The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 3, Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Mike, Bill, and Jake rent a car to leave Pamplona, and they go out drinking together one more time. Mike confesses he is out of money, and has been for some time, as Brett had paid most of the hotel bill. They all part ways and Jake returns to Bayonne, where he muses it is good to be back in France, where relationships are simpler and founded on a sound footing—the exchange of money. Nevertheless he returns to San Sebastian, searching for solace in nature. He spends a few blissful days swimming in the sea and following the bike races, but soon a telegram from Brett arrives begging him to meet her in Madrid. Jake jumps on the first available train, traveling overnight to reach her.

He finds her in her hotel alone. She has broken up with Romero, who wanted her to grow her hair out and marry him. She cries, shaking, and says she plans to return to Mike. Brett puts his arms around her. Later she can't stop talking about how young Romero was. She and Jake have lunch, where she asks Jake repeatedly not to get drunk, but he keeps drinking. They go for a drive in Madrid, and their bodies press together in the taxi. Brett says she and Jake "could have had such a damned good time together." Jake bitterly responds, "Yes, isn't it pretty to think so?"

Analysis

Jake admits living in France is simpler because it is transactional—you get what you pay for. It is quite civilized. Nevertheless he returns to Spain, which like the fiesta offers a more primal, visceral experience of the world. In San Sabastian he says he has "recovered an hour," and he swims in the ocean "with my eyes open and it was green and dark." He remarks at the beauty of the Spanish children, and he sees a one-armed soldier. His observations of people—bathers on the beach, a romantic couple on a raft, the bicyclists who don't seem to really care about the competition—seem clear-eyed and calm. Alone in nature and detached from the competition over Brett, Jake seems at peace.

When he does respond to her telegram and goes to Madrid, he consoles her, but he doesn't try to win her back. When a woman at the hotel simply refers to Lady Ashley as "a female English," the reader feels Brett has been diminished. Her many affairs have only brought her sadness, and yet in refusing to marry Romero and become a "traditional" woman she still asserts her independence, even if it brings her grief. She returns to Mike, of whom she says, "He's so damned nice and he's so awful. He's my sort of thing." Later the final scene in the taxi is reminiscent of the scene at the beginning of Chapter 4, when Jake and Brett ride in the taxi together and Jake kisses her. In that chapter Jake clearly pined for Brett, asking, "Don't you love me?" Now, however, at the novel's end he holds her, but he doesn't attempt to kiss her or ask for her love. He seems consigned to the notion of their life together is now just a fantasy to be admired. Maybe this is what he "pays" for their relationship.

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