Summary of the Novel
The novel opens with an introduction to Robert Cohn, an insecure Jewish man whose relationships with women have lead to disastrous affairs. After his divorce, he meets Frances, who convinces him to travel to Europe. After three years with her, Cohn has written a novel, goes to America, and gets it accepted by a publisher. While he is there, attention from other women raises his confidence and makes him lose interest in Frances.
After he returns to Europe, his dissatisfaction with his life grows when he becomes smitten with Brett, a woman with whom Jake is also in love. She and Jake can never move beyond a platonic relationship, though, because of a war injury that left Jake impotent.
Robert changes when he falls in love with Brett. He no longer cares about tennis, sends Frances away, and has conflicts with people. Brett and Robert have an affair in San Sebastian, and Jake begins to despise Robert.
The group decides to go to Spain to fish. Bill, Robert, and Jake go ahead to get equipment and rooms and plan for Brett and Mike to join them later in Pamplona. Robert nervously awaits Brett’s arrival. He goes to the station in case she shows up. When she does not, he does not go fishing in case Brett went to San Sebastian to meet him. Robert disgusts Bill and Jake. They go to Burguete and fish for five days before returning.
When they go to Pamplona, they stay at the Hotel Montoya, which is owned by Juanito Montoya. He respects Jake because of his passion, or afición, for bullfighting. The hotel is the meeting place for aficiónados and has pictures of only aficiónado bullfighters on the wall.
In Pamplona, Robert follows Brett constantly. The first day of the fiesta, streets become crowded with people drinking and partying. Releasing the bulls signals the beginning of the bullfights.
The next day the bullfights begin. Montoya introduces Bill and Jake to Romero, the newcomer. They are impressed with him as an aficiónado. At the bullfight, spectators are impressed with his skills, but Brett with his attractiveness.
The next day Romero steals the show. Montoya shows his protectiveness for Romero when the American ambassador wants Romero to join him for coffee. Montoya expresses concern that this attention may spoil Romero. Jake agrees and suggests Montoya lose the message. However, when Brett insists on being introduced and confides to Jake she has fallen in love with Romero, Jake violates his afición and arranges their affair.
When Jake returns to the group without Brett, Robert panics. When Robert finds Brett is with Romero, Robert calls Jake a “pimp” as he hits him. Robert finds Brett in Romero’s room and nearly kills him, but Romero does not quit. After Brett lambasts him, Robert begins crying and apologizes to Romero and later to Jake. He leaves Pamplona in the morning.
The next morning is the final day of the fiesta. As bulls are running the streets into the ring, one man gets gored. The president’s attendance brings pomp and circumstance. Brett, radiantly in love with Romero, sits with Jake and Bill at the bullring. She shows adoration and concern for Romero although she says his people disapprove of her. Romero hands his gold-brocade cape to his sword-handler to give to Brett.
Belmonte, the first fighter, kills his bull without much drama. Romero fights next. He works perfectly, though he is still injured from Robert’s beating. The bull does not see well, and the crowd wants another bull. Marcial fights next, and the crowd responds ecstatically.
Romero’s last bull is the one that had killed the man. He works smoothly and efficiently at both killing the bull and pleasing the crowd. He gives the ear to Brett.
After the bullfight, the fiesta winds down. Brett leaves with Romero, and everyone else goes his own way. Jake stays one night in Bayonne before leaving for San Sebastian. After three days he receives cables from Brett that she is in Madrid and needs help.
When Jake arrives, Brett cries and tells him she sent Romero away because she knew she was no good for him. He had been ashamed of her. Romero had offered her money, but she could not take it. She decides to go back to Mike. As the story ends, she bemoans that she and Jake could have been good together. Jake realizes it is only a nice dream.
The novel, written in a narrative frame, is divided into three books. Book I includes Chapters 1–7 and is set in Paris. This is often considered Hemingway’s wasteland, which represents the lifestyle of the “lost generation.” It builds main characters and ends with Brett going off to San Sebastian for a liaison with Robert.
Book II includes Chapters 8–18 and is set in Spain, the possible corrective values for Paris’ lifestyle. Here, the group goes for fishing and bullfighting. Here Jake demonstrates then violates his values. There is still lots of drinking and sex. At the end of the book, Brett has left for a liaison with Romero.
Book III includes only Chapter 19, is still set in Spain, and is winding down. The fiesta is over and there is no more partying. The focus in this chapter is on Jake, who goes off without any of his friends to regain his values. He is called to Madrid at the end. Although the novel begins with development of Robert Cohn, it ends without reference to him—as if he were obliterated from life. Brett will end with Mike.
