The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 2, Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

The next morning Jake wakes early and digs for worms before waking Bill. Bill jokes about Jake burying money in the dirt and about not ever wanting to get out of bed. Jake ignores him and continues preparing their supplies for the day's fishing. Bill continues, joking about irony and pity, repeatedly asking Jake to make an ironic joke: "You ought to be ironical the minute you get out of bed. You ought to wake up with your mouth full of pity." Bill complains that as an expatriate Jake has "lost touch with the soil" and become too "precious" about Europe. The joke goes too far, however, when Bill claims Jake never works and women support him: "Another group claims you're impotent," he says. "No," Jake answers. "I just had an accident." Bill realizes his mistake and quickly backpedals, telling Jake how much he admires him even though he worries the praise makes him sound like "a faggot."

After breakfast Bill and Jake head to the river to fish. They fish in relative silence, marveling at the beauty around them, although they argue about the best way to catch trout: traditionally or fly-fishing. Time passes, and Jake catches six small trout to Bill's large four. Over lunch they reminisce about a friend who passed away, with Bill jokingly stating, "Our stay on earth is not for long. Let us rejoice and believe and give thanks." He carries on somewhat sarcastically as if delivering a religious sermon. He and Jake drink heavily. Jake admits to having been in love with Brett years ago, although he claims he doesn't "give a damn any more." Bill returns the conversation to religion, questioning Jake about how he could possibly be Catholic. Soon they both fall asleep. They stay in Burguete to fish for five days without receiving word from Brett or Cohn.

Analysis

Like Cohn, Bill provides a foil for Jake's character, giving the reader more insight than Jake's sparse narration alone. Bill never fought in the war, but he was there, perhaps as a war correspondent. As such he can understand the lost generation even if he is not part of it. Whereas Jake suffers in stoic silence, Bill freely speaks his mind, talking openly about his feelings. His stories offer much-needed comic relief to dispel the novel's rising tensions—although their humor and offensive language now feel dated. However Bill uses sarcasm in the same way Jake uses silence—to deflect from issues before they penetrate too deeply.

Despite Bill's sarcastic tone Jake speaks freely with him, or at least far more freely than he would with any of his other male friends. He discusses his injury, although it slightly embarrasses Bill, and his love for Brett. While he denies being in love with Brett now, which is a lie, Jake is able to admit the emotions were once there. For his part Bill seems indifferent to Brett's charms. Many critics have suggested that as the only male character not to pursue Brett romantically Bill might be gay. Homosexuality was not openly accepted in the 1920s—remember Jake's disdain for Brett's gay friends in Chapter 3—and with his comment about being considered a "faggot" Bill reveals his insecurity. Should Bill have a sexual secret, like Jake's impotence, it would explain their ability to be vulnerable within their friendship.

Nature continues to play an important role in comforting Jake. The stream, the woods, hiking, and fishing for trout all assuage Jake's sensibilities, and Bill seems to share in the experience. They drink wine that has been cooled in a spring and fall asleep among the trees. Their idyllic time in the natural setting at Burguete contrasts sharply with the drama that accompanies their time with Brett and Cohn.

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