1. Compare Jake and Cohn. How does the fact that Jake went to war and Cohn did not make them different from each other? What qualities do they share with the rest of their acquaintances? Is it safe to call them both outsiders?
2. Bill tells Jake that “[s]ex explains it all.” To what extent is Bill’s statement true of the novel The Sun Also Rises?
3. Discuss the characterization of Lady Brett Ashley. Is she a sympathetic character? Is she a positive female role model? Does she treat her male friends cruelly?
4. Read closely and analyze one of the longer passages in which Hemingway describes bulls or bullfighting. What sort of language does Hemingway use? Does the passage have symbolic possibilities? If the bullfighting passages do not advance the plot, how do they function to develop themes and motifs?
5. Analyze the novel in the context of World War I. How does the experience of war shape the characters and their behavior? Examine the differences between the veterans, like Jake and Bill, and the nonveterans, like Cohn and Romero.
6. Why is Cohn verbally abused so often in the novel? Is it because he is Jewish? Why does Mike attack Cohn but not Jake, whom Brett actually loves? Why does Cohn accept so much abuse?
7. Discuss the problem of communication in the novel. Why is it so difficult for the characters to speak frankly and honestly? In what circumstances is it possible for them to speak openly? Are there any characters who say exactly what is on their mind? If so, how are these characters similar to each other?
The Characterization of Brett in The Sun Also Rises
If taken at face value, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, seems simply to be a depressing story about a group of lost individuals, plagued with drunkenness who, as a result, float through life with little meaning at all; however, this naÃÂ¯ve perception fails to account for the deeper meaning and thematic development that lies within the text. For many of the novel's characters, this drunken, partying conduct is part of their response to the negative effects of World War I. Brett is a key example of a character that has been traumatized by the war, and the seriousness of her mental aftermath is displayed through her unfavorable behavior. When dealing with men, she remains selfish, manipulative, and promiscuous until she encounters Pedro Romero. Her infatuation with him and her adoration of his aficion prevents her from treating him like she does the other men.
Brett's issues are apparent when she is first presented in the novel. "A crowd of young men...got out [of the taxi]. As they went in...I saw...grimacing, gesturing, talking. With them was Brett. She looked very lovely and she was very much with them" (28). We see Brett's grace and beauty while she parades in as center of attention. Jake comments that she "was damned good-looking" (29). Every man is attracted to Brett, and she appears to thrive on that. Rendezvous after rendezvous with multiple men would perhaps deem satisfying to a woman who continues in this manner, but Brett confesses her struggle with aimlessness to Jake saying, "Oh, darling, I've been so miserable" (32).
Brett is a smashed up person. She experiences great emotional distress after losing her first love in the war and dealing with her husband's insanity after his return from war.