The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 2, Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

The next morning Jake visits with Brett and Mike, who apologizes for being so drunk the night before. He practically begs to come along with Jake and Bill on their fishing trip to Pamplona. Jake agrees, saying it would be fine. While Mike gets his hair cut Jake accompanies Brett back to her hotel. On the way she tells Jake she vacationed with Cohn in San Sebastian, and she wonders whether he'll be on the fishing trip. Jake is annoyed to hear about Brett's tryst but tries not to let on. Cohn will be joining them on the fishing trip, but Brett admits Cohn is in love with her and it might be awkward.

The group agrees to meet in San Sebastian and make their way to Pamplona from there, with no one waiting for each other: "I wrote out an itinerary so they could follow us." Bill and Jake take the first train, where they struggle to obtain seats in the dining car because the train is full of Catholics on a pilgrimage. Jake and Bill chat with other passengers, including an American family, but spend most of the time looking out the window watching the country pass by. Cohn meets Jake and Bill at the station in Bayonne, where they will be staying for a short while. Bill intimidates Cohn because Bill has experienced such literary success.

Analysis

This chapter reveals the primary conflict between the male characters. Previously they had all lusted after Brett, but none, aside from Mike, had obtained her. When Brett reveals she slept with Cohn she ignites a sense of competition between Jake and Cohn for her affection. This becomes particularly true when romantic Cohn refuses to view their relationship as a dalliance, as Brett does. By continuing to moon over Brett, Cohn further casts himself as an outsider within the group. Bill, Jake, and Brett—all veterans—don't believe anything, including human interaction, has value outside of the immediate transaction. Cohn, on the other hand, not knowing Brett's true feelings for Jake, hopes to create a meaningful relationship with her. Rather than speak to Cohn directly about his frustration, Jake takes small jabs at Cohn's character, typically about his Jewishness. Like a boxer Jake continues to jab and jab until Cohn eventually swings back.

Brett seems to relish the male competition for her affection. Although she claims to love Jake and to speak honestly only with him, she lied to him about the intentions of her trip to San Sebastian and practically gloats about her affair with Cohn: "Who did you think I went down to San Sebastian with?" Moments like this call Jake's reliability into question. Hemingway typically depicts his characters through their interactions with others rather than describing them explicitly on the page. In these moments Hemingway hints Brett is less loving toward Jake than he believes. In Jake's mind Brett is as tortured about their unconsummated love as he is, yet the reader sees she may not be as tortured as Jake thinks. When bullfighting becomes a strong symbol later in the novel, it becomes clear Brett is the bullfighter, waving her affection like a red flag toward the raging men who charge toward it like bulls.

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