The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Plot Summary

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Summary

The Sun Also Rises tells the story of a group of disillusioned expatriates living in post–World War I Europe, searching for meaning as they travel, drink, and engage in romances during a Spanish fiesta. The narrator is Jake Barnes, a war veteran who sustained an injury that made him impotent. As the novel opens, Jake describes his fellow writer and companion Robert Cohn, who was a top boxer in college. Jake doesn't really like Cohn, but he tolerates him—even after Cohn falls for Jake's great love, Lady Brett Ashley. Lady Brett, a divorced socialite, was a nurse during the war and cared for Jake after his injury.

Although Jake is a journalist, he spends little time working, preferring to party and drink with Cohn and the American writer Bill Gorton. While at a dance club one evening, Jake runs into Brett. The two sneak away to drink privately, and Brett reveals she loves Jake but is unwilling to give up sex to be with him. The two kiss and then part ways. The next morning Cohn claims to be in love with Brett; Jake rudely insists Brett will marry Mike Campbell, an alcoholic Scotsman whom she also nursed back to health during the war. Cohn asks Jake to travel to South America with him, but Jake declines; instead he plans a fishing trip with Bill in southern France. Later Mike and Brett ask if they can join the fishing trip, and Jake agrees. They also decide to attend the fiesta in Pamplona, Spain, and watch the bullfighting. When Jake and Brett are alone, she reveals she had an affair with Cohn a few weeks earlier and now he will not leave her alone. Jake knows Brett is prone to affairs, but this one secretly angers him. The group parts ways.

Jake and Bill pass a peaceful five days in southern France, fishing and playing cards. The rest of their friends never show up. Brett and Mike are running late, as usual, and Cohn has decided to stay behind in Bayonne, France, to wait for Brett. They are all reunited in Pamplona, where they stay at Montoya's hotel. Over the years Montoya has come to respect Jake as a passionate fan of bullfighting; Jake has now joined Montoya's inner circle of bullfighters and critics. Montoya introduces Jake to a promising new bullfighter, Pedro Romero. Although he is only 19 years old, Romero is a real bullfighter; he doesn't need to resort to tricks or illusions to entertain the crowd. Jake notes Romero's charm and good looks. The rest take notice of Romero during the first day of bullfighting. Romero excels, and Brett claims she is in love with him. At a party that night Brett asks Jake to introduce her to Romero, which he does. Montoya worries Romero will become distracted during the fiesta and his talent will suffer. He feels personally offended when Romero begins drinking and flirting with Brett. With Jake's help Brett and Romero spend the night together. When Cohn learns of this he snaps; he calls Jake a pimp and knocks him out. He also punches Mike and beats Romero nearly senseless. After the fight Jake finds Cohn lying face down and crying in his hotel room. Ashamed of his behavior, Cohn asks to shake Jake's hand, and Jake accepts.

The next day Romero performs brilliantly at the bullfights, expertly killing a bull that had gored a man during the running of the bulls. He cuts off one of the bull's ears and gives it to Brett without looking at anyone else in the crowd. Romero's face is bruised from Cohn's attack, which deeply embarrasses Jake. Cohn left early in the morning, too embarrassed to say goodbye and too heartbroken to face Brett. After the bullfights end, Brett and Romero leave for Madrid; Mike, Jake, and Bill go their separate ways. Jake intends to pass time in the quiet town of San Sebastian, but shortly after arriving he receives an urgent telegram from Brett asking him to meet her in Madrid. He takes the earliest train to race to her side. Romero has left, she says, at her request. She claims he wanted to marry her, but she has never been interested in a domestic life. Alone and penniless, she once again wants Jake to save her. She claims she will return to Mike, but she notes she and Jake could have had a wonderful life together. Jake bitterly responds, "Yes, isn't it pretty to think so?"

The Sun Also Rises Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675

Introduction

1 Jake and other World War I veterans party in Paris.

Rising Action

2 Brett and Cohn have an affair in San Sebastian.

3 Mike, Cohn, and Jake vie for Brett's affection in Pamplona.

4 The bullfights begin; Romero's talent is revealed.

Climax

5 Cohn attacks Jake, Mike, and Romero.

Falling Action

6 The fiesta ends.

Resolution

7 In Madrid Jake rebuffs Brett's idea of a beautiful life.

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