Notes on Characters from The Sun Also Rises

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The Sun Also Rises Major Characters

Robert Cohn : Jake Barnes friend, Robert is Jewish, and he experienced anti-Semitism at Princeton. To counteract his insecurity, Cohn took up boxing, earning Princeton's middleweight title. He is nice but shy, and angry about his shyness. He is easily led by the women in his life. He marries the first woman he dates after college, and lives reasonably well with her. He thought about leaving her, but was afraid she would not be able to handle it, when she left him. On the rebound he went to California and helped fund a review of the Arts. He liked the power and respect it gave him more than he liked the arts. While there he met Frances, whom he began dating. Wrapped around her little finger, he agreed to take them to Europe. And when Frances started to suggest they get married, Cohn seemed to go along with that too. All this changed after Cohn wrote a novel and traveled to New York. His ego was inflated, and he became mean. He especially did not like when people told him to go to hell, and he occasionally threatened violence. He also realized that Frances was probably not the best he could do. So he decided to play the field, sending Frances away and going on a trip with Lady Brett Ashley. His friend Jake, still in love with Brett, could not forgive him for this. A hopeless romantic, Cohn foolishly tries to keep Brett, who wants nothing more to do with him; he follows her around and annoys everyone. This makes Jake even more angry, and when Jake sets up Brett with bull-fighter Pedro Romero, Cohn beats up his friend. A strong boxer, Cohn also beats up Pedro Romero, who warns him to leave town. Treated as an outsider, hated and taunted, especially by Mike Campbell, Brett's fiancé, nobody is sorry to see him go. He considers Jake his best friend, but he hurts him terribly by sleeping with Brett, and is very selfish and insensitive.

Jake Barnes: The narrator of the story, Barnes served in World War I and was injured while fighting in Italy. This injury left him impotent, which becomes his curse and a major theme of the novel. He loves Brett, and she loves him, but she loves sex more. Since Jake cannot have sex, their relationship is doomed. Jake must sit back and watch her have affairs with Mike, Cohn, and Pedro. Unable to act himself, he will often help her, as when he sets her up with Pedro Romero. As a means of coping, he tries to be detached, focusing on the monetary value and the utility of things. Jake takes a trip to Spain every summer, fishing and then going to Pamplona for the festival. This year, his friends spoil his trip. Fishing with Bill is fun, but once they join everyone in Pamplona, the trip becomes a disaster. Jake loves bull-fighting, and his passion for the sport is greatly respected. But his friends' bad behavior, especially Brett's fling with Pedro, is so devastating that those who once respected him will no longer speak to him. Jake loses this comfort, and also his self-respect as he continually comes to Brett's aid.

Lady Brett Ashley: Jake's love, Mike's fiancée, Cohn's lover, and then Romero's lover. Still married, but with a pending divorce, to a member of the British aristocracy, Brett drinks a lot and is addicted to sex. She loves Jake, but she cannot be with him, because he cannot have sex. Wanting what she cannot have, Brett professes her love for Jake while her many affairs continue. She is very attractive, but it is her behavior and her unfeminine dress that make her stand out. Cohn compares her to Circe, the sorceress in the Odyssey who turned men into swine. She is selfish, expecting a lot from all her men. Her one unselfish act is when she sends Romero away in Madrid. Brett has once married a man she didn't love, and is poised to do that again. She is inconsiderate to those who love her, and turns away from the men she loves. She is afraid of love, spending more time with people she cares little for, as when she ran off with Cohn, leaving Jake alone in Paris.

Mike Campbell: Brett's fiancé, Mike is always in debt. He drinks a lot and has no job. He is on an allowance, waiting for his inheritance. He also fought in the war, but not in the serious way Jake did. Mike does not take the war seriously, giving away war medals that do not even belong to him. Though he is friendly and a lot of fun, he can also be cruel. He hates Cohn-his Jewishnes and his love-struck chase after Brett; he insults Cohn badly. Also enraptured with Brett, he stays around even after she goes off with Romero. But unlike Jake, who takes much abuse and never gets the girl, Mike expects Brett to return to him by the end of the novel.

