Jake meets Mike and Bill at a bar. Edna, a friend of Bill, is with them. Mike and Bill have been tossed out of a café for nearly causing a brawl among the English and American tourists. The group goes to another café, where Cohn approaches Jake and demands to know where Brett is. Jake refuses to tell him. Mike says that she has “gone off with the bullfighter chap.” Furious, Cohn calls Jake a pimp. Jake takes a swing at Cohn, and a fistfight ensues. Cohn displays his athletic prowess, knocking Mike to the ground and Jake out cold. When Jake comes to, he returns to the hotel. Mike stays at the café with Edna. When Jake arrives back at the hotel, Bill tells him that Cohn wants to see him. Jake finds Cohn lying face down on the bed in tears. He begs Jake to forgive him, but Jake refuses. Cohn says that Jake is the only friend he has, and Jake finally gives in, says he forgives him, and shakes his hand.
In the morning, Jake finds that Bill and Mike have already gone to the stadium. A man is killed during the release of the bulls, gored in the back. The crowds of people ignore his body, running over and around him to reach the stadium. Jake goes to a café, where he talks to a waiter about the dead man. The waiter does not see the sense in bullfighting. A man died, he notes, “All for sport. All for pleasure.” Jake goes back to bed, but Bill and Mike knock on the door. Jake learns that Cohn found Brett and Romero together. Cohn apparently hit Romero over and over, but Romero kept getting up and attacking. Finally, Cohn said he would not hit Romero again, and Romero hit him as hard as he could before collapsing. Brett then gave Cohn a tongue-lashing. Cohn tearfully begged Romero to shake hands, but when he offered his hand, Romero hit him again. Later, Mike told Brett how he felt about her affairs with “Jews and bullfighters.” She retorted that the British aristocracy has made her miserable. Her husband, Lord Ashley, forced her to sleep on the floor with him and threatened to kill her all the time. He slept with a loaded service revolver, which Brett unloaded every night. As Bill leaves, Jake asks if he has heard about the man that was gored to death. Bill knows nothing about it.
Brett acts as something of a femme fatale in this chapter. Whatever her unrestricted sexuality means to her, it clearly functions as a destructive, corrupting influence on men. Because she refuses to confine herself to one man, she becomes a destroyer of men. She is represented as a threat to Romero’s purity, and she causes irresolvable tension among Jake and the other men. Every man who desires her suffers from anxiety regarding his masculinity. She, on the other hand, is often described in masculine terms: she wears her hair in a “boyish style,” and she often refers to herself as a “chap.” Even her name—Brett—is masculine. It is highly probable that Brett’s somewhat thoughtless treatment of the men in her life results from her unhappy marriage. Her husband controlled her with threats of murder, so she is careful never to be placed in a submissive, dominated position in her subsequent sexual relationships. She follows her own desires rather than restricting herself to one man.
Cohn, in contrast, represents prewar romantic values. His relationship with Brett corrupts these values. When he physically attacks Mike, Jake, and Romero, he breaks the code of good sportsmanship by fighting outside the gym. When he realizes what he has done, he is disgusted with himself. In trying to defend the prewar, romantic ideal of love, he compromises his prewar value system. It seems also that his relationship with Brett results in his being figuratively castrated. After his series of violent attacks, he is reduced to tearful begging for forgiveness. His desperate pleas “to shake hands” represent his doomed attempt to reclaim the gentlemanly values that he has betrayed. He retreats to an old ritual of good sportsmanship, but it now seems pathetic.
The episode of the man being killed by the bull is charged with symbolic meaning. On one level, it parallels Cohn’s plight. His desire and gullibility allow Brett to maim him and leave him to suffer. Just as the crowds do not stop to help the wounded man, neither Jake nor his friends give much thought to Cohn’s destruction. Rather, they go on with their incessant drinking and carousing. On a larger level, the death of the wounded man represents the death of Cohn’s entire value system. The world, like the crowd, rushes on without these outdated principles, barely aware of their loss.
One could argue that, ultimately, The Sun Also Rises is Cohn’s story. He is the first character Hemingway introduces, and his presence forms the impetus for the novel’s plot. Furthermore, the failure of his value system stands as the novel’s climax. Cohn’s values are traditional values; he alone among Jake’s acquaintances holds onto the outdated, prewar notions of bravery, honesty, and love. When Cohn hits Jake, he betrays these values, and the last vestiges of the prewar world are shattered. The sun has fully set on the past generation’s code of belief and conduct. The time for these principles, like Cohn’s story, has come to an end.
Take a Study Break!