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The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

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What is the relationship between Frances and Robert in chapters 5-6 of The Sun Also Rises?

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In chapter 5 of the book, Robert talks to his friend Jake (Jacob Barnes) about wanting to travel to South America but being held back by Frances. When Jake suggests that he should take Frances with him, Robert says this: “She wouldn’t like it. That isn’t the sort of thing she likes. She likes a lot of people around.” Robert then shifts the conversation to Brett, a woman he seems to have taken a liking to in chapter 3 of the story. The fact that Robert is interested in Brett points to a shift in his relationship with Frances. Robert seems to be exploring his dating options.

This is not the first time that Robert talks to Jake about wanting to travel to South America. Earlier on, in chapter 2 of the story, Robert presses Jake to accompany him to South America, but Jake declines the offer, stating that he is quite happy in Paris. Chapter 2 also talks about a “new” Robert, come back from America, where his novel has just been accepted by a good publisher. The “new” Robert is more confident in his abilities as a writer, and has a renewed sense of self-worth, having made the acquaintance of several beautiful women during his trip. Thus, it comes as no surprise to the reader that Frances’s relationship with Robert suffers in the following chapters of the book.

In chapter 6 of the book, Frances has a conversation with Jake in which she basically talks her heart out about her ailing relationship with Robert. She tells Jake that Robert wants to “leave her,” his reason being that “he has not lived enough.” She laments at the time she has wasted on him and wishes that she had accepted the many marriage propositions that she’d earlier on rejected. Afterward, Frances makes an awful scene at the Café Select where she and Jake have joined Robert. She rants about her relationship with Robert and divulges private details of this relationship to the chagrin of the two men present.

In summary, therefore, the relationship between Robert and Frances is difficult in these two chapters. The two seem to be on the verge of breaking up.

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Robert feels like he "owes" Frances because she stuck by him when he was not so successful. She was involved in his failed attempt to be a magazine editor and when the magazine failed, it was she who urged him to go to Europe where he could write. After he becomes successful, he finds that other women are throwing themselves at him, and he grows bored with Frances. She is not getting any younger, and she wants him to marry her, but he hesitates at first. In chapter 5, Robert wants Jake to go to South America with him, but Jake refuses, telling Robert to take Frances. Robert tells Jake that he can't just tell her "to go to hell" because he has "certain obligations" towards her. Frances is described as a forceful woman, whereas Robert is insecure.

In chapter 6, Frances has a long conversation -- kind of a monologue actually - with Jake and Robert, in which she tells Jake how Robert is paying her to get rid of her. She is forced to go to England to stay with some friends. She has been with Robert for three years, and he still has not married her, she had wanted to have children, and now he does not want to marry her so she is bitter. Robert does not defend himself other than to interject, off and on, "don't say things like that, Frances" - but he is guilty and he knows that he has not done right by her, that is why he really does not defend himself. He knows that what she is saying is right.

When Robert was down and out, and not feeling too secure about himself, Frances stood by him, but now that he is an up and coming writer, he thinks he can do better, so he tells her he wants to live a little more, experience life.

I highly recommend you examine chapter 6 to get some deeper insights into Robert's character. The sparse dialogue reveals much. I have only scratched the surface to get you started.

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