The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 2, Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Weeks pass without Jake hearing from Brett or Cohn, although he tries to keep up with their gossip as he prepares for his trip to Spain in June. He will be traveling with his friend, fellow writer Bill Gorton. Bill has been traveling through America and Europe promoting his new book, which has done well, but he arrives back in Paris suddenly. He claims to have been so drunk in Vienna that he cannot remember what happened. Slowly the memories come back to him, and he recounts a tremendous boxing match in which a "wonderful nigger" obliterated a local boy and Bill helped his escape from the outraged locals.

As the two reminisce they run into Brett, who has returned from San Sebastian and plans to meet her fiancé, Mike, later that night. They all agree to meet for a drink later that night. Bill and Jake have some drinks and a meal in the meantime, and when they're feeling a bit drunk they meet up with Brett and Mike at the café. Mike is also quite drunk and keeps calling Brett a "lovely piece." The men chat about an upcoming boxing match and whether they'd like to attend.

Analysis

Bill Gorton's experiences in America help characterize the lost generation. Bill tells a rambling story about his travels, which he originally claims not to remember at all. The memories are unpleasant, prompting Bill to drink heavily in order to forget them. Through excessive drinking Bill represses memories, which is what the lost generation seeks to do, but through talking it all comes flooding back. Likely for this very reason Jake and his friends avoid discussing anything in depth. Bill's rambling story also characterizes the era, in which phrases like "wonderful nigger" were acceptable, although they are shocking and offensive to readers today.

Although Bill's role in the novel is essentially as comic relief, he has a close friendship with Jake. Jake seems to be more comfortable with Bill than any of his other friends—certainly close enough to travel alone with Bill, which he wasn't comfortable doing with Cohn. Despite being drunk Bill speaks clearly on many topics, including Brett's beauty and his shared view with Jake about relationships as transactions: "Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog." For Bill and Jake, relationships, whether platonic or romantic, involve an exchange, typically of money. This creates a sense of order and fairness in the world, perhaps to balance the randomness and chaos of war.

The reader finally meets Brett's fiancé, Mike, in this chapter, giving further insight into Brett's character. Mike and the Count are incredibly similar in their objectification of Brett. Just as the Count repeatedly called Brett "my dear," Mike calls Brett a "lovely piece." Just as with the Count, Brett allows the demeaning behavior. Later in the novel Jake says Brett "can't go anywhere alone," which explains why she stays with Mike even though she doesn't love him.

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