[Cohn:] “I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
[Jake:] “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.”
In this quotation, taken from Chapter II, Cohn verbalizes one of the key dilemmas afflicting the Lost Generation. In the wake of World War I, many young men and women felt their lives had no purpose or substance. Cohn worries that he is wasting his brief time on earth. Jake’s comfort is really not comfort at all. He advises Cohn that “[n]obody” feels fulfilled in their lives, except a small group of extraordinary people. Of course, Cohn cannot become a bullfighter. Jake implies that Cohn must learn to live with his feeling of discontent. This advice is demonstrative of Jake’s character: although he understands the flaws of the world and the people around him, he almost never takes action to correct those flaws. He simply accepts them, as he advises Cohn to do.