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Character Role Analysis

Robert Cohn

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.

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