“The Sun Also Rises” is a 1926 novel written by the famed American author Ernest Hemingway. The novel’s main theme is that of the “Lost Generation” or the generation of young men that were seen to be irrevocably damaged by World War I and Hemingway’s assertion that they were not as decadent and dissolute as was commonly thought.
The novel was well received by the public and is seen as Hemingway’s most important and most influential novel. It has been continuously in print since it was first released. The novel tells the story of Jake Barnes, a young man recently returned from World War I who suffered an undisclosed injury that makes it impossible for him to be physically intimate with a woman.
The injury caused the woman he loves, an English heiress named Lady Brett Ashley to spurn him although the two still regularly see each other. Jake, Brett and Jake’s friend Cohn, among others, take a trip to Spain to see the Running of the Bulls festival. During this time, Jake learns that Cohn and Brett had a fling in the recent past and becomes jealous. Brett eventually falls in love with a bullfighter named Romero and runs off with him at the end of the book.
The novel opens with a description of a man named Robert Cohn. Cohn born to a rich Jewish family in New York. He faced much anti-Semitism during his time at Princeton and began throwing himself into boxing as a way to combat his anger and loneliness. He soon became the universities middleweight champion. After graduating, he married very quickly and had three children. Cohn lost must of his inheritance and his wife soon left him.
Cohn then moved to California and began spending time with a literary crowd. He soon began dating a gold-digging woman named Frances Clyne who persuaded him to take her to Paris to join the post-war expatriates living there.
Cohn now lives in Paris and has become friends with the narrator of the novel, Jake Barnes. Cohn began writing while living in Paris and recently finished a novel.
He lives with his controlling girlfriend who seems to only be interested in finding a way to force him to marry her.
Cohn travels to New York in order to find a publisher for his novel. He has such a good trip that when he returns he asks Jake if he wants to go on another trip to South America with him. Cohn had been infected with a wanderlust and suddenly worries that he is not living his life to the fullest.
Jake is reluctant to travel and wishes to stave his friend off for a while. He asserts that Cohn’s discontent with his life is not a result of living in Paris but of his stagnation within himself. He tells his friend that he cannot get away from his problems by simply moving around.
After Cohn leaves the bar where Jake brought him to have a drink, Jake catches the eye of a pretty prostitute named Georgette. The two have dinner together. Georgette asks him if he would like to go home with her but Jake turns her down, explaining that he received a wound in the war that makes having sex impossible for him.
Georgette is upset by this but Cohn and Frances hail them from a nearby table and request that they all go dancing together. The group goes to a hot and crowded club where they bump into another friend, Lady Brett Ashley, a British socialite who is surrounded by a crowd of young men. Jake gets angry at the men surrounding her and disgusted that Brett is entertaining them.
Jake implies that the men are, in fact, homosexuals and that he is disgusted by this. Brett says that she enjoys them because she feels that she can “safely” get drunk around them. When Cohn meets Brett he immediately falls for her and tries to convince her to dance with him. He is unsuccessful and Jake and Brett leave the club together.
Once they get into a taxi together Jake and Brett begin kissing passionately. Jake confesses to the reader that they are in love but Brett will not be with him romantically because Jake cannot have sex.
Brett confesses that she sees his injury as a fated punishment for all of the torture that she has put her former suitors through and Jake lies that he doesn’t often think of his war wound and finds it funny. The two travel to a cafe where they run into more friends. A man named Zizi introduces them to a Greek Count named Mippipoplous who seems to take an interest in Brett.
Jake leaves to go home after vowing to meet Brett again the next day. After returning home, Jake begins thinking about his wound. He admits that he received it while fighting in Italy and that he feels that other people make more of a fuss of it than he does. He feels that he would never have cared about sex at all if he hadn’t met Brett.
He cries himself to sleep and is woken at four in the morning by Brett drunkenly trying to get into his apartment.
Jake lets her in and Brett confesses that the Count offered her ten thousand dollars to go to Biarritz with him. She tells Jake that she turned him down but that he is still waiting outside with his car. She begs Jake to come out with them and when he declines, kisses him goodnight before leaving.
The next day, Cohn meets Jake at his office for lunch. Jake tells Cohn that Brett is a drunk and that she will most likely marry a fellow rich man named Campbell. Brett’s first love died of dysentery during the war and Jake explains that he met her while she was volunteering in the hospital he was taken to after he was injured.
That evening Jake tries to meet Brett but she stands him up. He leaves to meet up with Cohn and Frances asks to have a word with him privately. She tells him that Cohn didn’t want to marry her. Jake tries to remain aloof. She confesses that she is worried that no one will marry her and that her husband left her with no alimony. Adding to her depression, no one will publish her writing.
