The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Jake is a young American expatriate working in a Paris newspaper office. He is a veteran of WWI and has an injury from it which, it appears, has left him impotent. He desires Brett, with whom he developed a relationship while in the war hospital, but cannot have her because of his physical condition. His submissive pursuit of her often undermines his values and sense of self-worth. His other passion besides Brett is bull-fighting; he is considered a true aficionado of the sport. He spends his days and nights living irresponsibly and drinking heavily with his friends, none of whom he seems to care about too deeply, such as Robert Cohn. Overall, Jake represents the worst of the Lost Generation -- irresponsible, aimless, and bitter, his life seems over before it has begun.
Brett (Lady Ashley)
Although the true antagonist in the novel is the lack of values and direction of the Lost Generation, Brett comes closest to personifying this malaise and provoking it in others as she consistently manipulates Jake and makes him undermine his sense of self. She met Jake as a volunteer nurse when he was in the hospital during the war, but she is now engaged to Mike Campbell. Brett is the strongest, most conventionally "masculine" character in the novel, dominating her lovers and manipulating them like a bull-fighter; she even has a short haircut and refers to herself as a "chap." However, in her carelessly dominating relationships with Jake, Mike, Cohn, and Romero, she appears to be dependent on them as well; she needs men to let her be dominant.
A Jewish novelist from Princeton, Cohn the only central male character not a war veteran, and perhaps because of this he is the only one whose values have not been fully compromised. He represents American pre-war romanticism and idealism, and it is often painful to watch him pitted against a world that has lost these beliefs. He is romantically involved with Frances at the start of the novel, dominated by her as he was by his former wife. Quiet and willing to take abuse, he is disliked by everyone in Jake's circle, especially Mike, who resents him for his fling with Brett and the way he follows her around pathetically. Jake, who shares certain feelings of inferiority with Cohn, sometimes sympathizes with his plight, but frequently Jake enjoys it and does not intervene when Cohn is humiliated. Cohn's one strength is that he is an excellent boxer, a skill developed to compensate for his inferiority complex.
Although Romero appears only briefly in the novel, his presence is crucial, as he is the only man who seems capable of manipulating Brett. His appeal to her, beyond his beautiful appearance, is clear through the parallels Hemingway draws between bull-fighting and sexuality. Like Brett with her submissive men, Romero is highly skilled at a somewhat "feminine" manipulation of the bulls; moreover, he penetrates them in a "masculine" way at the end of fights with his sword. These tactics carry through to his relationship with the audience, as well. Jake admires him because he is a great bull-fighter and because he fulfills the code of the hero, as Hemingway defined it: a man of action who exhibits "grace under pressure." While Jake fought in the war, he never controls his destiny in the face of death as Romero does, and with such command.
Brett's fiancé, Mike has gone bankrupt through business associations with "'false friends.'" He often gets drunk and grows possessive of Brett. Though he supposedly doesn't mind that she has affairs openly, he hates Cohn for his fling with her. He humiliates Cohn to his face and tosses off anti-Semitic comments at him behind his back.
Jake's writer-friend, Bill seems to waste his literary talent on witty, ironic quips and drunken socializing; he may represent Hemingway's fellow Lost Generation writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Hemingway's own worst tendencies. Still, he bonds with Jake while they go fishing, opening up to an intimacy unavailable in the city, and at times he seems like Jake's only real friend.
The count becomes friends with Brett in Paris. He is wildly rich and generously throws around money. He is proud of his war scars, arrow wounds through his stomach and back.
A legendary bull-fighter, Belmonte has come out of retirement but is not the fighter he used to be, and is overshadowed by Romero. A shell of his former self, he represents the decaying values of the Lost Generation.
The head of the hotel in Pamplona that Jake and his friends stay at, Montoya is a friend of Jake's and a fellow aficionado of bull-fighting. He wants to protect Romero from foreigners, and seems upset when Jake introduces Romero to his friends.
A slightly disreputable girl Jake picks up at the café, Jake is somewhat hurt when Georgette dances with the homosexual men in a club.
Cohn's girlfriend in Paris, Frances seems to be using him. She is upset when he wants to have different romantic adventures, and insults him in front of Jake.
An Englishman Jake and Bill befriend while fishing at Burguete, Harris is a veteran and enjoys buying them drinks and their camaraderie together.
Bill's friend, they meet Edna in Pamplona.
A bull-fighter, Marcial is a lesser talent than Romero and Belmonte.
Cohn's "literary" friend in Paris.
The wife of Braddocks, she is Canadian and somewhat naïve.
An up-and-coming and somewhat annoying American writer Jake meets in Paris.
Jake's friend in Paris, he asks to borrow money from Jake.
The Sun Also Rises Questions and Answers
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