travel, encouraging Jake to come back out and party with them. Jake is too sober to be any fun, so he declines. He and Brett kiss some more, and then Brett leaves. Jake goes to bed feeling terribly lonely.

Analysis

The war has deeply affected Jake and Brett. Although never explicitly stated, Jake's self-deprecating comments essentially confirm his injury resulted in impotence, which greatly affects his sense of masculinity. Without being able to have sex, Brett cannot commit to a relationship with Jake despite clearly loving him. Their sexless relationship subverts traditional gender roles, with Brett chasing her libido while Jake remains chaste. This reversal not only accentuates Jake's emasculation within gender expectations, it, along with her short hair and masculine dress, characterize Brett as a "new woman" of the 1920s. These women embraced social freedom and independence, although Brett remains unhappy.

Throughout the novel Brett moves from man to man, grasping at momentary happiness, the key characteristic of the lost generation. In this chapter she attaches herself to the wealthy Count because he flatters her and buys her expensive champagne. She has no interest in pursuing a relationship with him, and while she is out with him she returns to continue kissing Jake. For Jake the relationship with Brett provides a constant source of pain—"the old grievance"—and offers him the only scene in which the reader sees true emotion. After Brett leaves with the Count he weeps from loneliness, although he proceeds in the typically stoic Hemingway way: he cries until he has finished, and then he moves on. Throughout the chapter Jake and Brett return to each other multiple times; they struggle to accept the impossibility of a romantic—that is, consummated—relationship.

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