Summary and Analysis of Epigraph and Chapters 1-4
Hemingway prefaces the novel with two quotes, one by Gertrude Stein, painter, poet, and social center of the American expatriates in 1920s Paris, and one by Ecclesiastes from the Bible. Stein’s quote proclaims that Hemingway’s is a “lost generation.” Her title stuck and has since defined the moral, emotional, and physical emptiness of the young post-WWI generation, devastated by war and aimlessly seeking comfort in the superficial, hedonistic atmosphere of the 1920s. The quote from Ecclesiastes compares the permanence of the earth to the transience of men; Hemingway altered the words “‘The sun also riseth'” for his novel’s title. In one sense, the words of Ecclesiastes are an optimistic antidote to Stein’s pessimism; though Hemingway’s generation may be “lost,” soon mankind will find himself again (“‘One generation passeth away, and another generation commeth'”). On another level, the quote embraces the rejuvenation nature offers. This promise of natural rejuvenation will play an important role in the novel.
The narrator, Jake Barnes, describes Robert Cohn, who was the middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Cohn took up boxing, though he disliked it, to compensate for the inferiority complex he developed as a Jew at Princeton. Cohn’s nose was flattened while boxing, and Jake says no one he knows from Cohn’s class remembers Cohn. From one of New York’s richest, most prominent Jewish families, Cohn emerged from Princeton with low self-esteem, had an unsuccessful marriage, and lost most of his inheritance.
Cohn moved to California and edited and backed an arts magazine until it folded. A woman, Frances, who had been using Cohn for his rising status, moved with him to Paris so he could write a novel. There, Cohn became friends with Braddocks, his “literary” friend, and Jake, his “tennis” friend. Frances, wanting to marry Cohn, kept him on a short leash.
Cohn’s time in Princeton is almost an allegory of a young soldier’s going off to war: his early dreams of glory are quickly shattered, his body is physically changed (the flattened nose), and he leaves embittered. He is quickly exploited by two women, the first instance of the theme of manipulative sexuality that Hemingway will explore in greater depth.
We are also introduced into a social world of little responsibility — Jake’s crowd travels and drinks freely, Jake refers to himself as Cohn’s “tennis” friend, and money is taken care of by rich relatives (Cohn is given an allowance by his mother).
Hemingway also deploys his influential style of spare, unadorned prose to good effect here; in giving a run-down of Cohn’s character, Jake reveals himself as a quasi-reporter (indeed, he works for the newspaper, though not as a reporter, and Hemingway himself was a former journalist) who does not reveal much about himself. Jake doesn’t even tell the reader his name — we only find out when another character calls him by his first name — or about his job, but lets you in on both his factual and emotional life through others.
For instance, Jake is somewhat sympathetic to the abuse and exploitation heaped on Cohn, and we intuit that Jake, too, must harbor similar feelings of inferiority. Though we know little about Jake’s relationship with him so far, we will see that Jake is similar in some ways — Cohn’s flattened nose, for instance, foreshadows a less visible impairment Jake has (for Cohn, however, Jake maintains that the flattened nose has improved his appearance).
Jake recounts how Cohn left for America, sold his book to a good publisher who praised his efforts, had several affairs, and returned to Paris arrogant and rude. He strove to emulate W.H. Hudson’s book, “The Purple Land,” in which an Englishman has numerous romantic adventures.
One day, Cohn interrupts Jake in his newspaper office and proposes that they travel to South America, at Cohn’s expense. Jake doesn’t want to, but Cohn feels his life is slipping by him. Jake invites him to have a drink, since he knows he will be able to get rid of Cohn after one drink. At a caf, Cohn expresses anxiety that their lives are half-over; Jake says he doesn’t worry about death. Jake says he has to work, and Cohn joins him and reads the papers. Jake and the editor and publisher work hard and send out news stories. After, Jake wakes Cohn from a nightmare, and the two go to a caf and have a drink.
With the sense that life is passing him by, Cohn seeks solace in adventure and sex. But Jake mentions that only bull-fighters truly experience life. For a former soldier, this is an odd admission. Ostensibly, Jake admires the bull-fighter because they confront death in their jobs, coming within inches of being gored every time they wave their red cape. Jake, as a soldier, confronted death frequently, too, but he probably would not consider fighting in a war on the same level. What sets the bull-fighters apart, at least in Jake’s mind, will develop into an important theme later on in the novel.
Hemingway further details the shallow friendships and lack of responsibility in the expatriate circle. Jake gets rid of Cohn after a drink, and in much the same way Cohn wants to leave Paris, believing a new place will cure his boredom. This is the essence of the Lost Generation’s aimlessness; disillusioned and unsure of their values, they are in a constant state of retreat rather than pursuit. The conventional offerings of life do not satisfy them; work is shown as unimportant — newspaper people “should never seem to be working” — and no one seems to care much about family life. All anyone does is drink, an ongoing effort to blind them to reality.
We get a sense of where Jake’s narrative style comes from — newspapers. He is trained in the hard, economical language of journalism, and he has a good eye for detail, real or fictional — he says he has a “rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends.”
Jake stays at the caf after Cohn leaves. He watches a girl named Georgette walk past, then eventually catches her eye. They drink pernod together (an imitation of absinthe, which is a highly intoxicating, possibly hallucinogenic liquor) and take a horse-cab through town. When Jake rebuffs Georgette’s seduction, she asks if he’s “‘sick,'” and he says he is. She says she’s sick, too, and that he shouldn’t drink pernod if he’s sick — however, it doesn’t affect her as a woman. They eat dinner at a restaurant, and Jake explains he’s sick because he “got hurt in the war.”
Before they can discuss war, Braddocks calls over to Jake from another table with his wife, Cohn, Frances, and several others. Braddocks invites Jake and Georgette to a dance. Jake accepts. After he and Georgette finish their meal, they join the others for coffee. Mrs. Braddocks and Frances talk to Georgette.
The party arrives early at the empty dancing-club. They dance and work up a sweat in the hot room. Jake drinks in the doorway to cool off, and watches a crowd of young men with “white hands, wavy hair, white faces” enter. The policeman at the door gives Jake a knowing nod. With the young men is Lady Ashley, known to Jake as Brett. The men’s flamboyant behavior annoys Jake to the point that he wants to punch them, though he knows he should be “tolerant.” He leaves and has a beer at a bar down the street, then a cognac — both drinks taste bad.
When he returns, Jake finds Georgette dancing with the men in turn. Jake sits down with his party and is introduced to Robert Prentiss, a new American novelist. Slightly drunk, Jake gets irritated by Robert’s persistent questions about Paris. At the bar with Cohn, Brett talks to Jake. Jake finds her very good-looking, as does Cohn. Jake and Brett trade insults about her friends and his date. Cohn asks her to dance, but she says she has promised her last dance of the evening to Jake. Jake feels happy dancing with her. They decide to leave. Jake puts money in an envelope and gives it to the patronne (head of the club); he says to give it to Georgette if she leaves alone, but to save it for Jake if she leaves with one of the men. Cohn follows Jake and Brett outside, but they say good night to him. There are no taxis, so Jake and Brett silently wait inside a bar as a waiter hails them one. Finally, they get in one, and Brett confesses that she’s been “‘so miserable.'”
Jake’s “sick”ness that prevents him from accepting Georgette’s sexual offerings, and her statement that “‘It doesn’t make any difference with a woman,'” strongly suggests that Jake is impotent in some form. He never fully reveals his disability — it is only strongly hinted at several times throughout the novel — but it forms the basis of his pain, and its origin is the war. His impotence stands for the war’s symbolic castration of the Lost Generation, especially the men. They felt as if they had lost their manhood in their return to the peacetime world.
Jake and Cohn best represent this loss of manhood, but it is applicable not only to the aimlessness of the Lost Generation. Rather, Hemingway explores in greater depth the new sexual relations that sprang up after World War I battered the male psyche. He is interested in the new power women wielded over their emasculated men. Cohn and Jake have little power in their dealings with women; Cohn (until his book’s success, at least) is whipped and exploited by women, while Jake is literally impotent, “without power,” and cannot fulfill the typical sexual expectations of a male.
The homosexual men who enter the club with Brett threaten Jake, and not only because they are with Brett. Even with their feminine appearance and behavior, their genitalia still functions — they still have their “manhood,” so to speak. To compensate for his feelings of inadequacy, Jake ups the ante on his drinking, imbibing another beer and then a harder cognac. But both taste bad, and Jake can’t “take the taste out of my mouth”; there is no running away from his impotence.