The Life and Work of Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899 to Dr. and Mrs. Clarence Hemingway. His mother was musically gifted and religious, but he did not follow his mother’s musical ambitions for him. Rather, he shared his father’s interests in hunting and fishing. In school he took up boxing.
He began his journalism career in 1917. During World War I he fought in the Italian infantry. Sustaining serious wounds caused him to treasure life, fear death, and handle himself well in the face of danger. He was a Red Cross ambulance driver until he was wounded. He returned home after falling in love and being rejected by the nurse who cared for him.
In 1921, Hemingway married for the first time and went to Paris where he joined a coterie of other literary minds, including Ezra Pound Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Dos Passos F. Scott Fitzgerald Gertrude Stein and others. His first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published in Paris in 1923. During this time he also frequented Spain and became familiar with bullfights and fiestas, which later provided material for books.
In 1926 he divorced his first wife and married again the next year. With publication of The Sun Also Rises in 1926, Hemingway became a distinguished writer of his time. This book was declared the voice of the “lost generation.”
In the 1930s, Hemingway settled in Key West and later Cuba, but still traveled to Spain, Italy, and Africa. He published several novels during this decade. In 1940, he divorced his second wife and married his third. In 1945, he divorced his third wife and married for a final time in 1946.
In 1953 he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea, his most popular work. In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his powerful, style-forming mastery of the art of narration.” He has been named one of the most powerful influences on the American short story and novel.
In 1960 he was institutionalized for bouts of paranoia and depression and received electroshock treatments. They were unsuccessful, though, and he committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961. His father had also committed suicide.
When Hemingway went to Paris in 1921, he experienced a culture shock. Gertrude Stein’s phrase “lost generation” referred to the prevalent attitude of the day. The phrase came into usage because “all maps were useless and . . . they had to explore a new-found land for themselves—this generation was lost” (Mizener 122). In essence, these people could accept nothing about current attitudes.
They wanted to begin over through experience to work out a code of conduct to live by and respect. Members of the Jazz Age included painters, writers, rioters, artists, and the idle rich all living decadent lives. These people were American expatriates who had come to Paris as a haven for creativity and Bohemian lifestyles.
Actually, many were escaping conservative American attitudes. After World War I, politicians seemed untrustworthy, and Prohibition was politically popular. There was an upsurge of fundamentalist ministers, book and movie censorship, and groups like the KKK. Paris streets, in contrast, were filled with silent movie stars, beautiful people, and lots of liquor.
Days of cars, installment loans, and refrigerators had changed women’s roles, too. They now sported short skirts, sheer dresses, bobbed hair, and lipstick. Instead of binding their waists, they now bound their breasts. This was the first generation of women to drink, smoke, dance wildly, and deal with marital problems by divorce.
Paris provided those quick divorces and diversions for this “lost generation.” Writers of the time had “energy and optimism” (Mizener, 122). They were idealists who scorned conservative, American attitudes. They were dissatisfied with their own country and preferred to live elsewhere. It is said all writers eventually passed through Paris because the European world allowed them “to discover the possibilities in themselves as Americans” (Mizener, 124).
Master List of Characters
Jake Barnes—narrator; World War I American veteran; newspaper editor from Kansas City living abroad; impotent due to a war injury.
Robert Cohn—Jewish; from a wealthy family; 34; mediocre writer; has difficulty with women.
Lady Ashley (Brett)—Jake’s love; 34; is married to Lord Ashley but getting a divorce; has several
affairs; an alcoholic.
Bill Gorton—Jake’s fishing/bullfighting buddy he meets in Spain; writer.
Mike Campbell—Brett’s fiance; rich but on an allowance; an
Pedro Romero—aficiónado; 19-year-old bullfighter; has affair with Brett.
Juanito Montoya—Pamplona hotel owner; passionate bullfight enthusiast.
Frances Clyne—Robert’s girlfriend from America; uses Robert
Marcial Lalanda—a fading bullfighter.
Belmonte—a retired bullfighter who returns to the ring.
Edna—Bill’s friend from Biarritz who parties in Pamplona.
Mr. and Mrs. Braddocks—Robert’s literary friends.
Harvey Stone—a bum friend of Jake’s; writer.
Wilson Harris—an Englishman staying in Burguete.
Georgette Hobin—a prostitute with Jake in Paris.
Count Mippipopolous—kind; well-to-do Greek who drinks and parties with Brett.
Robert Prentiss—a rising novelist with the Braddocks in Paris.
Vincente Girones—a man who is gored and killed by a bull.
