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Bill Gorton

Character Analysis

Bill is one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel; since he and Jake have a close bond, we in turn see him in a friendly light, despite some of his unsavory tendencies. He, like Jake, is a productive working man; he writes books that are apparently somewhat successful (his European trip follows on the heels of a financial windfall from his last book). He’s sort of a mirror image of Jake – they have many similarities, such as their war experiences and their dedication to work, but Bill is also Jake’s opposite in that he emerged physically unscathed from the war, and chose to return to America, rather than stay in Europe. On the outside, Bill seems like a stereotypical hard-boiled, witty Hemingway stock figure, but once he and Jake leave the boundaries of the city, we begin to see him in a different light. He shares a profound appreciation for the natural world with Jake, and their friendship is depicted as one of the only genuine relationships in the novel. The scenes of their idyllic trip to Burguete, where they meet another like-minded outdoorsman, Harris, are the most contented moments we witness in the novel. After the fiasco of Cohn, Brett, and Romero plays out in Pamplona, the only truly stable relationship that emerges unaffected is that of Bill and Jake. Bill is a faithful standby, a true companion and loyal friend.

Bill Gorton Timeline
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