Far more threatening to Jake than the homosexual men, and overall the most powerful, independent character in the novel, is Brett. Her traditionally male name is no mistake; she calls herself a “chap,” has hair “brushed back like a boy’s,” and even her womanly curves are given a somewhat masculine connotation: “builtlike the hull of a racing yacht” (though boats are typically gendered as women, the fact that is a racing, and not luxury, yacht implies Brett’s power and independence). She also has the capacity to wound Jake; though we know little about their relationship, she excites a response in him greater than any we have seen so far.
We see more evidence of the irresponsible behavior of the Lost Generation. Jake is happy to be drunk since it allows him to be “careless” and be angry at Robert Prentiss’s persistent questions, but he is careless while sober, too. He lies and says Georgette is his fiance and gives her the same name as a popular singer, all in an effort to poke fun both at her and at the navet of Mrs. Braddocks, who believes him. Though Jake is a sensitive observer of others and of himself (note the money he leaves for Georgette — provided she does not go off with one of the men in the club), he often treats people as objects.
Jake and Brett ride in the taxi through Paris. They kiss, but she pulls away and tells him not to touch her, as she “‘can’t stand it'”; she tells him she “‘turns to jelly'” when he touches her. She says she doesn’t want to go through “that hell again,” but when Jake says they’ll have to stay away from each other, she says she needs to see him. Referring to sex, she says that “‘It isn’t all that you know,'” but Jake says “‘it always gets to be.'” Brett blames herself for causing men pain, and believes she is paying for it now; Jake says his condition is supposed to be funny, and that he never thinks about it. She relates how her brother’s friend returned from war with the same condition.
Jake says it’s a fun, “‘enjoyable'” feeling to be in love, though Brett disagrees. They direct the taxi driver to a caf. Brett finds her friends from the club. One introduces her to Count Mippipopolous (hereafter referred to as “the count”). Braddocks tells Jake that Georgette got in a fight with the patronne’s daughter, and eventually someone took her home. Jake says he has to leave, and makes plans with Brett to see her tomorrow evening. She also tells him she received a letter from Mike today (we do not yet know who this is).
Jake walks home, passing a statue of Marshal Ney holding a sword. He gets his mail from the concierge in his flat and goes upstairs. He reflects on how so many people — the Count and Lady Ashley, for instance — have titles. He curses Brett, thinks about his condition, reads the newspaper, and tries to go to sleep. Instead, he thinks more about his condition, obtained on the Italian front. He thinks about how he wouldn’t have had any trouble had he not met Brett when he was shipped to England; he believes she only wanted him because she couldn’t have him. He thinks more about Brett and starts crying, then falls asleep.
He is woken by voices from outside, and the concierge tells him a woman has come to see him. Brett, drunk, comes upstairs. She says she just came from talking to the count, whom she finds interesting and says is “‘one of us.'” The count offered her money to go with him to a number of exotic locales, but she kept saying she knew too many people there, so finally he took her to Jake’s after she said she was in love with Jake. She says he wants to take them out to dinner tomorrow, and Jake accepts. She invites him to leave with her, as the count is waiting outside in a car, but he declines. They kiss and she leaves. He watches through the window as she gets in a limousine. Jake gets into bed and thinks about Brett some more and feels “‘like hell again.'”
Brett doesn’t want to go through with foreplay if it means they will ultimately be sexually stymied by Jake’s impotence. She says she “turns to jelly” when he touches her, but her phrase is indicative of the real problem — that Jake is the one who, sexually speaking, is always held at the rigidity of jelly. (Another possible pun comes up when Brett, expressing skepticism about Jake’s claim that he doesn’t think about his impotence, says “‘I’ll lay you don’t.'”)
The statue Jake sees is a phallic symbol, with its sword (the penis) coming out of the “horse-chestnut leaves” (possibly representing testicles and pubic hair), and must mock Jake’s impotence every time he passes it. He says that he and the others in the Italian hospital who were rendered impotent were going to form a “society.” In a sense, the society has already been formed by men everywhere who have been devastated by the war.
The other society is the one Brett refers to when she says the Count is “‘one of us.'” She includes Jake in this group when describing the count’s cosmopolitan, elite demeanor, but Jake is not truly included in her “us.” Not only does he not have a title or excessive amounts of money as they do (he needs to get up to work in the morning while they can frolic all night), he ultimately feels locked out of the sexual games they can play, even though Brett prefers his company to the count’s and claims she loves him.
The other way Jake is separate from them is in the intensity of his pain. He cries in this scene and feels miserable each time he thinks about Brett, whereas we have witnessed Brett only talking about how “miserable” she feels and the “hell” she has gone through. Jake’s revelation at the end, that he can be “hard-boiled” in the day but has a harder time at night, is one of the more intimate comments we will get from him. His adjective of choice even alludes to the new school of “hard-boiled” detective fiction that emerged after WWI. Laconic, wounded men, much like Jake, sprang up in American literature as a reaction to postwar emasculation. Jake admits, however, that he cannot maintain their level of stoicism, at least not while alone at night.
Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-9
In the morning, Jake goes out for breakfast, observes Paris in the morning, and goes to work. He goes to an insignificant press conference and shares a taxi back with two colleagues. When he returns to work, Cohn is waiting for him. They lunch together. Cohn is having writer’s block, but he can’t go to South America because Frances won’t let him. Cohn asks him about Brett. Jake says she’s getting a divorce now and is going to marry Mike Campbell, who is currently in Scotland. Cohn admits he is feeling in love with her. Jake says he met her while he was in a hospital during the war; she was a V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment; essentially, she was a volunteer nurse) and had married the man whose name she took, Ashley, after her “own true love” died of dysentery. Jake says she has twice married without love. Cohn feels Jake is insulting her, and they get in a small fight, which is quickly smoothed over. They leave and go back to Jake’s office.
This chapter provides exposition for Brett’s character. We learn her age — 34 — and her romantic history, as well as the circumstances around her meeting Jake. As in his celebrated novel about WWI, A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway has chosen to have his couple meet while the man convalesces in a military hospital under the care of a nurse. This nurse-patient romantic relationship takes on a special irony in The Sun Also Rises. Aside from the fact that Brett seems an unlikely caregiver (she seems better off fighting on the front lines), the one thing Brett-as-nurse could not cure, even with her romantic interest in Jake, was his impotence. Typically in novelistic treatments of the romantic nurse-patient relationship, the rest of the man’s body is wounded while his sexual organs remain intact, thus preserving his manhood. As Jake has previously observed, perhaps she only wanted him because she couldn’t fully have him.
Hemingway also develops further conflicts. Cohn is falling in love with Brett; this was clear enough from the dancing-club episode, and it makes sense that Cohn, lacking any kind of will, would fall for the dominant Brett. Moreover, it is revealed that Brett will marry Mike Campbell (whom they referred to in the dancing-club episode). While Jake maintains she loves Mike, she has also said she loves Jake. It is unclear if she truly does love Jake or simply enjoys toying with him.
Jake waits in a hotel for Brett and writes some letters. After a while she still has not shown, so he has a drink in the hotel bar, then taxis over to a caf. There, he finds a friend, Harvey Stone, who asks to borrow money. Cohn joins them, and Harvey mocks him before leaving. Jake describes Cohn in more detail, feeling he has not explained him enough. Frances joins them and asks Jake if she’ll come with her to another caf to talk to her. Cohn stays put.
They leave and Frances confides in Jake that Cohn wants to leave her. Now she feels she is not a desirable bride for anyone else. They resolve there is nothing to be done about it, and return to Cohn. Frances reveals she is going to England to visit friends, and that Cohn is going to give her 200 hundred pounds — although he originally was only going to give her 100 pounds. Jake marvels at the abuse Cohn takes. Frances cheerfully reveals more hurtful information with Jake as the audience, such as Cohn’s mistreatment of a secretary on his magazine, or of his sexual plans once he leaves her. Jake makes an excuse to leave, unable to take her bullying of Cohn any longer, and watches them through the window from the street. He hails a taxi to go home.