Lett—a homosexual who comes to the Bal with Brett and dances with Georgette.
Spider Kelly—Robert Cohn’s boxing coach; only mentioned in book.
Zizi—a Greek portrait painter at the Cafe Select in Paris.
Charlie Blackman—Edna’s friend from Chicago; just mentioned in the story.
Woolsey and Krum—reporters from the Paris press conference.
Madame Duzinell—the concierge in Jake’s Paris flat.
Don Manuel Orquito—the fireworks king.
Tourists from Montana (unnamed except for son Hubert)—on train to Spain.
Madame Lavigne—proprietress/hostess/waitress at Foyot’s
Mr. and Mrs. Aloysius Kirby—send Jake a wedding announcement.
Katherine Kirby—daughter who is getting married.
Patronne’s Daughter—owner of Cafe Select’s daughter who fights with Georgette.
Liaison Colonel—man in the war who came to see Jake after his war injury.
George—barman at the Hotel Crillon.
Robert’s Secretary—worked on the magazine with Robert left her for Frances.
Paula—woman who was supposed to meet Frances for lunch.
Baron Mumms—Count’s friend who makes wine.
Madame Lecomte—proprietor of Paris restaurant on Women’s
Priest on Pilgrimage—Catholic priest on train on pilgrimage to Rome.
Basque—peasant on bus.
Bryan—author Bill refers to.
Raphael—bullfight critic with Pedro.
Algabeno—bullfighter hurt in Madrid.
Maid—at Hotel Montana in Madrid.
Estimated Reading Time
An average reader can read the book in six to seven hours. A more careful reading will take longer because of unfamiliar terms and places. It is difficult to read in one sitting.
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Jake Barnes meets Robert Cohn in Paris shortly after World War I. Somehow Jake always thinks Cohn typical of the place and the time. Cohn, the son of wealthy Jewish parents, was once the middleweight boxing champion of Princeton, and he never wants anyone to forget that fact. After leaving college, he married and lived unhappily with his wife until she ran off with another man. Then, he met some writers in California and decided to start a little, arty review. He also met Frances Clyne, who became his mistress. When Jake knows Cohn, he and Frances are living unhappily in Paris, where Cohn is writing his first novel. Cohn writes and boxes and plays tennis, and he is always careful not to mix his friendships. A man named Braddocks is...
(The entire section is 1113 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Hemingway’s characters in The Sun Also Rises are much like the people with whom he came into daily contact in Paris in the early 1920’s. A large group of expatriates, labeled by Stein “the lost generation,” lived by their wits, by what jobs they could find, or by handouts from home. So it is with the characters in Hemingway’s novel.
The story revolves around two Americans—Jake Barnes, a newspaperman whose war injury has made him impotent, and Robert Cohn, who boxed well enough at Princeton University that he became the university’s middleweight boxing champ. Cohn, the son of a wealthy Jewish family, married when he left college and lived combatively with his wife until she left him for someone...
(The entire section is 998 words.)
First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises concerns a group of Americans living in Europe during the 1920s. The narrator and principal character is Jake Barnes, a newspaper correspondent. The leading female character is Lady Brett Ashley. In the course of the novel, we learn that her husband, a British officer, was killed in World War I and that she was a nurse in the hospital where Jake Barnes was sent after he suffered a disabling injury in combat. Serving as the narrative voice throughout, Jake begins the story by talking about his past and current relationship to another character, Robert Cohn, who will subsequently figure in the plot but who is not the novel’s protagonist. Jake tells us that Cohn comes from a wealthy...
(The entire section is 1234 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Book I, Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Robert Cohn: Princeton grad; Jake’s tennis partner; Frances’ lover
Jake Barnes: narrator
Frances: Robert’s girlfriend
Braddocks: Robert’s literary friend
Spider Kelly: Robert’s college boxing coach; only mentioned in story
Robert Cohn is introduced as an integral character whose life is filled with insecurities. At Princeton, he had taken up boxing as a defense mechanism for insecurities of being Jewish. He was overmatched and got his nose flattened, which made him dislike boxing but like the power his skill could give him. No one from school remembers him.
His shyness made him marry...
(The entire section is 1117 words.)
Book I, Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
Robert goes to America and gets his book accepted by an American publisher. While he is there, attention from several women raises his self-confidence. This also makes him lose interest in Frances, since he realizes he has something to offer women.
He reads The Purple Land by W. H. Hudson. This describes imaginary romantic adventures that Robert takes as gospel. These things combined make him dissatisfied with his life, so he tries to talk Jake into a trip to South America. Jake refuses because he not only likes Paris but also goes to Spain in the summer.