When they rejoin Cohn, Frances tells Jake that Cohn has given her two hundred pounds to go to England but that she had to wrest it from him. She bitterly describes the visits to friends that she will be expected to make in England and claims that Cohn is refusing to marry her because he wants to impress people by having a mistress.
Jake, tired by listening to Frances diatribe, eventually excuses himself and goes home. Brett and the Count are waiting for him at his house. He asks why they stood him up and Brett admits that she got so drunk that she forgot.
Brett tells Jake that she is leaving Paris for Spain because she feels it will be better for both of them.
The Count brings them champagne and tells Jake his life philosophy. He says that he has been in seven wars and four revolutions and now enjoys everything as much as he can because he has lived so fully. He says that he is always in love with someone because he feels that it is the most important thing in life.
The group go out to a club together and at the end of the night Brett kisses Jake several times before pushing him away. Brett leaves for Spain the next day and Jake does not see her for a while. Cohn leaves Paris to tour the countryside and Frances go to England by herself.
Jake is visited by an American friend named Bill Gorton and while he is out to dinner with him he spies Brett getting out of a cab. Unaware that Brett had returned to Paris, Jake invites her to go for drinks. Brett agrees but leaves early to meet Mike Campbell, the Scottish hear that Jake suspects she will eventually marry.
Jake and Bill make a plan to go for a vacation in Spain. Before leaving Brett and Mike ask if they can join him and he agrees. Brett reveals to Jake that she met up with Cohn while she was in Spain and the two had a brief fling and this angers Jake. Jake and Bill take a train to Bayonne and meet Cohn who is waiting for them there.
Cohn is worried that Jake will have found out about his fling with Brett. Jake, Bill, and Cohn travel to Pamplona where they are to meet up with Brett and Mike but soon discover that they have not made it as Mike became ill on the way. They had to stop in San Sebastian. Bill and Jake decide to continue with their vacation and take a bus to a town called Burguete but Cohn decides to stay in Pamplona and wait for Brett and Mike.
Cohn confesses to Jake about his fling with Brett. Bill and Jake take a bus ride to Burguete where they make friends with a group of Basque people (the native people who inhabit the area of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain). The Basque people show them how to properly drink wine from a wineskin and engage them in friendly conversation during the beautiful drive through the Spanish countryside.
Once they arrive at Burguete, Bill and Jake are charged an exorbitant amount by the innkeeper at the inn that they are staying. The innkeeper tells them it is because it is the busy season, however, the two men later learn that they are the only people staying in the hotel at that time.
Waking early, Jake goes out to dig for worms so that they will have bait to go fishing. When he returns to the hotel Bill begins joking with him about being an expatriate and says that everyone thinks that expatriates are drunks and terrible writers. Bill further says that some women think that Jake is impotent and Jake argues that he is not impotent and that he just had an accident.
The two joke about it and Bill tell Jake that he is more fond of him than anyone on earth. He claims that he cannot tell him this in New York because he will be seen as a homosexual. Bill and Jake pack a lunch and head out to the river to go fishing. They two friends catch much fish and sit down to have lunch. During lunch, they joke about friends they made in the war and Bill asks Jake if he was ever in love with Brett. Jake says that he was for a long time. They take a nap by the river and then head back to the hotel. Bill and Jake stay in Burguete for five days fishing and playing cards but they hear nothing from Cohn, Brett or Mike.
Upon returning to Pamplona, Bill and Jake are reunited with Mike, Brett, and Cohn and watch the Running of The Bulls festival. After watching the bulls, the group goes to a cafe for a drink. Jake learns that after he and Bill left Pamplona, Cohn traveled to San Sebastian to find Brett. Mike is now jealous of Cohn and scolds him for not knowing when he isn’t wanted.
Bill leads Cohn away and Mike tells Jake that he wouldn’t mind Brett having an affair if Cohn wasn’t Jewish and wasn’t intent on hanging around after she was obviously done with him. To ease the tension in the group, they drink heavily over dinner and Jake returns to his room later very drunk. Jake hears Mike and Brett laughing as they go to bed together and thinks that women make good friends because a man has to be in love with a woman to be friends with her.
That is how he feels about Brett but he knows that eventually, he will have to suffer to keep her friendship. He also thinks that he is saddened that Mike would fight with Cohn but is glad to see someone insulting the man.
The Running of the Bull festival officially begins that Sunday. The town comes alive with people celebrating and dancing in the square.