Here we see another way sex can be used as a weapon. Frances uses her knowledge of Cohn’s sexual motives and history — of his desire for sordid affairs and of his callous treatment of the secretary — to humiliate him in front of Jake. Though Jake is fully aware of the pain Cohn suffers, both as an observer and as someone who has had his fair share of romantic pain with Brett, he does not try to intervene: “I did not even feel an impulse to try and stop it.” Jake is irresponsible, unwilling to fix problems when he sees them, unwilling to shoulder someone else’s pain because he feels he is too burdened by his own.
But his irresponsibility is matched by Frances’s. She worries about Cohn’s not wanting to marry her only because she feels she is no longer marriageable. And, though she does not like children, she says she always thought she would have kids first, and then start to like them. As in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 Lost Generation masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, in which Fitzgerald uses the metaphor of careless drivers to suggest the irresponsibility of the times, Hemingway subtly indicts Jake for his unrealized sympathy. It is almost worse that Jake can understand, even feel, the pain of others but, as he says to Frances, believes he is powerless: “‘And of course there isn’t anything I can do.'”
As Jake heads to his flat, his concierge tells him Brett stopped by with a very large man, and that they will be back in an hour. Jake reads a telegram from Bill Gorton, informing him he will soon be arriving in France. After Jake showers, Brett shows up with the count. Jake reminds her she didn’t show up for their date; the count explains that she was very drunk. She also explains she got in the concierge’s good graces by giving her 200 francs from the count. Jake goes into his room to get dressed. Brett comes in, and Jake says he loves her. Brett says she will get rid of the count, though Jake tells her not to. She leaves and returns, saying she sent the count out for champagne.
Jake asks Brett if they could live together, but she says they couldn’t, as she would “tromper” (be unfaithful to, or elude) him. She says she is going away from him tomorrow, to San Sebastian, until Mike comes back. The count returns with the champagne. They discuss titles, and the count says Brett wouldn’t need one, as “‘You got the most class of anybody I ever seen.'” They make more small talk and have the champagne. The count reveals he has been in seven wars, and shows his scars on his stomach and back from arrow wounds. Brett is impressed. The count says that because he has lived very much, he can now enjoy himself so well.
They eat dinner in a restaurant, then go to a crowded club. Brett tells Jake he is a bad dancer, and that Mike is the best dancer she knows. Though she says she likes Mike, she never writes him, whereas he writes her frequently. She does not know when they will get married, as it depends on when her divorce goes through. They talk with the count, then dance again. Brett tells Jake she is “‘so miserable.'” Jake feels he is about to repeat something nightmarishly. They say goodbye to the count and leave. They take the count’s car to her hotel, but Brett doesn’t want Jake to come up with her. They kiss at her door, but Brett pushes him away twice before leaving. Jake takes the car home.
Though the count is rich, popular, and well-traveled, his ungrammatical speech belies some lack of education: “‘You got the most class of anybody I ever seen.'” No matter what one’s financial state, everyone in the novel wants that particular distinction of classiness, that nobility that is somewhat separate from pure money. Even the concierge (after getting money from Brett, of course) finds Brett very prestigious, and is generally concerned with people’s families.
The count also has the adventurous experience that Cohn craves. This is not merely sexual experience, but confrontations with death. However, his experiences have not destroyed him, as Jake’s have. The count’s wounds are merely scars, honorable war wounds he is proud to show off, while Jake’s are hidden from sight, unmentionable, and considered at best “funny,” at worst, shameful. Ironically, though the count was pierced with arrows, a highly phallic image of penetration, Jake is the one who has been rendered impotent.
We see greater evidence of irresponsibility. Brett did not show up for her date with Jake, as the count has to explain, because she was drunk. She also buys approval from the concierge with the count’s money. Furthermore, she does not write Mike, though he writes her, and she says only that she is “‘damned fond of him,'” not that she is in love with him, as she has previously maintained. Her emotional state also vacillates quickly, or at least what she claims her emotional state is, and she toys with Jake. He feels he is doomed to repeat the nightmare of falling for her, then being scorned. Her word for what she would do to him, “tromper,” has several meanings, the most likely of which is “to be unfaithful to.” It also means “to elude,” and this may foreshadow the novel’s later shift into the arena of bull-fighting, as matadors elude the charging bulls.
Jake does not see Brett until she returns from San Sebastian, nor does he see Cohn, who takes a trip to the country. He works extra hard in preparation for his trip at the end of June to Spain with Bill Gorton, his writer-friend. Bill visits, travels around Europe, then returns and describes his trip, which he cannot remember very well, as he was drunk for most of it. He recounts in detail an adventure with a friendly black boxer to whom he lent money. They walk out for dinner, passing a statue, as Bill flippantly jokes about taxidermy with Jake, who is more grounded.
They run into Brett on the street, in a cab just back from her trip. Jake introduces her to Bill. She tells him that Mike is coming back tonight. They get in the cab and go off for a drink. They discuss Bill’s and Brett’s respective trips. Before she leaves, she tells them to meet her and Mike tonight. They eat dinner at a restaurant packed with Americans. After, they roam the streets for a while until meeting Brett and Mike. Brett introduces Mike as an “‘undischarged bankrupt'”; he explains that his ex-partner “‘did me in.'” Mike keeps referring to Brett as a “‘lovely piece.'” Jake and Bill soon leave to watch a boxing match.
The experience of travel is largely wasted on Bill because he was drunk for most of it and cannot remember it; despite the grandiose adventures the Lost Generation accumulates, much of them are drowned in a haze of alcohol. Bill is a literary party boy who exhibits the worst tendencies of Hemingway’s fellow Lost Generation writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald (and perhaps of Hemingway himself), wasting his literary talent on trenchant quips and raucous partying (he was directly inspired by another friend of Hemingway’s, though).
While the modern reader may see Hemingway as a clear-cut racist for his repeated use of the word “nigger,” it is the slur his upper-class white characters would use (nor would they consider it a slur as we do now). If anything, his characters have a confused sense of race. They like to think of themselves as exotic and sophisticated for their association with blacks (remember Brett’s waving hello to the black drummer in the dancing-club), but they never want to relinquish their status of superiority — Bill can still feel he is on top, for instance, by loaning the black boxer money.
Yet another statue pops up in this chapter. While a statue is, as a sculpture, art, it is foremost a commemoration of greatness, what the Lost Generation strives for, but without diligence. The statues are constant signposts of their mediocrity, landmark directions for the Lost Generation.
Bill’s joking about taxidermy bears some significance. Instead of hunting and living in nature, the urban characters are surrounded by dead, stuffed animals. They live in a capitalist environment that undercuts man’s primal urge to kill; as Bill says, “‘Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog.'” While he refers to the financial transaction as the “‘simple exchange of values,'” he may as well be talking about the natural values the men have traded away in exchange for the new, emasculated urban ones.
Lastly, only in the taxi with Bill does Jake comment on Mike’s constant referral to Brett as a “‘lovely piece.'” Perhaps it is because to do so in the narrative — to himself — would be too painful; in conversation, he can merely pass it off that “‘Mike was pretty excited about his girl friend,'” as if Brett is merely Mike’s “‘girl friend'” in Jake’s eyes. Not only is she more than that, it seems an odd label for Brett; as we have seen, she is frequently less a girl than a man. Among the company in this scene, it becomes even clearer. The men all have relatively bland, four-letter, monosyllabic nicknames (Jake, Bill, Mike), while Brett’s name, still monosyllabic, has five letters and is more distinctive. Jake and Mike, especially, have similar names, different only by the first two letters, but an entire world of emotional pain separates them.
The morning after the boxing match, Jake receives a letter from the vacationing Cohn, who is eager to go on the fishing trip with Jake and Bill. Jake writes him and gives him instructions for where to meet them in Spain. That night, Jake finds Brett and Mike in a bar. Mike asks if Jake would mind if they accompanied him to Spain, and Jake says it’s fine. Mike leaves to get a haircut, and Brett asks Jake if Cohn is going on the trip. When Jake tells her yes, she informs him that it might be “‘rough'” on Cohn, as she went to San Sebastian with him.
Bill and Jake take a morning train to Bayonne. They have difficulty reserving a place for lunch and get in an argument with the dining-car conductor. They strike up a conversation with an older American couple and discuss the Americans from Ohio on the train making a “pilgrimage” to various Catholic centers of Europe. Jake and Mike drink, talk some more with the couple, and finally have lunch. At night, they arrive, say goodbye to the couple, and meet Cohn. Cohn is happy to meet Bill, whose books he has read. They go to their pleasant hotel.