Jake and Robert go for a drink. Robert regrets that his life is half over. He does not...
(The entire section is 471 words.)
Book I, Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
Georgette Hobin: a Paris prostitute
Mr. and Mrs. Braddocks: Cohn’s literary friends
Brett: Jake’s friend who is a sexually free alcoholic
Robert Prentiss: a rising novelist with the Braddocks
Lett: a homosexual who comes to the Bal with Brett and dances with Georgette
Madame Lavigne: proprietress/hostess/waitress at Foyot’s Restaurant
After Robert leaves the Napolitain, Georgette, a prostitute, walks past and begins a conversation with Jake. They go to dinner. While they are in the cab, Georgette begins to kiss Jake and puts her hand on his genitals. He stops her by saying he is sick. He...
(The entire section is 912 words.)
Book I, Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
Mike Campbell: Brett’s fiance; rich but on an allowance; an alcoholic
Count Mippipopolous: a fat count at the Cafe Select
Zizi: a Greek portrait painter
Mr. and Mrs. Aloysius Kirby: send Jake a wedding announcement
Katherine Kirby: daughter who is getting married
Patronne’s daughter: owner of Cafe Select’s daughter who fights with Georgette
Madame Duzinell: concierge in Jake’s Paris flat
Liaison colonel: man in the war who came to see Jake after his war injury
In the taxi, Jake kisses Brett and she pushes far away from him. When he questions her, she says she...
(The entire section is 911 words.)
Book I, Chapters 5-6 Summary and Analysis
Woolsey: a reporter from the press conference
Krum: a reporter from the press conference
Harvey Stone: an American; a drunken friend of Jake’s
George: barman at the Hotel Crillon
Robert’s secretary: worked on the magazine with Robert; left her for Frances
Paula: woman who was supposed to meet Frances for lunch
The next morning Jake walks to his office among the working class. After putting in a good morning at work, he goes to a press conference. On the way back, he shares a taxi with a couple of other reporters. When he returns to the office, Robert is waiting. They go to a restaurant to...
(The entire section is 968 words.)
Book I, Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
Baron Mumms: the Count’s friend who makes wine
Henry: the Count’s chauffeur
Jake escapes to his hotel and finds Brett has been there. Although last night the concierge had thought Brett to be crude, today she says Brett is very gentile. After Jake showers, Brett arrives with Count Mippipopolous, who is one of her admirers.
While Jake is dressing, Brett comes in to see what is wrong with him. He again vows his love to her. Brett sends the Count away for champagne while Jake lies on the bed. He is trying to deal with his apparent arousal and love for Brett but inability to do anything about either of them. He asks her to live...
(The entire section is 1043 words.)
Book II, Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
Bill Gorton: Jake’s fishing/bullfighting buddy; writer
Madame Lecomte: proprietor of Paris restaurant on Women’s Club list
As Book II begins, Jake says he does not see Brett again until she comes back from San Sebastian. He also mentions he does not see Robert during this time and Frances has left for England. Jake finds this break from Robert’s company a good time to prepare for his trip to Spain at the end of June.
Bill Gorton comes to Paris with stories from travels—theater and prize fighting. He leaves for Vienna and Budapest; when he returns, he says he had a wonderful time. He loves Budapest, but his recollections...
(The entire section is 910 words.)
Book II, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Tourists from Montana (unnamed except for son Hubert): on train to Spain
Priest on Pilgrimage: Catholic priest on train on pilgrimage to Rome
After the prize fight, Jake receives a cable from Robert saying he will join them on their fishing trip. Jake cables him to meet them in Bayonne. Later when Jake sees Mike and Brett, they ask to go to Spain, too.
Mike leaves, and Jake and Brett are at the bar. When they are alone, Brett asks if Robert is going to Spain with them. She expresses concern and tells Jake she and Robert had been together in San Sebastian. Jake’s sarcastic reaction shows his displeasure with the news. She tells...
(The entire section is 661 words.)
Book II, Chapters 10-11 Summary and Analysis
Juanito Montoya: Pamplona hotel owner; passionate bullfight enthusiast
Basque: peasant on bus
The next morning Bill, Robert, and Jake buy fishing equipment. They hire a car and drive toward Pamplona where they wait at the border with armed guards. They see a man who is trying to cross the border waved back with guns. After they are cleared, they drive up into Spain. They climb into the mountains amid streams and fields of grain.
They drive to Pamplona past a grand cathedral and bullring to the Hotel Montoya. After they clean up, they have lunch, a typical Spanish meal with several courses. At lunch Robert at first seems awkward...
