The Sun Also Rises – Heroes The Hemingway Hero Prevalent among many of Ernest Hemingway’s novels is the concept popularly known as the “Hemingway hero”, an ideal character readily accepted by American readers as a “man’s man”. In The Sun Also Rises, four different men are compared and contrasted as they engage in some form of relationship with Lady Brett Ashley, a near-nymphomaniac Englishwoman who indulges in her passion for sex and control. Brett plans to marry her fiancee for superficial reasons, completely ruins one man emotionally and spiritually, separates from another to preserve the idea of their short-lived affair and to avoid self-destruction, and denies and disgraces the only man whom she loves most dearly. All her relationships occur in a period of months, as Brett either accepts or rejects certain values or traits of each man. Brett, as a dynamic and self-controlled woman, and her four love interests help demonstrate Hemingway’s standard definition of a man and/or masculinity.
Each man Brett has a relationship with in the novel possesses distinct qualities that enable Hemingway to explore what it is to truly be a man. The Hemingway man thus presented is a man of action, of self-discipline and self-reliance, and of strength and courage to confront all weaknesses, fears, failures, and even death. Jake Barnes, as the narrator and supposed hero of the novel, fell in love with Brett some years ago and is still powerfully and uncontrollably in love with her. However, Jake is unfortunately a casualty of the war, having been emasculated in a freak accident. Still adjusting to his impotence at the beginning of the novel, Jake has lost all power and desire to have sex. Because of this, Jake and Brett cannot be lovers and all attempts at a relationship that is sexually fulfilling are simply futile.
Brett is a passionate, lustful woman who is driven by the most intimate and loving act two may share, something that Jake just cannot provide her with. Jake’s emasculation only puts the two in a grandly ironic situation. Brett is an extremely passionate woman but is denied the first man she feels true love and admiration for. Jake has loved Brett for years and cannot have her because of his inability to have sex. It is obvious that their love is mutual when Jake tries to kiss Brett in their cab ride home: “‘You mustn’t. You must know.
I can’t stand it, that’s all. Oh darling, please understand!’, ‘Don’t you love me?’, ‘Love you? I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me'” (26, Ch. 4). This scene is indicative of their relationship as Jake and Brett hopelessly desire each other but realize the futility of further endeavors. Together, they have both tried to defy reality, but failed.
Jake is frustrated by Brett’s reappearance into his life and her confession that she is miserably unhappy. Jake asks Brett to go off with him to the country for bit: “‘Couldn’t we go off in the country for a while?’, ‘It wouldn’t be any good. I’ll go if you like. But I couldn’t live quietly in the country. Not with my own true love’, ‘I know’, ‘Isn’t it rotten? There isn’t any use my telling you I love you’, ‘You know I love you’, ‘Let’s not talk.
Talking’s all bilge'” (55, Ch. 7). Brett declines Jake’s pointless attempt at being together. Both Brett and Jake know that any relationship beyond a friendship cannot be pursued. Jake is still adjusting to his impotence while Brett will not sacrifice a sexual relationship for the man she loves.
Since Jake can never be Brett’s lover, they are forced to create a new relationship for themselves, perhaps one far more dangerous than that of mere lovers – they have become best friends. This presents a great difficulty for Jake, because Brett’s presence is both pleasurable and agonizing for him. Brett constantly reminds him of his handicap and thus Jake is challenged as a man in the deepest, most personal sense possible. After the departure of their first meeting, Jake feels miserable: “This was Brett, that I had felt like crying about. Then I thought of her walking up the street and of course in a little while I felt like hell again” (34, Ch.
4). Lady Brett Ashley serves as a challenge to a weakness Jake must confront. Since his war experience, Jake has attempted to reshape the man he is and the first step in doing this is to accept his impotence. Despite Brett’s undeniable love for Jake, she is engaged to marry another. Mike Campbell is Brett’s fiancee, her next planned marriage after two already failed ones.
Mike is ridiculously in love with Brett and though she knows this she still decides to marry him. In fact, Brett is only to marry Mike because she is tired of drifting and simply needs an anchor. Mike loves Brett but is not dependent on her affection. Moreover, he knows about and accepts Brett’s brief affairs with other men: “‘Mark you. Brett’s had affairs with men before. She tells me all about everything'” (143, Ch.
13). Mike appreciates Brett’s beauty, as do all the other males in the novel, but perhaps this is as deep as his love for her goes. In his first scene in the novel, Mike cannot stop commenting and eliciting comments on Brett’s beauty: “‘I say Brett, you are a lovely piece. Don’t you think she’s beautiful?'” (79, Ch. 8). He repeatedly proposes similar questions but does not make any observant or profound comments on his wife-to-be. In fact, throughout the entirety of the novel, Mike continues this pattern, once referring to Brett as “just a lovely, healthy wench” as his most observant remark.
Furthermore, Mike exhibits no self-control when he becomes drunk, making insensitive statements that show his lack of regard for Brett and others. After Brett shows interest in Pedro Romero, the bullfighter, Mike rudely yells: “Tell him bulls have no balls! Tell him Brett wants to see him put on those green pants. Tell him Brett is dying to know how he can get into those pants!” (176, Ch. 16). In addition, Mike cannot contemplate the complexities of Brett and her relationships: “‘Brett’s got a bull-fighter.
She had a Jew named Cohn, but he turned out badly. Brett’s got a bull-fighter. A beautiful, bloody bull-fighter'” (206, Ch. 18). Despite Brett’s brief affair with the bullfighter, she will eventually return to Mike who will no doubt openly welcome her again. Brett is a strong woman, who can control most men, and Mike is no exception.
She vaguely simplifies their relationship when she explains to Jake that she plans to return to him: “‘He’s so damned nice and he’s so awful. He’s my sort of thing'” (243, Ch. 19). Mike is not complex enough to challenge Brett, but she does go on and decide to accept his simplicity anyways. Furthermore, despite his engagement with Brett, Mike betrays Hemingway’s ideal man. Although he is self-reliant, Mike possesses little self-control or dignity.
Engaged to one man and in love with another, Brett demonstrates her disregard for the 1920’s double standards. Very early in the beginning of the novel, she reveals to Jake that she had invited Robert Cohn to go with her on a trip to San Sebastian. Cohn, a Jewish, middle-aged writer disillusioned with his life in Paris, wants to escape to South America where he envisions meeting the ebony princesses he romanticized from a book. However, he cannot persuade Jake to accompany him and then completely forgets about this idea upon meeting Brett. Cohn is immediately enamored with her beauty and falls in love with her: “‘There’s a certain quality about her, a certain fineness. She seems to be absolutely fine and straight'” …