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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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Brett says, "Don't touch me," when Jake tries to kiss her. It seems she doesn't want to get involved with him, yet the truth is more complicated. Jake and Brett have loved each other and are still physically attracted to each other. "I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me," Brett says. But they can't do anything about their desire; they can't consummate their love because of Jake's wound. There is another reason, too: they are in the wasteland, where, as Brett says, "Love is hell on earth."

Their predicament is ironic, Brett feels. "When I think of the hell I've put chaps through," she says. "I'm paying for it now." After hurting so many men she couldn't love, she's now being hurt by a man who can't love her.

Jake tries to joke about his wound, and to convince Brett that he never gives it much thought. Brett knows better. But Jake, in his tough-guy manner, can't let on that he's disturbed. His incapacity obviously colors his whole life, and the more he tries to forget it, the more he becomes obsessed by it.

Although Brett and Jake realize their love is impossible, they need each other too much to stay apart for long. Brett, we learn, has been wounded emotionally earlier in life, and she and Jake, sharing their sense of loss, understand each other only too well.

At the bal musette Jake is introduced to Count Mippipopolous, a pudgy, excessively polite Greek and older friend of Brett's. We'll see later on how this man made his own bargain with the hopelessness of postwar Europe.

Jake and Brett set a date to meet the next day, and Jake heads home. Alone in his apartment, his toughguy front begins to fall apart. His thoughts keep turning to Brett. "To hell with Brett," he thinks. Their impossible situation only makes him angry, but he can't think of anything else.


Self-control is an important quality of the "Hemingway Code" of manly behavior. In public, Jake tries to appear cool and unruffled. But we see him as none of the other characters do: when he's alone. It's sad to see how when he's not in the company of others he loses his self-control.

Nights are not easy for Jake. (Later we learn that for six months after he was wounded he slept with a nightlight.) The war had reduced him to a frightened child. His thoughts are confused. He can't sleep. He's bitter about his wound; he's also angry that he has insomnia. The Catholic Church has advised him not to think about his wound, but such advice is not much help. Still capable of feeling sadness, at least, he breaks down and cries.

At 4:30 Jake is awakened by Brett, who has been driving around with Count Mippipopolous, and wants to know if Jake will join them. He's not interested. Brett tells Jake that the count is "one of us." The count has offered Brett $10,000 to run off with him to the French beach resort of Biarritz. She declines. She's in love with Jake, she says, and then she's off again to spend the rest of the night driving around Paris with the count.

Jake has only one thing to say about his life at this point: "It is awfully easy to be hardboiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing." What Jake means in effect is that it's easy to fool other people about oneself, but it's not so easy to fool oneself.


In the morning the sun is shining. Jake feels better and enjoys a pleasant walk to work. He's a journalist, and off to report a speech. When he returns to his office, Robert Cohn is there. Cohn asks Jake to lunch, not simply to be friendly but because he wants to pump Jake for information about Brett. He says he might be in love with her.

Jake tells Cohn that he met Brett when he was a patient in the hospital. She was a V. A. D., a volunteer nurse's aide. She had a "true love" then, but he died of dysentery. Brett shared Cohn's belief in romance then, but losing her lover made her bitter.

When Cohn says, "I don't believe she would marry anybody she didn't love," Jake points out, "She's done it twice." But Cohn refuses to accept the truth; truth has no place in his fantasy. He becomes abusive to Jake and then quickly apologizes to keep his friend. Poor Cohn: he considers Jake the best friend he has. "God help you," Jake thinks, pitying him.

But Jake feels something more than pity, something that verges on jealously or anger toward the man who is about to make a pass at the woman he loves. Yet he can't believe Cohn will have any success with her.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Study Guide

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