The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway
Lady Brett Ashley
Brett Ashley is hot stuff. She’s gorgeous, seductive, smart, and has a fashion sense that eats you for breakfast. How could anyone resist her? All of the male characters in the novel—and by that we mean almost all of the characters period, since Brett is the only significant woman in the book—are in love with her to different degrees.
At one point, Mike compares her to Circe, a famous seductress of Greek myth, whose schtick was luring men to her island and turning them into animals:
"He calls her Circe," Mike said. "He claims she turns men into swine." (13.52)
She does have a certain power over men—their feelings for her are so strong that they create conflict. Instead of sticking together, Jake, Cohn, and Mike are set in opposition to each other because of their jealousy and anger over Brett’s infidelities.
Engaged to Mike, in love with Jake, disgusted by Cohn, and infatuated with Romero, Brett’s feelings are often masked by her debonair exterior. She often acts as though she has these men and their relationships under control, but the cracks in her shell reveal that she’s just as vulnerable as they are:
I told the driver to go to the Parc Montsouris, and got in, and slammed the door. Brett was leaning back in the corner, her eyes closed. I sat beside her. The cab started with a jerk.
"Oh, darling, I’ve been so miserable," Brett said. (3.40)
Yes indeedy: like almost everyone else in the novel, Brett is a sad sack. And with good reason: the love of her life is impotent, and she's too much of a realist to believe that the two of them can have any kind of future.
Her relationship with Romero shows us that she is capable of real emotional depth—she actively tries to avoid it most of the time, but sometimes her true feelings emerge.Lady Brett Ashley Timeline