Masculinity is somewhat problematic in the world of this novel. The insecurity of the central male characters produces an atmosphere of competition, rivalry, and mutual harassment, and we constantly witness petty arguments that are rooted in this sense of challenged masculinity. The novel revolves around several male characters and their various relationships with each other, and with one central female character; Hemingway plays up the tensions of competition and jealousy to demonstrate just how uncertain his male characters are. The shared sense of insecurity among many of the book’s central male characters suggests a redefinition of masculinity post-WWI; particularly notable is the fact that the protagonist’s impotence is caused by a wound he sustained in the war.
While most of the men in The Sun Also Rises are insecure because of their shifting roles in a modern and alienating society, Pedro Romero’s youth and proximity to nature produce his sense of identity and confidence.
Because Cohn unsuccessfully clings to pre-war notions of honor and masculinity, his masculinity is targeted as a clear example of weakness in the post-war world.