Bill Gorton: Jake's friend, Gorton is a writer, and likes stuffed animals. He travels with Jake to Bayonne, where they fish and spend a peaceful few days. A big drinker, Bill gets along well with Mike, but detests what he calls Cohn's 'Jewish superiority.'

Pedro Romero: A great bull-fighter, he is only nineteen. His masterful and honest handling of the bulls suggest he will be one of the great ones. Focused and controlled, he hardly drinks, and has not been with many women. Brett falls in love with him, and they have a brief affair, which the bull-fighting crowd disapproves of greatly. After Pamplona they travel to Madrid. Romero asks Brett to marry him, but he wants her to grow out her boyish hair and behave in a more ladylike manner. Not ready for such a change, and fearful that their relationship will threaten what is most important to him, Brett sends him away.

Minor Characters

Spider Kelly: Robert Cohn's boxing coach at Princeton.

Cohn's first wife: The woman Cohn married right out of college. He had three children with her, but was not very happy. He was afraid to leave her, because he didn't think she could live without him. So he was very surprised when his wife left him for a painter of miniatures.

Frances Clyne: Cohn's new girlfriend, he meets her in California while working on the Review of the Arts. She dominates him, and insists they move to Europe. Later when she fears losing him, she demands he marry her. He is inclined to, but changes his mind after he gets his novel published. Frances is jealous and can be vicious; when Robert sends her away to England, she tears into him in front of Jake.

Henry Braddocks: A friend of Cohn's.

Georgette Hobin (LeBlace): The young woman Jake picks up and takes to dinner and then dancing with his friends. She is pretty but has a terrible smile. Jake thinks she's boring, and he isn't sorry when she spends the night dancing with other men.

Mrs. Braddocks: Henry Braddock's bubbly wife.

Robert Prentiss: A young novelist from America. He is rude to Jake, who storms off angrily.

Lett and Zizi: Brett's two gay companions at the dance club. Jake hates them.

Count Mippipopolous: Brett's friend, he offers her money to go away with him. He is very wealthy from a chain of American sweet shops he owns. He has fought or participated somehow in several wars and revolutions, and he has the wounds to prove it. He takes great pleasure in fine things, and knowing he got his money's worth.

Woolsey and Krum: Two of Jake's newspaper friends. They have families, and wonder how Jake spends his nights. His life is very different from theirs.

Harvey Stone: The broke gambler who is friends with Jake and Bill. Depressed and indifferent, he insults Cohn, then tells him he wouldn't care if Cohn hit him.

Madame Duzinell: The concierge at Jake's apartment. She is a snob and will only let people up to see Jake if they are rich, well born, or sportsmen. But Brett is able to bribe her with money.

Montoya: The owner of the hotel Montoya, where Jake stays during the festival. He is an aficionado, and he respects Jake for his aficion. When Jake lets Romero keep company with Brett and the other drunks, Montoya cannot forgive him. Their friendship is over; Montoya will not even speak to him.

the Basque peasants: The men on the bus when Jake and Bill travel to Pamplona. There are many of them at the festival. They are friendly and generous with their wine.

Harris (or Wilson-Harris): An Englishman whom Jake and Bill meet at Burguete while they are fishing. He fits in well, and Bill especially likes him. He is an aficionado of fishing, and a good friend. He gives Jake and Bill a generous and personal gift when they leave for Pamplona.

Marcial Lalander: A mediocre bull-fighter.

Edna: Bill's friend. Mike flirts with her to make Brett jealous, which doesn't work.

Lord Ashley: Brett's husband who she is in the process of divorcing. He was an Admiral, and did not treat her well. After the war he became crazy and threatened to kill her.

Belmonte: An old bull-fighter who came out of retirement to reassert some honor into the sport. But his plan for a triumphant return is squashed when Romero comes along. Romero is so pure and graceful, so perfect, that the old and sick Belmonte looks awful. He used to be wonderful, and after he retired, the public built a myth around Belmonte. Now fighting again, he cannot compete with his own myth. Reality is a disappointment, and the crowd hates him.

Vicente Girones: The man killed in the running of the bulls. He had a wife and kids, and came down every year to participate in the running. The group is indifferent when they hear about his death.

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