This chapter is most notable for the slight regression Jake and Bill undergo on their train trip. Many of the amenities they are accustomed to are taken away from them. They no longer are served food whenever they want it, and religion suddenly overtakes money in terms of importance (the Catholics monopolize the lunch service, while Jake and Bill cannot buy their way into the dining-car). These changes herald the men’s return to nature, back to the primal hunt (or fishing) where one is never served food, back to a spiritual, almost religious relationship with nature.
The other intriguing development is the revelation that Brett has added Cohn to her list of conquests. Perhaps this is why Jake regards Cohn somewhat differently when he meets him in Bayonne; though Cohn seems to surprise Jake frequently (and the reader), revealing depth of character not formerly recognized, Jake now may have a newfound respect for Cohn, feeling that Cohn is in the same boat — desiring a woman neither one can have.
Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-14
Jake, Bill, and Cohn explore Bayonne in the morning. Since the bus to Pamplona is not yet in service, they hire a motor-car. They drink until it arrives with a driver. They drive into the country, taking in the scenery. They cross the Spanish frontier, and while their chauffeur deals with the paperwork, they chat with the locals and a guard. They drive deeper into Spain, heading into a heavily forested landscape, and finally arrive at Pamplona. They pass by the bull-ring and reach their hotel near the big square. They set themselves up and have lunch with the driver before he leaves. They discuss Brett and Mike; Cohn bets Bill that they won’t arrive.
Jake later explores the town on his own, making sure the man who gets him his bull-fight tickets has done so. He enters a cathedral and prays for himself, for all his friends, for the bull-fighters and the bull-fights, for good fishing, and for making money. He starts thinking about the count, then feels ashamed for being a “rotten Catholic,” but decides there is nothing he can do about it.
At night, Jake and Cohn go to meet Brett and Mike’s train. Cohn, freshly shaven and with a haircut, is extremely nervous, and Jake enjoys witnessing his anxiety, though he feels bad for doing so. Brett and Mike are not on the train. They relay the news to Bill; Cohn tells him not to worry about the bet. Jake receives a telegram from Brett and Mike; they’ve stopped over in San Sebastian. He lies and tells Cohn that they send their regards to him, and admits to himself that he did it because he is jealous of Cohn. They make plans to leave tomorrow; if Brett and Mike get in later, they can follow them.
The next day, Jake buys bus tickets for them, but Cohn says he won’t be leaving with them. He explains that he is supposed to meet Brett and Mike in San Sebastian, as he had suggested it to Brett. Jake is annoyed, and sees that Cohn is enjoying it. Jake finds Bill shaving in his room, and Bill says Cohn confided in him last night about his date with Brett. Jake grows more upset, though he admits Cohn can be nice. Jake tells him about Cohn’s relationship with Brett; Bill wishes she had gone to San Sebastian with Jake or him instead of Cohn. They decide they’re better off fishing without Cohn, and go off for a drink.
Jake’s jealousy reaches a boiling point as he discovers there is even more to Cohn and Brett’s relationship than he believed. He finally admits to his jealousy, as well, and even Bill, who hardly knows Brett, is insecure (witness his low appraisal of his face in the mirror). Worse yet, Cohn is still a fairly pathetic figure, almost unworthy of their jealousy; even the fact that he cancelled his bet, won with insider knowledge, makes him too “nice” a figure to deserve their enmity. In a way, this is Brett’s ultimate way of toying with the emasculated Jake — bedding down with as emasculated a man as possible.
In the prior chapter, we learned in passing that Jake is Catholic. Here we see the absence of religion in his life as he prays at first for people, then for selfish, non-spiritual values (money, especially). His false prayers are not as bad as is his irresponsible attitude toward his salvation: “Irealized there was nothing I could do about it.” This echoes what he told Frances about Cohn, and functions as the Lost Generation’s motto of irresponsibility; the world is imperfect, but there is nothing they can do about it.
The pastoral drive to Pamplona is the first step in the 18th-century tradition of Wordsworth and other Romantic writers of regeneration through a return to nature. The winding scenery described much as the winding streets of Paris were depicted, but this landscape feels more soothing. Though the men quickly resume their habits of indulgent drinking and eating while in town, one feels Jake and Bill are ready to reclaim some lost part of their identities while fishing.
Jake and Bill bid adieu to Robert and take a bus crowded with peasants to Burguete so they can go fishing. They drink wine with the Basques from their wine-skins, and discuss America with an old Basque man. They reach Burguete, a small town, and find their inn, where it is very cold. The price is higher than Jake expected, but wine is included. They drink a lot to warm up with their dinner. They retire to bed.
Jake and Bill continue their retreat into nature. As Hemingway increases his description of the landscape, the men befriend the Basques and learn how to drink from their wine-skins. They return to an older, ritualized way of life; even though they drink just as rabidly at the inn as they always do, they seem to appreciated the simple comforts there: “It felt good to be warm and in bed.”
The other important part in this chapter is their brief discussion of America with the old Basque man. He is proud to have lived in America, just as Jake and Bill and the other expatriates are proud to have lived outside of America. For all of them, living in a foreign land has proven their experience and sophistication. However, the Basque is proud because he has lived in the land where the streets are supposedly paved with gold; the Americans are proud to have “slummed,” to have lived and traveled in places without all the comforts of America (though they still usually insist on first-class treatment).
Jake wakes up early and walks outside. He digs for some worms and puts them in tobacco-tins. He returns and urges Bill to get up; Bill jokingly tells him to dig up more worms for them, and tells him to show him “‘irony and pity.'” They have breakfast, and Bill discusses the need for irony and pity. He also speaks of the failings of the expatriates — they become corrupted by European values, drink excessively and obsess over sex, cast off work. When he suggests Jake is impotent, Jake says he “‘just had an accident.'” Bill changes the subject and tells Jake how fond he is of him, and that he could not tell him that in New York for fear of being called a “‘faggot.'”
They hike through the beautiful countryside with their fishing gear and stop at a dam across a river. They put two bottles of wine in a spring to keep them cold. They fish, and Jake catches several trout and prepares them to take home. Jake takes a break and reads. He and Bill compare their catches — Bill’s are bigger. They drink their wine and have lunch. They discuss various men with whom they went to school. Jake admits he is in love with Brett, and that he is “‘Technically'” a Catholic. They nap. When they wake up, they pack their belongings and walk home. They stay at Burguete for five similar days, playing cards at night and fishing with an Englishman named Harris. They do not hear from Cohn or Brett and Mike.
Although it is unclear whether Jake is truly impotent or “‘just had an accident,'” he still is uneasy discussing it, even when he doesn’t believe he is: “I was afraid he thought he had hurt me with that crack about impotent.” Even if Jake is not hurt by the joke, he is insecure that Bill may merely think Jake is hurt by it — which, in the end, is almost worse: Jake cares more about how others perceive his feelings than about his actual feelings.
This chapter is the prime example of Hemingway’s idealized paradise of men without women. Away from all the evils Bill describes — namely, obsession over sex — the men can confide in each other more intimately. Bill says he would be called a “‘faggot'” in New York for admitting his fondness for Jake, and Jake is not even afraid to admit that his trout are smaller than Bill’s, in dialogue that recalls a comparison of penis size. Even their dialogue before and after they nap seems like pillow talk between lovers.
The men are also defined more in this chapter by their actions, rather than by their speech. For Hemingway, actions are where a man’s true character lies, a topic that will be explored more in the arena of bull-fighting. Hemingway’s writing is sparer in this chapter, too, as it has become since the men left Paris. Just as the men become more defined by action, so does his prose.
Bill mockingly refers to their lunch in the terms of a religious ritual, but in a sense it is. Away from the “‘irony and pity'” of civilization that he previously referred to, they live a simpler life in deeper touch with the spirituality of the earth, fishing for their own food and drinking wine cooled by a natural spring. Even Jake’s digging for worms is a return to the clean, fertile soil of the earth, and away from the grime and dirt of the city. These rituals, and the notion of fertility, will soon play a greater role.
At breakfast, Harris hands Jake a letter that he accidentally received. Mike writes that Brett passed out on the train, so they decided to recuperate in San Sebastian with old friends. He says they are going to Pamplona on Tuesday, and wants to know where to rejoin them on Wednesday. Harris informs Jake that it is Wednesday, and Jake tells him he and Bill will leave for Pamplona in the afternoon. After breakfast, Jake receives a telegram while he sits outside with Bill. Cohn writes, in Spanish, that he is coming Thursday. They write a telegram back and tell him they are arriving tonight.
