Study Guide

The Sun Also Rises Identity

By Ernest Hemingway

Identity

Book 1, Chapter 1

I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together [...]. (1.2)

In a world of liars and cheats, of course Jake mistrusts people who are up front, since they seem too good to be true!

Book 1, Chapter 2

So there you were. I was sorry for him, but it was not a thing you could do anything about, because right away you ran up against the two stubbornnesses: South America could fix it and he did not like Paris. He got the first idea out of a book and I suppose the second came out of a book, too. (2.8)

Jake comments upon Cohn’s easily impressed mentality; Jake looks down upon this aspect of his friend’s personality.

Book 2, Chapter 10

[…] as all the time I was kneeling with my forehead on the wood in front of me, and was thinking of myself as praying, I was a little ashamed, and I regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time […]. (10.21)

Jake, attempting to find some kind of genuine connection to his spirituality, realizes that despite his longing for faith, he’s not a proper Catholic. His desire to "feel religious" here is understandable—after all, religion explains the mysteries of life, which Jake is certainly, well, mystified by.

Book 2, Chapter 13

Montoya could forgive anything of a bull-fighter who had aficion. He could forgive attacks of nerves, panic, bad unexplainable actions, all sorts of lapses. For one who had aficion he could forgive anything. At once he forgave me for all of my friends. Without his ever saying anything they were simply a little something shameful between us, like the spilling open of the horses in bull-fighting. (13.24)

For Montoya, aficion is the only element of identity that matters. Since Jake has it, Montoya’s willing to overlook all his flaws—even his friends.

Bill Gorton

"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked.

"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly."

"What brought it on?"

"Friends," said Mike. "I had a lot of friends. False friends. Then I had creditors, too. Probably had more creditors than anybody in England." (13. 31)

Mike admits to his own helplessness; his descent into bankruptcy was apparently totally beyond his control. This reflects upon his lack of control with regards not only to his business matters, but to his life in general.

Book 2, Chapter 15

Romero never made any contortions, always it was straight and pure and natural in line. The others twisted themselves like corkscrews, their elbows raised, and leaned against the flanks of the bull after his horns had passed, to give a faked look of danger. Afterward, all that was faked turned bad and gave an unpleasant feeling. Romero’s bull-fighting gave real emotion, because he kept the absolute purity of line in his movements and always quietly and calmly let the horns pass him close each time. He did not have to emphasize their closeness. (15.52)

Romero’s natural talent reveals a pure and genuine kind of honesty that we don’t see in any of the other characters—the purity of his style in the ring reflects upon the authenticity of his character, as well.

Book 2, Chapter 18

During Romero’s first bull his hurt face had been very noticeable. Everything he did showed it. All the concentration of the awkwardly delicate working with the bull that could not see well brought it out. The fight with Cohn had not touched his spirit but his face had been smashed and his body hurt. He was wiping all that out now. Each thing that he did with this bull wiped that out a little cleaner. (18.42)

Romero, unlike any of the other characters, is able to heal himself. The purity of his passion for the bullfight allows him to re-center himself spiritually through the act of fighting, despite the physical damage he sustained in his brawl with Cohn.

Also Belmonte imposed conditions and insisted that his bulls should not be too large, nor too dangerously armed with horns, and so the element that was necessary to give the sensation of tragedy was not there, and the public, who wanted three times as much from Belmonte, who was sick with a fistula, as Belmonte had ever been able to give, felt defrauded and cheated, and Belmonte’s jaw came further out in contempt, and his face turned yellower, and he moved with greater difficulty as his pain increased, and finally the crowd were actively against him, and he was utterly contemptuous and indifferent. (18.30)

The crowd can sense Belmonte’s inauthenticity, and knows that he is only imitating himself. His performance has become a parody of his past identity.

Book 3, Chapter 19
Lady Brett Ashley

"I’m thirty-four, you know. I’m not going to be one of those b****es that ruins children." (19.49)

Brett’s affair with Romero (who’s only nineteen) has forced her to confront her conscience for the first time—yes, she actually has one! Her obsessive wondering in the last two chapters about whether or not she is a "b****" reaches its culmination here, where she has apparently made up her mind not to be one.

"You know it makes me feel rather good deciding not to be a b****."

"Yes."

"It’s sort of what we have instead of God."

"Some people have God," I said. "Quite a lot." (19.55)

After leaving Romero, Brett finally feels as though she’s done something right, even if it makes her miserable; this gives her a sense of some kind of spiritual wholeness for the first time, which she puts in the place of God. Jake, whose faith perseveres throughout the novel, corrects her when she implies that nobody believes in God in their world.