A circle of people begins to dance around Brett and they pull Jake into dance. Afterward, the friends go to a wine shop where Brett learns to drink from a wineskin and wears a wreath of garlic around her neck. Eventually Jake realizes that Cohn is missing and finds him passed out in the back of the shop. Later the group eats a large dinner and Jake goes to bed by himself.
The next morning Jake is woken by a rocket exploding to announce the start of the Running of the Bulls. Jake watches the Running from his balcony and later he and his friends watch the Bullfights from high up in the amphitheater. The group watches a young celebrity bullfighter named Romero as he takes the stage in the arena and astounds everyone with his talents. Brett, in particular, is dazzled by Romero and Mike jokes afterward that Brett may have fallen in love with Romero.
He tells Jake to warn her that bullfighters are notorious for beating their mothers. The next morning, Jake meets his friends in the hotel dining room. The bullfighter, Romero is also there eating a meal with a reporter. Jake speaks to Romero about bullfighting. Jake finds Romero to be modest but very passionate about his work and enjoys the boy’s company. Brett insists on Jake introducing Romero to the group and when he does he realizes that his friends are all very drunk.
The only sober one is Brett who begins speaking privately to Romero. Cohn and Mike get into another fight and Jake wonders if Cohn actually enjoys the drunken dramatics the whole thing. As many tourists arrive in town for the last day of the festival, Brett tells Jake that she wants to spend some alone time with him. She complains to him about Mike and Cohn’s behavior. Brett soon asks Jake if he still loves her and he reveals that he does. Brett confesses that she is interested in Romero and admits that she feels insincere in admitting it.
Jake agrees to go with Brett to find Romero and when they do he is chatting with his bullfighter friends. Brett and Romero leave together, leaving Jake behind. Jake finds Mike and Bill at a bar after they were almost tossed out for fighting again. Cohn finds the others and demands that Jake tell him where Brett is and Mike admits that she and Romero have gone off together.
This infuriates Cohn who calls Jake a pimp. Jake takes a swing at Cohn and a fight breaks out with Mike joining in. Cohn knocks Jake out cold. When Jake awakens he goes back to his hotel and finds Cohn lying on his bed, crying. Cohn apologizes for hitting Jake and begs to be forgiven. Jake forgives him and shakes his hand.
The next day after watching the bullfight, Jake learns that Cohn found Brett and Romero together and attacked Romero. Brett yelled at Cohn and Romero hit knocked him out. Mike admits that he told Brett that he didn’t want her hanging around Cohn anymore and Brett said that she was miserable. She told him that her former husband, Lord Ashley abused her and she is tired of British aristocracy.
The next day Cohn leaves Pamplona. Brett tells everyone that Romero is quite beat up from the fight with Cohn but that he plans to do the bull fight he is scheduled for that day anyway. Mike is angered that Brett is still seeing Romero and overturns a table in the cafe. Brett pulls Jake away. They go back to the hotel and Jake retires to his room as Brett goes to Romero’s.
They group-minus Mike, meet again for the last bull fight. Romero gives Brett his cape to hold during the fight. Romero performs smoothly, as always during the bull fight and after he kills the bull he gives one of it’s ears to Brett.
Later that day Brett and Romero leave town on a train together. Jake and Bill drink in a cafe and Jake find Mike sitting in his hotel room, drunk.
The next day Mike, Bill, and Jake drive back to Bayonne. Bill parts from them at the train station and Mike is dropped off in Saint Jean de Luz. Jake travels to Bayonne and then on to San Sebastian. However, not long after he gets there he receives two telegrams from Brett saying that she needs him and that she is “in trouble”.
Jake travels to Madrid to see Brett and she greets him with a kiss. She tells him that she has sent Romero away but she sent for Jake because she was worried that Romero might not leave if she asked him to. Romero offered to marry her but she did not want to and she forced him to leave.
She tells Jake that she wants to go back to Mike. She and Jake go out to lunch and Jake drinks heavily. Brett asks him not too drunk so much and tells him that he will be alright. Brett and Jake get into a taxi together and she remarks that they could have been good together. Jake answers that it is “pretty to think so”.
Jake Barnes – The main character and narrator of the novel. Jake is a young man who has recently returned from war. During the war, Jake was wounded in such a way that he is no longer able to have sex. Jake says many times throughout the novel that he does not feel that his injury has changed his life so much and that he feels that other people make a bigger deal out of it than he does. However, it is often implied that Jake is at least a little saddened by the loss of the ability to become intimate especially as far as Brett is concerned.
