The Sun Also Rises

by: Ernest Hemingway

Chapters XVIII–XIX

Brett portrays her split with Romero as a selfless act, stating that their living together was bad for him and his career. Though she asserts that “I’m not going to be one of these bitches that ruins children,” there is probably more to their breakup than self-sacrificing benevolence. Brett quickly realizes that Romero wants her to change into a more traditionally feminine woman, growing her hair to be more “womanly.” Brett’s refusal to consider such conventional changes makes their relationship untenable. She would rather split with Romero than compromise the person she wants to be. Moreover, a central feature of Brett’s personality is her inability to settle. Like the lives of all of Jake’s friends, Brett’s life is characterized by a compulsion to wander aimlessly. It is unlikely that her love for Romero, even if it were genuine, could make her settle down.

Brett and Jake, on the other hand, have a relatively stable relationship. It seems that his impotence makes this stability possible. As a sexual relationship between them is impossible, her sexuality cannot destroy him the way it does other men. Perhaps his love for her is different from the love that other men feel for her by virtue of the impossibility of its consummation. Mike and Cohn’s obsession with Brett has very little to do with love for her. Rather, it represents a need to satisfy their lust and to solidify their masculinity through their dominance and ownership of her.

Despite her decision to leave Romero before she corrupts him, Brett seems less changed than Jake does. She still idealizes the relationship they “would have had,” stating that they would have had a “wonderful time” together. Jake, on the other hand, expresses doubt, encapsulated in the novel’s final line: it is “pretty to think” that they would have had a grand affair if he had been sexually functional, but it is possible that their relationship would have ended as badly as Brett’s other sexual relationships. Jake has not stopped suffering because he cannot have Brett, but he seems to have reached a more realistic appreciation of their situation as well as his own.