Ah, l’amour, l’amour. Of course a novel set in Paris (city of love, duh), involves love. However, don’t forget that this is not exactly the romantic, sentimental Paris we usually imagine – Hemingway’s Paris is an ailing, disillusioned postwar city, and therefore Hemingway’s love is also a special kind of ailing, disillusioned, postwar love. The novel lacks a single substantial example of mutually shared and consummated romantic love. While some characters struggle with an outdated definition of love, for others, the prospect of love seems entirely subjugated to other concerns and realities. Love, when mentioned at all in The Sun Also Rises, is usually only brought up in the context of accusations or fights, or at best surrounding discussions of sex.
Questions About Love
- Why are the romantic relationships portrayed in The Sun Also Rises all so unsuccessful?
- Consider the relationships between Brett and Mike, Brett and Jake, Brett and Cohn, Brett and Romero, Cohn and Frances, and Bill and Edna. What does this suggest about expatriate life in the post-WWI world?
- At different times in the novel, Brett indicates that she feels she would destroy either Jake or Romero, the two men she truly loves, if they were to be together. Why? Are Brett’s fears realistic?
- Contrast the count and Cohn’s understandings of love and honor with those of Jake, Mike, Brett, and Bill. Is there a pattern? If so, what does it suggest?
Chew on This
Although Brett and Jake love one another, Brett’s prioritization of sex and independence above love, and Jake’s physical limitations, prevent them from being together.
Robert Cohn’s unrealistic and outdated understanding of love renders him the perfect scapegoat for Mike, Brett, and Jake, each of whom are insecure in their own love lives.