You see, he was so busy all the time that we were living together, writing on this book, that he doesn’t remember anything about us. So now he’s going out and get some new material.
Frances gives Jake her perspective on why Robert has decided to leave her. Frances suspects that Robert wants freedom from their relationship when he returns to New York so that he can meet someone new. Early in their affair, Robert would do anything for her, but now she believes it's her turn to be rejected. Robert lost interest in her and needs fresh experiences.
But I couldn’t live quietly in the country. Not with my own true love.
After Jake suggests to Brett that they go off in the country and live together, Brett says no and explains why. Brett needs sexual relationships, and Jake cannot perform sexually. She sees a domestic partnership lived in isolation as a no-man’s-land between intimate love and no love at all. Instead, Brett plans to marry Mike, move to San Sebastian, and never see Jake again.
I had the feeling as in a nightmare of it all being something repeated, something I had been through and that now I must go through again.
Jake expresses a moment of clarity as a feeling of déjà vu. As Brett prepares to leave Jake, she remarks that she feels miserable and terrible, something she has said before. Like his memories of the war, the repetition of her words triggers a sharp and dark response in Jake. He shares her sorrow, yet he feels helpless to control her pain. He feels lost in their sorry situation, unable to respond and unable to escape.
“Certainly like to drink,” Bill said. “You ought to try it sometimes, Jake.”
Bill recommends his reliance on inebriation as a method of dealing with life’s challenges. In Jake’s world, people drink alcohol, or “get tight,” to address their feelings of sadness and loss of connection. As a consequence, the characters in the story drink nearly incessantly. They stop at bars and cafés to fortify themselves or grease social interactions, drinking to excess as a substitute for purpose.
It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening.
Jake muses about the familiar sense of foreboding that hangs over the argument between Robert and Campbell. The war, particularly for Jake, always looms in the background. Feelings of emptiness and helplessness pervade every chapter in the book. Here, Jake recognizes the persisting effects of such emotions. This scene approaches the story’s highest tension, or climax, symbolized by the bullfight. Readers sense that the tangled bonds of the companions will soon unravel.
I stood up. I had heard them talking from a long way away. It all seemed like some bad play.
Robert Cohn has just beaten up Jake and left him with Mike and Edna. Here, Jake comments on the action as an outsider looking in. As he compares the scene and dialogue to a bad play, he attempts to articulate the strange disorientation he feels throughout the novel. At this moment, his physical sensation mirrors his emotional and spiritual disillusionment. The violence must have brought back his war experiences and left him feeling not only physically beaten but also mentally and spiritually utterly isolated.