Study Guide

The Sun Also Rises Love

By Ernest Hemingway

Love

Book 1, Chapter 2

For four years his horizon had been absolutely limited to his wife. For three years, or almost three years, he had never seen beyond Frances. I am sure he had never been in love in his life. (2.1)

Despite the fact that he’s been tied to certain women, Jake suspects that Cohn has never really been in love with them—Cohn doesn’t have an understanding of what love really is, beyond obligation.

Book 1, Chapter 3
Lady Brett Ashley

"You’re getting damned romantic."

"No, bored." (3.35)

This brief interchange between Brett and Jake (Jake is the bored one) cancels out the possibility of real romance—it’s just something to pass the time.

Book 1, Chapter 4
Lady Brett Ashley

"It’s funny," I said. "It’s very funny. And it’s a lot of fun, too, to be in love."

"Do you think so?" her eyes looked flat again.

"I don’t mean fun that way. In a way it’s an enjoyable feeling."

"No," she said. "I think it’s hell on earth." (4.4)

Brett can’t handle her feelings for Jake—she wants him but can’t have him, which creates the sensation of "hell on earth" for her. Jake, on the other hand, experiences a kind of simultaneous pain and pleasure in seeing Brett.

Book 1, Chapter 7
Lady Brett Ashley

"Couldn’t we live together, Brett? Couldn’t we just live together?"

"I don’t think so. I’d just tromper you with everybody. You couldn’t stand it." (7. 7)

Jake attempts to find some kind of unconventional solution to their no sex problem, but Brett knows herself too well to accept it. Her statement that she’d just tromper (cheat on) Jake with everyone is true, and both of them know it.

Book 2, Chapter 13
Mike Campbell

"He calls her Circe," Mike said. "He claims she turns men into swine." (13.52)

Cohn’s association of Brett with Circe, a seductive enchantress of Greek mythology, is fairly accurate —she reduces the men who love her to a kind of animal-like state of worship and abjection.

Book 2, Chapter 14

Women made such swell friends. Awfully swell. In the first place, you had to be in love with a woman to have a basis of friendship. I had been having Brett for a friend. I had not been thinking about her side of it. I had been getting something for nothing. That only delayed the presentation of the bill. The bill always came. That was one of the swell things you could count on.

I thought I had paid for everything. Not like the woman pays and pays and pays. No idea of retribution or punishment. Just exchange of values. (14. 4)

Love and friendship here are depicted as "exchange of values," reflecting Jake’s cynical view of relationships between men and women. The "bill" that always comes is steep—in transactions like this, someone always ends up paying with unhappiness.

Book 2, Chapter 16

Cohn sat at the table. His face had the sallow, yellow look it got when he was insulted but somehow he seemed to be enjoying it. The childish, drunken heroics of it. It was his affair with a lady of title. (16. 32)

Cohn’s love for Brett is more like the idealized notion of love—at this stage, he’s in love with the concept of an "affair with a lady of title," rather than Brett herself.

Lady Brett Ashley

"Do you still love me, Jake?"

"Yes," I said.

"Because I’m a goner," Brett said.

"How?"

"I’m a goner. I’m mad about the Romero boy. I’m in love with him I think."

"I wouldn’t be if I were you."

"I can’t help it. I’m a goner. It’s tearing me all up inside." (16. 48)

Brett expresses a marked sense of resignation here; she recognizes that her feelings for Romero are actually love, or something akin to it, at least, which she links to death ("I’m a goner"). This reiterates Brett’s earlier claim, in relation to Jake, that love is hell on earth.

Book 3, Chapter 19
Lady Brett Ashley

"Oh, Jake," Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together."

Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.

"Yes," I said. "Isn’t it pretty to think so?" (19.60)

This line gets us every time. As the novel closes, Jake doesn’t even have the energy to imagine a happy ending – he knows that he and Brett can’t be together, and now that this possibility has been irrevocably cancelled out, he recognizes that it could never have happened, even in the past. The idea of their relationship is simply a pretty but impossible dream.

That seemed to handle it. That was it. Send a girl off with one man. Introduce her to another to go off with him, now go and bring her back. And sign the wire with love. That was all right. (19.37)

After everything’s over, Jake sardonically reflects upon the shameful role he played in the drama of Brett, Cohn, and Romero—he clearly feels guilty about his intervention, but is also resigned to it.