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The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway

Chapter XVI

Chapter XV

Chapter XVII

Summary

It rains in the morning, leaving Pamplona foggy and dull. Montoya consults Jake regarding a message from the American ambassador inviting Pedro Romero to dine at the Grand Hotel. He fears that foreigners will corrupt Romero. Jake feels the same way and advises him not to deliver the message. He tells Montoya, “There’s one American woman down here now that collects bullfighters.” Jake finds his friends eating dinner in the hotel dining room. Romero is there as well, eating dinner with a critic. Jake and Romero discuss bullfighting. Romero is modest but extremely passionate about his work. Brett pesters Jake to introduce their group to Romero, and he agrees to do so. Everyone is quite drunk, and Mike shouts, “Tell him that bulls have no balls!” Brett, however, strikes up a private conversation with the young bullfighter. When Montoya enters the dining room, he sees Romero drinking cognac and talking to Brett. He does not even acknowledge Jake’s presence. After Romero leaves, Mike begins to insult Cohn again viciously, shouting at him to go away. Jake thinks Cohn actually enjoys the “drunken heroics” of the whole affair. Jake drags Mike away from the table to prevent a fight.

Hordes of English and American tourists arrive in Pamplona for the last day of the fiesta. Bill and Mike leave to bother the English. Cohn stays behind, but Brett tells him to get lost because she wants to be alone with Jake. She complains to Jake about Mike’s behavior and Cohn’s following her around. Jake tries to defend Mike, but she asks him not to make her feel guilty. They go for a walk, and Brett asks Jake if he still loves her. After he affirms that he does, she confesses that she is “mad about the Romero boy.” Though she says she feels like a “bitch,” she asserts, “I’ve got to do something I really want to do. I’ve lost my self-respect.” Jake agrees to find Romero with her. They go to a café where Romero is seated with other bullfighters and fight critics. When Romero comes to their table, Jake invites him to sit down. Romero knows there is a mutual attraction between him and Brett. She reads his palm, and they begin to talk about bullfighting, with Jake translating. Romero says that the bulls are his best friends, and that he always kills his best friends “so they don’t kill me.” Jake leaves them alone. Romero’s bullfighting friends stare at Jake with disapproval as he leaves. When Jake returns to the café, Brett and Romero are gone.

Analysis

Mike’s behavior toward Cohn reaches the peak of its brutality in this chapter. He desperately tries to get rid of Cohn and insults Cohn to his face about being Jewish. It is not a coincidence that this nastiness occurs at the same time that Brett is flirting with Romero. Mike has understandable anxieties about his relationship with Brett—he sees that she is more interested in Romero than in him. He seems to take out these personal insecurities on Cohn. When he shouts at Cohn, “Why don’t you see when you’re not wanted?” he does so in order to avoid asking the same question of himself. Mike’s behavior is one of many examples of characters attacking Cohn for a weakness to which they themselves are subject.

Much of the central conflict in The Sun Also Rises has to do with anxieties regarding sex. Relationships between women and men in this novel are riddled with conflict, as is apparent in Brett’s quarrels with her various lovers. Jake, Mike, and Cohn all lament their inability to earn a full commitment from her. To varying degrees, all three of them would like to control her. They regard their inability to do so as a failure of their masculinity, which torments them. On the surface, then, it would seem that the men in the novel need Brett far more than she needs them. But the nature of Brett’s independence is problematic. Although she does not feel compelled to commit to any one man, she still depends on men. She relies on Jake, for example, to give her emotional support. Also, she says she needs to sleep with Romero in order to boost her “self-respect.” Hence, within her sexual liberation there remains a kind of bondage—Brett seems to need men to want her in order to feel good about herself.

Despite this dependence, Brett remains true to herself at all times. Although she feels like a “bitch” for doing so, she generally does whatever she wants. She abandons Jake for Cohn, and later she leaves Mike for Romero. In this carefree indulgence, she contrasts markedly with Jake, who ignores his own feelings and desires whenever they conflict with Brett’s requests. He is willing to do anything for her, regardless of the personal cost, and this chapter underscores this weakness. Although he loves Brett, he helps her find Romero so that she can sleep with him. Jake thus utterly betrays his own desires. His blind love for Brett overpowers all of his self-interest.

Jake’s love also undermines his values in this chapter. He has genuine passion for bullfighting. When he tells Montoya to discard the note from the American ambassador, Jake demonstrates that he understands and fears the threat foreigners pose to Romero’s career. Yet, later the same night, he sets Romero up with Brett. At the opening of the chapter, Jake defends Romero from harmful, outside influences; at the end of the chapter, he pushes Romero toward these same forces. In doing so, he betrays not only the sport he loves but also his friendship with Montoya. Jake’s love for Brett is the most powerful, controlling force in his life, and it greatly disrupts everything else that he holds dear.

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raising the baton in the last paragraph

by shishijoy, August 20, 2012

I believe that the raised baton also refers to the fact that Jake is impotent and he and Brett will never have the relationship that they both desire.

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