Character Role Analysis
Cohn isn’t the antagonist in the classic sense of the word—he’s hardly villainous, and he’s certainly not out there plotting to destroy everyone else and take over the world. Amazingly, we don’t even exactly dislike him: it’s more like we feel pity for him, rather than sympathy.
He’s a nice guy, in his way, but his flaws are overwhelming: he’s weak, ineffectual, and arrogant, a deadly combination for Hemingway, who liked his protagonists strong, principled, and active. Hemingway sets Cohn up in opposition to Jake via their relationships with Brett; both are desperately in love with her, but can’t successfully create a lasting romantic commitment with her. Cohn does manage to run off with Brett for a weekend in the novel’s early chapters, after which Jake’s attitude towards his former friend takes a steep downturn.