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Jake is a spectator character. He watches the others and largely stays in control. He enjoys easy camaraderie and dislikes false sentimentality. He is happiest when his life is structured by steady work, either at the newspaper or with fishing. He is also happiest when out of the city and away from women.
He is flawed, a flaw marked physically by his wound, which makes him impotent, but one that shows up on the level of personality as well. His weakness is in his inability to separate from Brett. He goes along with her desire for Romero and in so doing, he violates the code that he so much respects.
Brett comes across as much more seriously flawed than Jake, because she does not have any apparent grounding in values. Her most obvious value is in keeping conversation light and ironic. She has had a series of destructive and doomed relationships with men, two of which resulted in marriage. She makes romantic alliances with men who cannot be full partners to her. Her intense attraction to Jake results in large part from the fact that she cannot have him. When Cohn calls her Circe, recalling the goddess who kept Homer's Ulysses from home for almost twenty years and turned his men into swine, he places the blame for his own foolish attachment to her onto her shoulders, a judgment presumably shared by Hemingway.
A character who serves largely as a foil (a character who makes another seem better by contrast.) Cohn is everything opposite of the Hemingway code hero. He is falsely sentimental; he is maudlin about his emotions; he is true to no code and no one; and he is totally self-involved. The fact that Cohn is a Jew is brought up over and over again by the other characters, Jake, Bill, Brett, and Mike, as a sign that he is less than they. No where in the novel is this anti-semitism challenged.
The Hemingway code hero of the novel. Romero embodies all five of the major values of the code hero:
1) he exhibits grace under pressure
Jake's father figure. A man who holds strictly to the code values of a specialized brotherhood, the aficionados, and whom Jake ultimately betrays.