Jake’s injury has many psychological ramifications that the novel explores through subtle character interactions. Jake’s feelings of inadequacy are often shown in his interactions with other men. His hostility toward Cohn and the other men vying for Brett’s affection, in particular, are obviously coming from a place of wounded masculinity.
Jake’s character does not show much growth throughout the novel and it could be argued that he ends the book in much the same place that he started, in a taxi cab with Brett, talking about their struggle with their relationship. However, Jake, especially with his inability to be with Brett in a sexual relationship, is very much painted as an outsider to the plot and a removed bystander who can relate the details of the story to the reader.
Lady Brett Ashley – The main heroine of the novel. Brett is a beautiful, English heiress who, when we meet her, is living in Paris and enjoying her life.
Brett captures the hearts of almost every man she meets and has a habit of intending to date all of them at once. Most of the male characters in the story are in love with her and she has some type of fling with almost all of them. Brett refuses to commit to any of the men in her life as she prefers her independence. However, she is not happy with her life.
She often tells Jake that she is miserable and finds her life unsatisfying. Hemingway is well known for his incomplete and often misogynistic female characters and Brett is no exception. Brett is portrayed as a strong and independent woman but she feels that she needs to have a man with her and Jake remarks that she “Can’t go anywhere alone”.
Brett’s character is also portrayed as a corrupting and dangerous force to the men in her life. She ruins male friendships simply by existing. Brett seems to be in love with and profess her devotion to whatever man is with her at the moment and thus, it can’t be said that she told the truth to any of them.
Robert Cohn – Jake’s good friend and a former middle-weight champion boxer. Cohn moved to Paris with his controlling girlfriend Frances to join the crowd of expatriates living there after the war. While living in Paris, Cohn writes a novel and spends some of the book hoping to get it published.
Cohn is a shy, reserved man who takes up boxing in order to get past his loneliness at Princeton. Cohn has a tendency to let himself be led around by people, especially women. He dates the controlling, gold-digging Frances for reasons that Jake cannot ascertain and later falls in love with Brett and “hangs around” as Mike puts it, well beyond the time when most men would have realized that she did not want them.
Because of his beaten-down nature, Jake and the other men take out their own insecurities on Cohn, making fun of him for his shortcomings and his religion. Cohn is also the only male member of the group who did not participate in the war, which also sets him apart for mocking.
However, Cohn’s response to Brett’s resistance is not that different from the other men in the novel. All of them want her and refuse to leave her be although she clearly does not want them.
Mike Campbell – A rich heir to a wealthy Scottish family who drinks heavily and courts Brett. Mike takes it as a forgone conclusion that he will be the one who ends up marrying Brett because they are both from wealthy families. Mike has a bad temper which gets’s worse when he drinks. He frequently challenges Brett’s other suitors to fights. Mike has the most trouble dealing with Brett’s inability to settle down and suffers many self-pitying moments and bursts of anger.
Bill Gorton – Jake’s good friend and former squad mate in the war. Bill frequently uses humor to disarm tense situations and is the only man in the book who does not seem to be in love with Brett. Bill enjoys Jake’s company and admits that he likes Jake better than anyone else in the world. However, Bill does exhibit much of the same cruelty and harshness that the others in the book do.
Ernest Miller Hemingway Biography
Born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1899, Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American novelist and short-story writer most famous for his works, “The Sun Also Rises”, “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, and, of course, “A Farewell To Arms”. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 and published, in his lifetime, seven novels, six short story collections and two non-fiction works. Some additional works of his were published posthumously.
Hemingway drew heavily on his experiences as an avid hunter, fisherman and bullfight enthusiast in his novels.
His style is characterized by laconic dialogue and emotional understatement. Many of his novels are regarded as classic American literature and some of his some of them have been made into motion pictures.
Hemingway was raised in Oak Park, Illinois and became a reporter for the Kansas City Star, but left his job within a few months to serve as a volunteer ambulance driver in Italy during World War I. He later transferred to the Italian infantry and was severely wounded. When the war was over, Hemingway took a job as a correspondent for the Toronto Star and settled in Paris. While there he befriended other American expatriate writers like Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein who encouraged him in his writing.
During World War II, Hemingway became a correspondent for the US First Army. Although he was not a soldier, he participated in several battles. After the war, he moved to Havana, Cuba and then eventually to Ketchum, Idaho.
But Ernest Hemingway appears to have had his own personal sadness and after a lifetime of heavy drinking committed suicide in 1961 with a shotgun. He is buried in Ketchum, Idaho.