With Harris, they walk to a monastery, then drink in a pub. They say goodbye to him and board their bus to Pamplona. They talk to the head of the hotel, Montoya, find out their friends have been there since yesterday, and learn about the bull-fights for the next couple of days. Montoya believes he and Jake are real “aficionados” of bull-fighting — they are passionate about bull-fighting. Jake reveals that the good bull-fighters stay at Montoya’s hotel, where photographs hang of those with “aficion,” or passion. He and Jake often talk about bull-fighting. Montoya has introduced Jake to the other aficionados of bull-fighting at his hotel in the past; it usually takes Jake a little while to convince them that though he is an American, he is a true aficionado. Montoya, Jake relates, forgives any faults of an aficionado — for instance, he forgives Jake his friends.
In their room, Jake describes the “unloadings” of the bull-fights: the bulls are released from their corrals to chase and gore steers, young oxen castrated before sexual maturity. The purpose is to calm down the bulls and prevent them from fighting each other. Jake and Bill find Brett, Mike, and Cohn at a caf. They discuss the fishing, and Brett tries to get Mike to tell a war story. Instead, he tells about the time he got some medals from his tailor to wear at a dinner, but ended up giving them out to girls at a nightclub. He also says his “‘False friends'” made him go bankrupt.
They leave to watch the bulls unloaded. They find a place in the crowd and watch as two steers are let into the corral. A bull is unleashed and charges first at the steers, then at a man in the crowd who distracts him. Another bull is unleashed but does not get distracted by two men who run out; instead, it gores a steer. Brett is fascinated. The other steer befriends the other two bulls, then the last three bulls that are unloaded, and they form a herd. The gored steer is not part of their herd.
Jake’s party leaves to go to a caf. Jake explains that the bulls are dangerous only when alone or in small groups, not in large groups. Cohn says “‘It’s no life being a steer,'” and Mike humiliates him, saying Cohn follows Brett around like a steer and that he is not wanted. Bill leads Cohn away, and Brett is angry at Mike. Mike is somewhat subdued, but he discusses Cohn’s behavior in San Sebastian. While he knows Brett has affairs — she tells him — he finds Cohn overly pathetic. Mike says that Cohn calls Brett “Circe” (after the beautiful character in Homer’s The Odyssey who turns men into swine). Jake suggests they go and eat, and when Mike meets Cohn again, to pretend nothing had happened and to blame it on drunkenness.
Jake finds Bill upstairs and they discuss the fragile state of Cohn, who is in his room, as well as the plan for the next couple of days — more bull-fighting and the start of the siesta. Everyone has a pleasant dinner together, pretending nothing happened. Cohn stares at Brett throughout the meal. Drunk, Jake feels happy and that everyone is nice.
Hemingway draws numerous parallels between bull-fighting and sexuality. The greatest is one that Mike points out; Cohn is similar to the steer, a castrated, weak animal ruled by the powerful, violent bulls. Just the like the steer who is kept from joining the herd in the unloading, Cohn is the constant outsider, the Jew in a crowd of Protestants and Catholics, the emasculated follower of the masculine Brett.
But there is another personified steer who escapes inquiry here: Jake. Jake resembles the other steer who manages to join the inner circle of the bulls, then turns on the other steer with them. He does not defend Cohn when Mike humiliates him, for to do so would be to admit that he, too, is a fellow steer who follows Brett.
A last note about the bull-fighting is that Jake is a confirmed aficionado. It is the only activity for which he has unreserved passion — he admits that even drinking and Brett have many downfalls — and which seems to make him happy. But he is only an observer, albeit an informed, devoted one, and not a participant. Brett, on the other hand, is more closely aligned to the bulls, identifying with their power. We will later see, however, that she is associated less with the bulls than with the matador; she is a true participant, not merely an aficionado.
We also understand more deeply Brett and Mike’s relationship. Mike takes her for granted — while Brett previously told Jake she does not write letters to Mike, here she reveals that he simply does not read them — and he seems to be aroused by the attention she receives from other men. Brett is allowed to have affairs, after all, but he seems to care about them only when the men are less manly than he is, as he finds Cohn.
Indeed, this episode is notable for the way men turn against each other when women are in the picture. The camaraderie Jake and Bill have with the Englishman Harris is the last of the back-to-nature male bonding; once Brett is present, Mike viciously humiliates Cohn to preserve his own sense of masculinity.
Mike is especially aware of the fragility of his friendships; he even mentions his “‘False friends'” who led him into bankruptcy. This is one of the novel’s most explicit critiques of the shallow relationships prevalent in the lives of the Lost Generation. They base their friendships around money, and only rarely is it in good faith, as when Harris insists on buying Jake and Bill drinks because it gives him pleasure. His gesture is similar to the count’s habit of picking up the tab, but the count does so more to impress Brett and because it gives him a sense of power, not because he enjoys the camaraderie. Jake makes the ultimate indictment of these false friendships, and of his passive attitude toward them: “Under the wineIt seemed they were all such nice people.” Jake is as much a target of Mike’s vitriol as is Cohn, but so long as alcohol is present, everything is smoothed over; Jake even suggests Mike blame his actions on alcohol.
A corollary to these false friendships is the brief discussion of the illusion of valor in the war. As Mike’s story about the medals demonstrates, he didn’t have to win them for honor in combat; he could simply pick them up from a tailor and hand them out to impress girls. Nevertheless, having been in the war gives the men some kind of valorous pass; Cohn was not a soldier, and as such is deemed lesser. But knowing that what they took part in was not truly valorous, the men, especially Jake, seek a greater sense of valor, a place of honest heroism: they will find it in bull-fighting.
Jake does not remember the later events of the night very clearly. He recounts them: he remembers reading in bed until he heard Brett and Cohn say good night outside his door. They went to their separate rooms, and Jake tried to go to sleep, though he found he could not face the dark while thinking about Brett. He cursed her, then thought about how one must be in love with a woman to be friends with her. He thought more about how one must always pay for something good, though he recognized that soon this philosophy would seem silly to him. Still, he just wanted to know “how to live in it.” Though he wished Mike were not so cruel to Cohn while drunk, he admitted to enjoying it. But he still wished Mike would stop, as it makes Jake feel bad about himself for enjoying it. He read again and fell asleep near daylight.
Pamplona gets ready the next two days for the fiesta. The bull-ring is prepared, as well. Peasants arrive for the festivities. Jake and his friends live with more restraint. One day, he goes to church with Brett. The morning before the fiesta, Jake and his friends enjoy the fresh, cool air and the view of the mountains. Jake feels one cannot be upset on a day like that.
We get some of the deepest insights into Jake’s thoughts in the first part of the chapter. Hemingway’s writing here comes as close as it ever does to the new technique of stream-of-consciousness, developed in the Modernist novels of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner. While Hemingway’s writing is in no way close to the frequently run-on prose of the other authors, he departs from his bare description of action in favor of interior description.
What is revealed are Jake’s conflicted attitudes towards women, experience, and himself. He holds the cynical belief that everything in life comes at a steep price; whatever he has gained, he has somehow bought. Love, especially, operates under these economic conditions — what Jake calls an “exchange of values,” echoing Bill’s philosophy in Chapter VIII. In the same way, Jake alternates between pleasure and self-loathing in the humiliation of Cohn. We can find the root of this disillusioned mindset in Jake’s war experience. In exchange for the “worldly” experience of war, Jake gave up his masculinity. Not only that, but his war experience does not seem to have had any positive effects on him. No wonder Jake simply wants to know “how to live in it,” how merely to survive in a cold world that pulls him in different directions.
Jake’s description of the pleasant days before the fiesta, and especially of the last morning and his bare statement “That was the last day before the fiesta,” foreshadows conflict arising in the fiesta. The ideal, pacifist atmosphere cannot survive long once the bulls, and their associations with violence, are reintroduced.
Summary and Analysis of Chapters 15-19
The fiesta explodes at noontime on Sunday, July 6. The peasants drink wine from wine-shops, as they cannot yet afford caf prices. Some people are at mass, as San Fermin is also a religious festival. Jake meets Cohn and Bill at the caf. Rockets shoot up to announce the fiesta. Pipers and drummers play music as men and boys dance behind them. A man playing a reed-pipe leads children down the street. Dancing men bear a banner that reads “‘Hurray for Wine! Hurray for the Foreigners!'”
