Cohn meets Jake at his office to have lunch. Cohn asks about Brett, and Jake says that she is a drunk and that she is going to marry Mike Campbell, a Scotsman who will be rich someday. Jake also says that Brett’s true love died of dysentery during the war. Jake explains that he met Brett while she worked as a V.A.D. (Volunteer Aid Detachment) in the hospital where he was taken for his injury. Cohn gets annoyed that Jake doesn’t describe Brett in positive terms; Jake tells Cohn to go to hell. Cohn gets angry at this insult and threatens to leave lunch. Jake smoothes things over and persuades Cohn to stay. Afterward, Jake perceives that Cohn wishes to talk about Brett but avoids bringing up the subject again.
That evening, Jake goes to meet Brett, but she stands him up. After looking for her in a few places, Jake wanders through the streets of Paris and runs into his friend Harvey Stone, a compulsive gambler. Harvey is broke and claims he has not eaten in days. Jake gives him money. They happen upon Cohn, who is waiting to meet Frances. Harvey insults Cohn, calling him a moron, before leaving to eat. When Frances arrives, she asks to speak to Jake privately. She tells him that Cohn has refused to marry her and that she fears that no man will marry her now. Jake tries to remain neutral. Frances says that she will not receive alimony from her husband because she got divorced in the quickest way; adding to her woes, no one will publish her writing. Trying to remain bright and cheery, she suggests that they rejoin Cohn. In front of Cohn, she tells Jake that Cohn has paid her two hundred pounds to go to England but that she had to wrangle it out of him. In a falsely cheerful manner, she bitterly describes the unpleasant visits to “friends” in England she will have to make, just so Cohn can get rid of her in an orderly manner. She claims that Cohn won’t marry her because he wants to tell people that he once had a mistress. Cohn sits through her barrage. Jake excuses himself and leaves them alone.
Couldn’t we live together, Brett? Couldn’t we just live together?See Important Quotations Explained
Jake returns home, and Brett and Count Mippipopolous show up. Jake asks why she missed their appointment but does not believe her when she says she forgot it out of drunkenness. Brett offers to send the count away. Jake tells her not to, but she sends him for champagne. Jake asks why they cannot live together, and she tells him that she would only make him unhappy by cheating on him. She announces that she is leaving Paris for San Sebastian, in Spain, because it will be better for both of them.
The count returns with the champagne, and he begins to describe his philosophy of life. He has been in seven wars and four revolutions. Because he has lived so much, he says, he is able to enjoy everything fully. He thinks the secret to living is to get to know the right values. He is always in love because his values include love. The three of them have a pleasant dinner before going out to a club. The count asks why Brett and Jake do not get married, and they offer curt, false answers. Brett begins to feel miserable and wants to leave. Jake accompanies Brett to her hotel; she does not want him to come up to her room, however. They kiss several times before she pushes him away.
What Jake actually says, both as a narrator and as a character, differs sharply from what we can infer about what he actually thinks. The conversation at his lunch with Cohn demonstrates this difference. Jake tells Cohn not to believe him when he says nasty things, but in fact these vicious comments are frequently Jake’s most honest expressions of his thoughts and feelings. Very often he hides how he feels, expressing emotion only indirectly within his narration. Harvey Stone stands in stark contrast to Jake. Harvey is totally blunt. For example, he tells Cohn that he considers him a moron and then walks away. Jake does not like Cohn very much either—he even says that he hates him. But he hides this hatred to the point that Cohn considers him his best friend. As with his conversation with Georgette about the war, Jake seems disinclined to communicate openly with other people—even the reader.
Frances and Cohn’s messy breakup reveals how little true affection ever existed between them. Cohn abandons Frances as soon as he gains the confidence to do so and finds a woman who interests him more, namely Brett. Frances’s main complaint is that she is now too old to find a husband and has wasted her time pursuing Cohn. She is not so much concerned with losing Cohn as with losing the chance to marry. Among Jake and his friends, there are almost no healthy, loving relationships between men and women. Although Jake and Brett seem to truly love one another, Brett is unwilling to commit to Jake. Moreover, she frequently exploits Jake’s love for her. She often goes to him for emotional support and then abandons him to pursue affairs with other men, as when, directly after unloading her emotional troubles on Jake, she breaks her appointment with him to spend more time carousing with the count. Although her ill treatment causes Jake pain, he never mentions it to her and only rarely acknowledges it to himself. He essentially allows himself to be abused, unable to stand up to Brett. Ironically, in this respect Jake resembles Cohn, who stoically endures Frances’s verbal assaults.