(The entire section is 1179 words.)
Book II, Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis
Wilson Harris: an Englishman staying in Burguete
Bryan: author Bill refers to
Jake awakens the next morning and lets Bill sleep a while longer while he goes downstairs and to the stream to dig worms for bait. When he goes back to the inn, the proprietor is up. Jake orders coffee and a lunch for the fishing trip before going back to the room.
Bill is already awake. When they go to breakfast, Bill is light-hearted and singing. There is playful bantering, until Bill is afraid he has hurt Jake with a comment about impotence. They gather lunch and wine and go off to fish.
They go across open fields and streams. Finally,...
(The entire section is 832 words.)
Book II, Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
One morning at breakfast in Burguete Jake receives a letter from Michael saying they will all meet in Pamplona on Tuesday. He apologizes for being late but says Brett had passed out, so they had to take a few days to recuperate. Jake invites Harris to go with them, but he declines so he can spend the rest of the time fishing.
Later when Bill and Jake are sitting on a bench in front of the inn, a telegram comes from Robert. Jake and Bill are irritated with its brevity, so they send a return telegram that is equally cryptic. Afterward, they tour the local monastery with Harris and go to a pub. Harris really enjoys their company. When he walks them to the bus, he gives them envelopes...
(The entire section is 1677 words.)
Book II, Chapters 14-15 Summary and Analysis
Pedro Romero: Aficiónado; 19-year-old bullfighter; has an affair with Brett
Jake, who is drunk, goes to his room and reads for a while until the room does not spin. He hears Brett and Robert come up and go to their separate rooms. Then he hears Mike and Brett talk and laugh. Jake is unable to sleep for thinking about them. Then he begins to philosophize about life, his friends, and morality. Finally, he gets up and reads again.
The next two days the friends are all subdued while the town readies for the fiesta, which is to last seven days. All in the group have different activities. Jake and sometimes Bill watch the activities from the cafe...
(The entire section is 1786 words.)
Book II, Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis
Edna: Bill’s friend from Biarritz who parties in Pamplona
Marcial Lalanda: a fading bullfighter
Don Manuel Orquito: the fireworks king
Raphael: bullfight critic with Romero
Algabeno: bullfighter hurt in Madrid
The next morning rain and fog drive the fiesta inside. When Jake goes to his room, Montoya comes to see him. He tells Jake that the American ambassador has sent for Romero and Lalanda to join him for coffee. Montoya expresses concern that, although this action would be good for Lalanda, attention may spoil Romero. Jake suggests Montoya does not give him the message.
(The entire section is 917 words.)
Book II, Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis
Charlie Blackman: Edna’s friend from Chicago; just mentioned in the story
Vincente Girones: a 28-year-old man who is gored and killed by a bull
Jake finds Mike, Bill, and Edna outside a bar. They tell him they were thrown out when they got really drunk. They were in a fight with Englishmen and got rowdy.
They go to a cafe for a drink. Robert comes and asks where Brett is. Jake tries to put him off, but Robert persists. He panics when Jake refuses to tell him; then Mike says Brett has gone off with Romero. Robert gets angry and calls Jake a pimp. Jake swings at Robert, who ducks before hitting Jake. He tries to get up but...
(The entire section is 1134 words.)
Book II, Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis
Belmonte: a retired bullfighter who returned to the ring
On the last day of the fiesta, Brett stops by, gets a beer, and asks if Robert has gone. She asks Jake how he feels. She tells him Robert has hurt Romero badly. Mike, who is drinking, has been silent. He starts ridiculing Brett for her affairs with Romero and Robert. Brett asks Jake to take a walk. She is radiant and shows adoration and concern for Romero. She also says his people disapprove of her. They stop in a church to say prayers for Romero.
When they get back to the hotel, she joins Romero in his room for lunch. Jake goes to Mike’s room and finds him trying to sleep off his...
(The entire section is 1150 words.)
Book III, Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis
Maid: at the Hotel Montana in Spain
As Book III opens, the fiesta is over. The town is taking down posters and traces of what was. Bill tells Jake he is going back to Paris, but Jake says he will be going to San Sebastian. They pay their bill; then Mike, Bill, and Jake drive into the country.
They stop in Biarritz to have a drink. They keep rolling dice for drinks, and Mike loses. Finally, he says he cannot buy anymore because he is out of money. Mike bemoans his financial woes since his allowance has not come yet. They drive around for a while. Then Mike stays in Saint Jean because he can stay there on credit.
After they part,...
(The entire section is 1298 words.)