Cohn leaves to bring back Brett and Mike. Jake relates that the fiesta went on for seven days and nights in a surreal atmosphere of no consequences. They watch the religious procession. Jake and his friends try to follow the crowd into church, but are denied entrance because Brett is not wearing a hat. In the street, dancers in wreaths of garlic dance and chant in a circle around Brett. They do the same to Bill and Jake. They do not let her dance, as they want her to be an “image to dance around.” After, they pull them into a wine-shop and seat Brett on a cask from which they draw wine. Jake tries to buy wine, but is denied. Meanwhile, Brett has been given a wreath of garlic and is learning to drink from wine-skins.
Jake leaves to buy two leather wine-skins. He returns to the wine-shop and fills the wine-skins; a man offers to pay for Jake, and when Jake does not allow him to, instead buys him a drink. He asks for a squeeze from Jake’s wine-skin in return. Jake finds Brett and Bill in the back room, surrounded by dancers. Mike is eating with some men and invites Jake over; Jake eats with them and passes around his wine-skin. Jake finds Cohn passed out in a back room, but leaves him alone. Cohn returns two hours later, hungry for dinner. They decide to leave.
They eat a big dinner and go out again. Jake wants to stay up all night to watch the bulls run through the streets in the early morning, but he is too sleepy. Unable to find his key, he sleeps in Cohn’s room. He wakes to the rocket announcing the release of the bulls. Jake watches from the balcony. Men run down the street to the bull-ring, chased by bulls. They disappear from sight, and a rocket soon announces they have entered the bull-ring. Cohn, who watched the activities in the ring with the others, wakes Jake later; Jake learns one of the bulls hurt several people in the ring.
Jake and his friends go to the bull-fight that afternoon. Jake has six tickets — three in the front row, three in the middle. He and Bill sit in the front; they give the extra ticket to a waiter to sell. Jake gives some advice to Brett about watching the fight; she is nervous about what will happen when the bull attacks the horse. Jake and Bill go to the hotel to get their wine-skin, and Montoya introduces them to Pedro Romero, an extremely good-looking young bull-fighter. They exchange a few words and leave.
Jack finds the fight good, mostly because Romero is a “real” bull-fighter. His other friends seem to enjoy the fight, as well. After, they make their way through the packed crowd and to the caf. They discuss the fight; as Mike points out and Brett admits, she could not stop staring at Romero. Cohn, however, almost became sick from watching the first horse. Brett says she wants to sit in the first row next time.
The second day of fights is better than the first. Romero dominates the show. Jake sits with Brett and explains the action, and why Romero is so skilled, elegant, and authentic a matador. Mike jokes that Brett is falling in love with Romero. The next day Romero does not fight, and the day after no fights are scheduled, though the fiesta continues.
The chapter’s two sections, concentrating on the fiesta and the bull-fighting, are ripe with contrasts and parallels to Jake’s society. While the fiesta is not so much wilder than the parties Jake and the expatriates are used to, it is different in one overwhelming way: it is a longstanding tradition with ritualistic ties to nature, rather than a shallow exercise in hedonism. It has religious undertones, as Jake notes, and it is no wonder he and his sacrilegious friends are barred entrance from the church (technically because Brett does not have a hat, but perhaps Hemingway is pointing out that they do not belong there in more spiritual ways).
Despite its showy rockets, the fiesta is less a spectacle, as the expatriates are accustomed to witnessing, and more a series of expressive rituals, Bacchanalian though they may be. The dancing, for instance, contrasts with the dancing in Paris. There, the wild dancing was either an excuse for cheap sexuality or competitiveness, as when the homosexual men dancing with Georgette threatened Jake; here, the men’s dance is a dignified ceremony of unity. When Bill and Jake see the pied-piper figure leading the dancing children around, for instance, Bill cannot comprehend the mythological significance, calling him the “‘village idiot.'” The fiesta is hedonistic, but its sense of ritual maintains some order. While Jake says there are no consequences in the fiesta, just as Jake and his friends feel there are none in their regular lives, it is understood that the fiesta, as a weeklong ceremony, will soon end and consequences will return. The expatriates, on the other hand, want to believe their party will never end.
Even Brett’s otherwise destructive sexuality is given a ritualistic bent. She is revered as a fertility goddess, given an honorary wreath of garlic (Cohn’s wreath may be an ironic decoration, or perhaps it signifies that even Cohn, a virtual castrated “steer,” is more fertile than the truly infertile Jake); seated on the wine-cask, it is as if she is the Dionysian bearer of wine, a literally fruitful goddess.
The atmosphere in the fiesta is one of generosity; drinks and food are shared freely, but it has none of the competitiveness that has come when the count, or even Harris (the Englishman), bought drinks. Still, there is some financial corruption in the air; the fiesta doubles the prices of the meal at the hotel, and the man in the wine-shop is suspicious that Jake will sell the wine-skins in Bayonne.
Hemingway parallels Romero’s bull-fighting techniques with Brett’s sexual tactics. Both characters are physically beautiful, and both are masters at their respective games. Jake provides an explicit description of Brett’s sexuality in his description of Romero’s bull-fighting: “He dominated the bull by making him realize he was unattainable, while he prepared him for the killing.” Previously, Brett had said she would “tromper” Jake like all the other men if they got together; while the word’s best meaning is “to be unfaithful to,” it also means “to elude.” Like the bull-fighter, she teases men, tricking them into thinking they can have her, then eludes them at the last moment. It is clear why Romero fascinates her; aside from his physical appeal, he appears to be the one male who could make her pursue him. She is sexually engaged in the bull-fight, and describes herself after the fight in post-coital terms: “‘These bull-fights are hell on oneI’m limp as a rag.'”
Romero also fits the definition of what has become known in literary criticism as a “Hemingway hero.” Hemingway defined a code of ethics for heroism, the most important tenet being that a brave hero exhibits “grace under pressure.” What this means is that in difficult situations — especially mortal ones — the hero handles himself assuredly and confronts the danger head-on. The bull-fighter, of course, literally faces death, and Jake admires Romero because he is authentic in his confrontation with death; he allows the bull to come as close to his body as possible, unlike the other fighters, but always remains in control. Another quality of the Hemingway hero is that he is foremost a man of action, not of intellectualization. Hemingway’s descriptions in this chapter, especially of the bull-fight, hone in on the action. This is not to suggest that there is a lack of analytic material here — rather, this is one of the more profound sections of the novel — but that the significance can be located directly in the action. When Jake says that there is an “Absolute purity of line in Romero’s movements,” he may as well be talking about Hemingway’s prose, refined to its essence of action.
It rains heavily during the fiesta, though the festivities and dancing continue. While Jake shaves in his room, Montoya tells him people at the Grand Hotel want Romero and Marcial Lalanda to come over for after-dinner coffee. Jake suggests he not pass the invitation on to Romero, and Montoya is pleased, as he feels foreigners could corrupt the young matador.
At dinner in the hotel, Romero invites Jake to his table. They discuss the vocabulary of bull-fighting in English and Spanish. Romero, who speaks some English, tells Jake he has been fighting for three years. He is very modest when discussing his work, and promises that tomorrow he will put on a good show. Brett wants to be introduced, and they all move to a bigger table. Brett flirts with Romero; Mike, drunk and disorderly, makes disparaging comments about bull-fighting and about Brett’s interest in Romero. Montoya comes into the room, but leaves when he sees Romero at Jake’s table. Mike makes a toast to Romero, and Romero leaves. Mike tells Cohn his presence is not desired. Cohn is insulted, but seems to enjoy it, as well.
Before Mike can fight Cohn, Jake intervenes and pulls them both outside, where it has stopped raining. Brett and Bill soon join them to watch fireworks. They finally make it to a bar with a friend of Bill’s from Biarritz. Mike compliments her on her appearance, and he goes outside with her and Bill. Brett tells Cohn to leave her and Jake alone, and he departs. She tells Jake she is sick of him. They go for a walk and see Cohn outside, though they evade him and walk in the quiet parts of town. Brett admits she has fallen in love with Romero. Jake urges her not to let it happen, but she says she cannot help it. She feels she has to do something, as she has lost her self-respect with the way Mike and Cohn are around her. She asks Jake to help her through this, and she suggests they go find Romero.
