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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

BOOK II

CHAPTER XVI

There are no bullfights today because it's raining, but the fiesta continues in the streets and cafes.

Montoya tells Jake that the American ambassador has invited Pedro Romero for coffee after dinner. Should Romero go? Montoya is worried that Romero, still only a young man, will be corrupted if he mixes with sophisticated, moneyed people. He's pleased when Jake tells him not to deliver the invitation to Romero.

Jake joins his friends in the hotel dining room, where Bill, drunk, is paying every shoeshine boy he can catch to polish Mike's shoes. Mike, also drunk, plays along. There's a sort of slapstick comedy to the antics of these two men, but there's also very little grace or grandeur.

Pedro Romero asks Jake over to his table. Brett asks to be introduced, too. If she really is Circe, drawing men toward her and corrupting them, we can now see her at work. Montoya, who was worried about Romero meeting the wrong kind of people, starts to smile at Jake, then drops the smile and leaves without even a nod. He obviously feels that Jake is betraying him by letting Brett pursue Romero.

In the meantime Mike has turned on Cohn again, taunting him with more drunken, anti-Semitic remarks. No one interferes. Mike begs Cohn to go away and leave him and Brett alone, but Cohn stands his ground. A romantic fool, he's "ready to do battle for his lady love." The only problem is that Brett's unwilling to play the role. The tension between Mike and Cohn builds, and they come just short of blows.


Out in the plaza fire balloons are going up. These are paper balloons set on fire; as they climb into the blue-black night sky, they burn like small suns. "Globos illuminados," Mike calls them, lit-up balls.

NOTE:

Some readers see Hemingway punning here on the physical preoccupations of his male characters. Jake, we remember, cannot have sex. Mike and Cohn try to prove their masculinity by standing up to each other. "Globos Illuminados" means, in effect, manly courage, power, passion (aficion), and an ability to get things done cleanly and well. Only Pedro Romero seems fully to possess these powers.

At the cafe Bill has picked up an American girl named Edna. Brett rudely dismisses Cohn so she can talk privately with Jake. Again they condemn Cohn. "He's behaved very badly," Jake says. But what has Cohn done? Nothing much more than to insist in believing in love. Cohn believes that love is worth suffering over, and this infuriates the nonbelievers. It seems sad, doesn't it, that the one American who believes in love is condemned by the others. Yet Cohn, because he's somewhat foolish and out of touch with reality, is hardly worthy of carrying the banner of true love. He does behave badly. The problem is that Jake condemns him not only for what's bad about him, but for what is hopeful and good.

NOTE:

In condemning Cohn, Jake is also condemning himself, for the two are very much alike. As Jake admits, if he were in Cohn's shoes, he'd be "as big an ass." Both are in love with Brett, and both follow her around blindly and cater to her whims. Cohn, according to Mike, is an "emasculated steer"; Jake is physically emasculated. Although Jake likes to think of himself as a realist, he has elements of the romantic about him, and Cohn would be more realistic if he could. Jake's saving grace, perhaps, is the fact that he can see how much, in truth, he and Cohn resemble each other.

By now Brett cares nothing about either Cohn or Jake-she's in love with Romero. Does she know how to act responsibly? "I've never been able to help anything," she says, admitting that she has no self-control.

NOTE:

Remember that Robert Cohn is criticized for having no self-control. By now we understand that none of his so-called friends has self-control, either. But only Cohn-because he's outside the clique, because he's a Jew-is criticized for it.

Brett wants to seduce Romero, and asks Jake to help her get him. As readers, we look down at this spiritual wasteland and see Brett traveling both with her fiancee, Mike, and with her ex-lover, Robert Cohn. And we see her asking Jake, the man she really loves but can't sleep with, to help her get another man, Pedro Romero. And Jake does help her. Romero is rather certain that this English noblewoman is interested in him, but he won't return her interest until he's absolutely sure. He looks at Jake, and Jake nods approvingly. It's a humiliating moment for him, and he's ashamed.

This very important chapter ends with Brett and Romero going off together. Jake is condemned by the men who honored him for possessing the rare quality of aficion. Mike and Robert Cohn, both of whom feel they "own" Brett, will soon discover what has happened to her. We can assume that when they find out that Jake has betrayed them they will give vent to all their pent-up hostility.

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