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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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The next day Jake tells Brett and Mike about the trip to Spain he's planning. First he and Bill will go fishing in Burguete, then on to Pamplona, an inland Basque town with a famous fiesta called the Feria del San Fermin, complete with a running of the bulls through the city streets and a week of bullfights. Robert Cohn has already been invited; now Mike asks if he and Brett can go. Jake says that would be grand.

After Mike leaves, Brett drops a bombshell: it was Robert Cohn with whom she went to San Sebastian. Jake feels as though somebody's kicked his chest in, but remains calm. Remember, it's easy to be hardboiled in the daylight.

Brett worries about Cohn coming to Spain: it will be difficult enough being with both her fiance Mike and her "true love" Jake. She writes to Cohn to give him a chance to pull out, but he doesn't take the hint. Cohn never seems to know when he's not wanted.

On the train from Paris Jake and Bill share a compartment with a good-humored American family, and listen to the wife scoffing at the way her husband drinks when he goes on fishing trips with his buddies. Through this family we glimpse the small-town, American world that these expatriates have gone to Europe to escape. (Whether the life of these expatriates is richer and more rewarding than the life of this typical American family is something you should think about.)

Many American pilgrims are traveling in the train from Rome to Lourdes, a town where the waters of a spring are believed to bring miraculous cures. You can imagine how two notorious iconoclasts like Jake and Bill feel about such believers. Jake says he's a Roman Catholic, too, though an unhappy one. Earlier in the novel, when he was alone at night thinking about his wound, he lamented that the Catholic Church could do nothing to help him. Now we learn that Jake wants to believe in Catholicism but can't. He feels let down and bitter over the church's failure to help him. Jake hurts not only because of his wound, but because all his former beliefs have deserted him. Without the church he feels helplessly alone. Bill, in contrast, cares nothing about the church except as a target for his wisecracks.


There's no bus to Pamplona, so they have to hire a car and driver.


Now that the characters are out of the city, the style of writing changes. Hemingway uses his simple, rhythmic, descriptive style-he said he learned it from looking at how Cezanne painted landscapes, with a wide brush full of subtle, muted shades.

The country has a peaceful, relaxing effect that is captured in sentences like this: "It was hot, but the town had a cool, fresh, early-morning smell and it was pleasant sitting in the cafe." Note how Hemingway avoids figures of speech and metaphors, and limits himself to general physical impressions. Doesn't this sentence make you feel you're sitting outside, with your shoes off, on a warm, beautiful summer day? As you read, compare descriptions of the fresh, clean Spanish countryside with earlier descriptions of life in the city. The countryside has something healing about it, even for Jake.

Jake, Bill, and Cohn arrive in Pamplona and meet Montoya, the owner of the Hotel Montoya. (Montoya, as you will see, knows the old, enduring values, and finally comes to judge Jake harshly by them.) The three Americans enjoy a bountiful lunch (nature overflows with goodness in Spain). Cohn doesn't believe Brett and Mike will arrive that night, and he voices his doubts in a way that irks Bill. Out of anger, Bill foolishly makes a bet with Cohn that he then realizes he'll lose.

After lunch Jake goes off for a walk around town and enters the cathedral. He kneels and starts to pray for everybody and everything he can think of. It's a rambling prayer, and suddenly he becomes self-conscious about it and grows a bit ashamed: "I... regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe would the next time...." Jake tries to remain honest with himself-his self-esteem depends on it. Self-honesty is one of the few things he can hold onto and believe in in this fallen world. Jake still remembers how life before the war was guided by tradition and belief, and he knows only too well how far he and his friends have strayed from that life. As you'll see, Montoya knows, too.

At dinner Cohn is nervous about Brett's arrival, and Jake goes to the railroad station with him. But Brett and Mike aren't on the train; Cohn has won the bet. He says he doesn't want the money. Can he bet on bullfights? Bill says he can but he shouldn't: the point of a bullfight is not to bet as you bet on a horse race, but to experience the purer pleasure of watching how it's done.

A telegram arrives: Brett and Mike are stopping in San Sebastian. The mention of that town makes Jake think of Brett and Cohn's affair there, and his composure melts. "I was blind, unforgivingly jealous of what had happened to him," he says, and who can blame him? Another man went away with the woman he loves, and he can do nothing about it. Jake's simple annoyance at Cohn is beginning to grow into jealousy.

The next day Cohn bows out of the fishing trip with Jake and Bill; he thinks Brett is expecting him in San Sebastian. Brett is with her fiance, but Cohn, holding onto his romantic notion of love, believes that since Brett once slept with him, she will love him forever, no matter who else she's with. Jake, thinking Cohn is gloating over the affair, hates him all the more, though he's too self-controlled to abuse Cohn in public. Bill is just as glad as Jake that Cohn's not going fishing with them, for Cohn would probably spend the whole time blathering about his immature feelings.

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