They locate him in the caf, smoking cigars with other bull-fighters. Jake and Brett take a table, and Romero joins them. Brett reads Romero’s fortune from his hand and says he will live a long time. He admits that he does not let others know he speaks English, as they would not approve. Jake leaves under the guise to find their friends, but he makes it clear it is to leave Romero and Brett alone. When he returns later on his own, they are gone.
Jake says of Cohn “‘I’m not sorry for him. I hate him, myself.'” The sentence is interesting. Though he means, of course, that he himself hates Cohn, the construction also implies Jake’s self-loathing — he hates both “him” and “myself.” Both objects of hatred are logical and have been detailed throughout the book; Cohn’s suffering reminds him of his own pain, and Jake has numerous reasons to hate himself (his impotence, his irresponsibility, his shallow relationships, and his dependence on Brett).
Brett, on the other hand, says she hates Cohn’s “‘damned suffering.'” She wants to hurt men only if their suffering does not cause her any suffering in turn; Jake is a perfect target, as he bottles up most of his pain and rarely exposes her to it. Cohn, on the other hand, is a whimpering puppy whose pathetic dependence on Brett is evident to all. While her evasive sexual tactics draw parallels to bull-fighters, she is less honest than they are; the bull-fighter knows that he will cause pain for the bull (if he is successful, of course), and accepts it, as Romero does. Romero calls the bulls his friends, but admits he must kill them before they kill him.
Brett’s unwillingness to admit to this defensive impulse exposes her irresponsibility. She says she’s “‘never been able to help anything.'” While she refers specifically to the act of falling in love, she implies that none of her emotional manipulations is under her control. Just as Jake shucks off responsibility for helping others (though he does finally intervene before Mike and Cohn spar in this chapter), she casts off responsibility for hurting others.
Romero is somewhat feminine in his appearance — “His hand was very fine and the wrist was small” — but it makes him more beautiful and even more masculine, in a way. Jake, on the other hand, may appear more masculine, but he feels far more emasculated, not only for his impotence, but also for his lack of grace under pressure, his inability to follow the code of the hero. Instead of being a hero, Jake remains at the level of an aficionado. His virtual pimping off Brett to Romero underlines his status as an observer, not as a participant. He submits to Brett’s desires so much that he is willing to efface his own and live vicariously through Romero.
Jake finds Mike, Bill, and Bill’s friend, Edna, outside a bar. They have been thrown out for trying to fight the Englishmen inside. Without Bill, they make it over to the caf, where Cohn joins them and asks where Brett is. He doesn’t believe that Jake doesn’t know. Mike eventually says that Brett has gone off with Romero. Cohn asks Jake if it’s true, and when he doesn’t answer, calls Jake a “‘pimp.'” They fight, and Cohn pummels Jake to the ground. He wakes up from being unconscious and learns that Cohn knocked Mike down, too. They discuss the fight and Mike’s bankruptcy. Jake leaves them.
Jake walks to his hotel, feeling as if everything is new to him. At the hotel, Bill tells him Cohn wants to see him. Jake reluctantly goes to Cohn’s room, where he sees Cohn is crying. Cohn begs Jake’s forgiveness, and says he’ll be leaving in the morning. He says he can’t take the way Brett treats him like a stranger, after they had lived together in San Sebastian. Jake says goodbye to him and goes to bed.
Jakes wakes with a headache, and remembers he is supposed to show Edna the running of the bulls. At the caf, he is reassured to learn that Bill, Mike, and Edna have just left — Jake had promised to take her for fear the others would pass out. He enters the crowded bull-ring and sees the bulls run in. A bull gores one man in the back. When a rocket announces the bulls have been corralled, Jake leaves.
He goes to the caf and tells a waiter about the man who was gored. The waiter finds it stupid that the man was gored “‘Just for fun.'” The waiter then learns the man has died. Jake reads about him in the paper the next day, and the town has a funeral for him the day after that. Jake describes how Romero killed the bull the afternoon of the funeral. Its ear was cut off and given to Romero, who gave it to Brett. She wrapped the ear up in one of Jake’s handkerchiefs and left it deep in her hotel room’s drawer.
Jake lies down on his sunlit bed. His jaw is sore from Cohn’s punches. Bill and Mike come into his room. They tell him the bulls trampled the crowd in that morning’s show. They say Edna was impressed and wanted them to go into the ring. A chambermaid brings them beer. Jake learns that after Cohn beat up him and Mike, he found Brett in Romero’s room and beat up Romero badly. After Cohn had knocked Romero down many times, he said he wouldn’t hit him anymore. Romero hit Cohn in the face, then fell down on the floor and threatened to kill him if he weren’t out of town by the morning. Brett told Cohn off until he cried and wanted to shake hands with her and Romero. When he leaned down to shake Romero’s hand, Romero punched him again. Brett is now taking care of Romero. Mike tells him about Brett’s unhappy relationship with Ashley (from whom she received her title), then leaves with Bill and tells the chambermaid to bring him more alcohol.
Jake quickly takes Cohn’s apology, several times saying “‘so long'” to him and nearly forgetting that he will be leaving in the morning. But it is not only because he cares so little for Cohn that he does nothing to console him. Perhaps Jake recognizes that Cohn is right about him — that he is, indeed, a pimp — and that he is deserving of the physical punishment (and if not for how he acts with Brett, then at least for Jake’s passivity in helping Cohn when Mike humiliates him).
There is a parallel between the man who was gored and Jake, with his own war wound; both wounds are rendered by brutish violence and seem absurd, or “‘Just for fun,'” as the waiter says. The count, too, was wounded in the back, in the same place as the gored man, but he has managed to turn it into a scar of pride. Even the dead man is given a stately funeral; Jake must live quietly with his shameful wound.
However, the greater parallel with the gored man is Cohn’s final defeat. Like the gored man, whom no one helps, no one steps in to save Cohn from being trampled by Brett. And, again, while the gored man is given a good funeral by the town, Jake’s friends hardly seem to care (“‘Was there?'” Bill responds when hearing there was a death), much like they are apathetic to Cohn’s departure. Ironically, only now is Cohn somewhat disillusioned; Mike believes he has been “‘ruined'” by Romero’s slap in his face. Cohn represents the vestiges of pre-war idealism, chivalrously defending his true love against a fellow suitor, then wanting to shake hands honorably with his competitor. But when his chivalry is rejected by both his love and by the suitor, he understands his place in the world is over, that his romantic notions are no longer applicable.
The severing of the ear somewhat resembles a castration, as well. It makes sense that Brett ends up the owner of it, as she has emasculated all the other men in her life. By discarding it, not only does she prove she is not a true aficionado of bull-fighting, but she demonstrates how little she cares about the other virtual castrations she has carried out. As with the ear, she shoves all the devastation she has created deep into a drawer. In other words, she refuses to take responsibility and witness the gruesome effects of her manipulations. She works out her guilt by tending to the sick, as Mike says and Jake knows (remember, he met her while in the hospital).
It is the last day of the fiesta and the town is packed. Brett joins Jake and company at the caf. They tell her Cohn has left, and she says Romero is badly hurt and won’t leave his room, though he is still going to fight. Mike asks Brett how her “‘boy friend'” is, and tips over the table. Brett leaves with Jake. She tells him she is happy, and asks him to go to the fight with her. They go into church, as she wants to pray for Romero, but she makes them leave quickly, as she feels nervous.
They return to the hotel, and Brett goes to Romero’s room. Jake goes into Mike’s room, and finds him looking like a “death mask” on the bed in the midst of empty bottles and strewn clothing. He is drunk and speaks awkwardly, then falls asleep. Jake finds Bill in his room and they eat lunch across the street, as Bill wants to slight the snotty German headwaiter.
After lunch, they go to the bull-ring with Brett and sit ring-side. They watch as everything is prepared for the fight. Jake watches the three matadors — Romero, Marcial, and Belmonte — through the binoculars. The President arrives to start the festivities. Romero, his face swollen, hands his sword-handler his cape; it is in turn handed to Brett.
Belmonte, a recently unretired legend, renowned for working close to the bull and gravely endangering himself, goes first and is very good. However, he is not as good as he used to be, nor does he place himself in as great danger, and disappoints the crowd until they turn against him. Jake relates that Belmonte came out of retirement to compete against lesser talents like Marcial, but that Romero has overshadowed him. Romero, Jake believes, has the “greatness,” and he works in front of Brett that afternoon as much as he can, though he never looks up at her.
Jake describes the first “quite,” in which the bull makes a charge for a picador, then at each of the three matadors in turn. Romero is last, and he evades the bull as the picador stabs the bull’s shoulder. Then Romero pulls the bull out and beautifully evades him several times. With his own bull, whose vision is impaired, Romero works to make the match exciting. The crowd does not understand his technique, however, and believes he is afraid. Romero stabs the bull with his sword, then talks to it before it dies. He brilliantly handles the last bull, the one that gored the man the other day, building up to a suspenseful climax in which he kills the bull on his own terms. His brother cuts the ear off the bull and hands it to Romero, who shows it to the President, then gives it to Brett. He says a few things to Brett, then returns to the adoring crowd.
Jake, Brett, and Bill return to the hotel; Brett goes upstairs, and the men drink in the dining-room. Belmonte enters with his manager and two other men and eats at the next table before they all take a train to Barcelona. Belmonte is silent and does not eat much. Jake and Bill go to the caf for some absinthe. While Jake gets very drunk, they discuss Cohn, the end of the fiesta, and Bill’s depression. Jake leaves for Brett’s room, where he finds Mike, who tells him Brett left with Romero on the train. Jake goes into his room and lies on his bed. He pretends to be asleep when Bill and Mike come in. He comes down later and eats with them, though it seems “as though about six people were missing.”
Hemingway draws his final and most detailed parallels between bull-fighting and sexuality in this chapter. Jake resembles the bull with impaired vision; while he still goes for Brett, he is not at full capacity and can never “gore” her, in the sense that the piercing of a bull or of a matador with a sword or horns symbolizes sexual penetration.
Not only can Romero penetrate Brett and bulls alike, he is also a master of foreplay; the crowd begs for him to continue fighting rather than consummate the fight with the climactic penetration: “each pass as it reached the summit gave you a sudden ache inside.” Whereas before the matador seemed like the elusive female, here Jake’s description casts the spectators as the symbolically receptive female and the matador as the dominant, penetrative male.
Romero is even more of a Hemingway hero for working while injured, for his “grace under pressure.” Moreover, he makes the match with the vision-impaired bull more exciting, although the ignorant audience does not appreciate it. Jake, while not a hero but a mere aficionado, at least can appreciate Romero’s work; he may be an observer (his use of the binoculars makes this very clear), but at least he is astute.
Belmonte’s decline mirrors the Lost Generation’s disillusionment; though they are the young generation, their values have similarly decayed since the war, and they must feel aged beyond their years. The chapter maintains this sensation of decline; the fiesta ends, Mike’s relationship with Brett appears to be over, and Jake recognizes that their group feels diminished.
Additionally, Hemingway seems to provide a synopsis of his own prose style when Jake describes Romero’s technique: “There were no tricks and no mystifications.” Like Romero, Hemingway moves close to his subject, but eschews flashiness in favor of honest, authentic writing.
The fiesta is over the next morning. Jake walks through the empty streets to the caf. Bill joins him. The three men want to go in different directions; Jake’s is San Sebastian. He and Bill plan to get a car and they will all drive together to Bayonne. They drive out to Bayonne, where Bill buys a train ticket for that night to Paris. They drive to Biarritz and have several drinks. They roll dice to see who pays, and Mike keeps losing until he gives Bill his last twenty francs. Bill offers to cash him a check, but since Mike cannot write checks, he turns it down; he says he has some money coming to him and can survive. He tells Bill that Brett has very little money, if any.
They drive around, almost back to the mountains to Pamplona, then to the hotel Mike is staying at in Saint Jean. They say goodbye to him, then drive Bill to catch his train. Jake asks the driver to drive him to a hotel, and he takes the same room he had when he was in Bayonne with Bill and Cohn. He regrets not having gone to Paris with Bill, though he is looking forward to the quiet relaxation of San Sebastian. He has a good dinner in the hotel, and tips the waiter well; Jake appreciates being back in a country where money helps smooth over conflicts.
Jake leaves on the morning train for San Sebastian and takes a hotel room. He resets his watch, as he has regained an hour by returning to Spain. He wires his office and tells them to forward wires to him. He swims in the afternoon at the beach, diving several times. He has a drink outside on the street, then returns to the hotel for dinner, where bicyclists stopping over from a race crowd the dining room. Jake talks with one of the team managers after dinner and discusses bicycling. The man invites him to see them off early tomorrow morning, and Jake says he will try to make it.
Jake oversleeps and misses the bicyclists. He swims again in the morning and suns on a raft. Back at the hotel, he receives a telegram forwarded from Paris from Brett in Madrid, saying she is in trouble and asking him to come to her hotel. He receives another telegram with the same message, forwarded from Pamplona. He tells the concierge to get him a ticket to Madrid that night. He sends a telegram to her, announcing his arrival.
Jake arrives in Madrid on the overnight train. He reaches her hotel and asks for Brett. After some delays, he finds her room. She is happy to see him and kisses him, though he feels she is thinking of something else. She says she made Romero leave yesterday. She says he was ashamed of her, and that he wanted her to grow her hair long. He tried to give her money, she says, but she couldn’t. He also wanted to marry her so that she “‘couldn’t go away from him.'” Ultimately, she feels she could have lived with him had she not seen it would be bad for him.
Brett cries, and Jake holds her. She says she is returning to Mike, and claims she will not become “‘one of those bitches.'” They leave the hotel and find the bill has already been paid. They get train tickets for that night and have a drink at a hotel bar. Brett discusses Romero some more. They have lunch and drink a great deal, though Brett cautions Jake against getting drunk. They decide to go for a taxi ride through Madrid. Jake holds her in the taxi. Brett laments that she and Jake could have had “‘such a damned good time together.'” The car slows and approaches a policeman directing traffic, and Jake replies, “‘YesIsn’t it pretty to think so?'”
The end of fiesta heralds the end of the equally hedonistic period now known as Roaring Twenties; though Hemingway in 1926 obviously could not have predicted the stock market’s crash in 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, he does seem to warn America that their party will soon end.
We have hope that with the end of the fiesta, Jake may finally be returning to his pre-war values, and may be casting off his hedonistic lifestyle. He regains an hour when going to San Sebastian, and symbolically goes back in time, as well; his repeated dives in the water represent a symbolic baptism of sorts. Again, nature helps regenerate him.
However, Jake has not come so far; he irresponsibly oversleeps to see the bicyclists off, and when he receives the pleading telegram from Brett, he quickly returns to his submissive behavior that overthrows whatever values and self-esteem he holds. In ways, Jake is more pathetic than Cohn; at least Cohn followed Brett around of his own volition, while Jake seems more independent but is truly at Brett’s beck and call. Her behavior should be infuriating to him — she pulls him over to Madrid only so they can leave again together, she keeps saying she does not want to speak about Romero anymore, then talks more about him (even though it probably causes Jake more pain than herself), and she tells Jake she is returning to Mike. But Jake accepts it so long as he still has a chance with her, or even so long as he can stay in her presence.
Oddly, Brett also proves herself to be a pathetic figure here. While she dominates the men in her life, she is also dependent on them — dependent on them for their submission to her. Moreover, though she gets rid of Romero because he was trying to make her into a more subservient, feminine figure, she also expresses worries about becoming “‘one of those bitches that ruins children.'”
The great irony of the novel is that Brett is perhaps most dependent on Jake. She needs him because he gives her constant worship without risk of his ever dominating her, as they cannot have a functional sexual relationship. He is the bull she continually eludes and wounds, but who keeps coming back for more punishment. Their cab ride is similar to the one they took in Paris in Chapter IV, in which she toyed with Jake, alternating between intimacy and distance. We can imagine that soon after her final line to Jake about the relationship that might have been, she will resume talking about Romero, or Mike, or even Cohn.
Jake’s final line is rich with irony. As the taxi slows at the policeman’s raised baton — possibly a symbol of Jake’s struggle with impotence and how it bars him from advancing with Brett — he seems to recognize that while it would, indeed, be nice to be with her, the somewhat caustic tone of the word “‘pretty'” suggests he finally understands that Brett has no idea how much pain he has been through, both from her and his impotence; “‘pretty'” is such an insubstantial word. While Jake ends the novel on a highly disillusioned note, breaking from all his friends rather unceremoniously and recognizing he has misplaced his love in Brett, perhaps this is what he needs to regain his lost self, and perhaps this utter disillusionment is what must impel the Lost Generation — or a future generation — to rise again.