Moving on to the next character that struggles with his identity, Robert Cohn, much like Jake, wrestles with the question of is he a bull or is he a steer? While, unlike Jake, he is capable of sexual relations and has an affair with Brett, Cohn delivers the ironic statement that “it’s no life being a steer”, hinting at his insecurity in terms of his masculinity (Hemingway 145). On the surface, it would appear that Cohn does not have adequate reason to be insecure about who he is as a person. After all, he suffers no side effects from the war and is able to live his life as he pleases, dissimilar to Jake. But Cohn is set apart from the others in the story. Gross brilliantly puts into words just how subtle this differentiation can be by stating “how natural it seems . . . to call Jake Barnes Jake, Mike Campbell Mike, Bill Gorton Bill, Lady Brett Ashley Brett, and how unnatural . . . to call Robert Cohn Robert” (123). He then follows this up with the assertion that “Jake, and everyone else, calls Cohn Cohn to distance him” (Gross 123). Another aspect of this differentiation results from Cohn’s status as the only Jew in the novel. One further distinction is the idea that Cohn has never known real love. As Jake points out in the beginning, Cohn “was married by the first girl who was nice to him”, not a woman he truly loved (Hemingway 12). Upon meeting Frances, a literary woman who took a liking to Cohn and wanted to marry him, Cohn fancies that “he was sure he loved her”
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Through the character of Jake Barnes, Hemingway has pushed him passed the limit with Brett to ultimately show that the relationship between man and woman is an imaginary figment to population. Jake Barnes is the prime example of an unattainable love in the Lost Generation. His hope of being with a flapper has been crushed. In a way Jake Barnes is the exact replica of Hemingway himself. With injuries to the war, and watching the love of his parents collapse right in front his own eyes being rewritten through the characters of Jake and
Reflecting members of the Lost Generation, the characters in the novel are negatively affected by being a part of it because many are incapable forming genuine relationships. The fight between Cohn, Jake, and Mike especially illustrates such an idea because it shows just how meaningless the idea of friendship is to the characters. Cohn in particular gives little meaning to true relationships. He says that Jake is his best friend, yet he insults him prior to the physical altercation; “‘You’re really about the best friend I have, Jake’” (39). Despite Jake allegedly being his best friend, he still refers to him as a pimp, showing how little Jake means to Cohn. The negative effect of meaningless, dishonest relationships is also found in the overall relationship of the group: Cohn claims to like Jake, while Jake claims to hate Cohn. Mike abhors Cohn as well, yet they are all out together nonetheless. Their lack of honesty, which led to the fight, stresses the significance of the negative effects of being a part of the Lost Generation, which is Hemingway’s meaning of the entire work.
Krebs no longer has motivation to try to date, “Krebs did not feel the energy or the courage to break into it” (Hemingway). “It” being the complications and drama of trying to have a real girlfriend. Krebs describes his need to live a life with no more consequences: alone. Krebs is a great representation of many of the Lost Generation, wanting to live the rest of his life in solitary to reduce complications. Additionally, we see Krebs cope with the war by reverting back to his childlike nature. This encounter between Krebs and his mother shows us that regression, “‘I know, Mummy,’ he said. ‘I’ll try and be a good boy for you’” (Hemingway); this act of returning to childhood is a way he can justify his impotence. Many people in the “Lost Generation” lost all motivation to go on with a normal life, Hemingway shows this theme well through a lonely soldier named Krebs (O’Conner).
This much is clear in Mike's drunken diatribes to Cohn: "I would have thought you'd loved being a steer, Robert...They lead such a quiet life. They never say anything and there always hanging about so...Is Robert going to follow Brett around like a steer all the time?" (146) And even then, rather than knocking Mike out, which he certainly is capable of doing, Cohn takes the abuse and sulks, perhaps in the interest of preserving his interactions with Lady Brett. But Cohn is continuously bad-mouthed. The other characters make several anti-Semitic comments, scoffing his "Jewish superiority." (166) And all through this, Brett Ashley doesn't give him the time of day! How can this man be held so contemptuously by the others? Maybe because Cohn is the bull, not the steer. Hemingway hides this reference in one brief line. As Jake and Lady Brett are watching the bulls come out, Jake remarks: "Look how he knows how to use his horns...He's got a left and a right, just like a boxer." (144) The only other "boxer" in the novel is Cohn, and at one point in the book he reveals that he, too, knows how to use his horns: fed up with taking insults, he punches both Jake and Bill and knocks them out. Compare this to Jake: sexually dysfunctional, he is a steer, unable to consummate his affair with Brett Ashley. This at
Robert Cohn was Princeton’s middleweight boxing champion from New York. He comes from a Jewish family. He took up boxing because of how much hate Cohn was getting for his ethnicity. After college, he immediately married and had three children with her. After five years, Cohn’s inheritance money was almost gone and his wife left him. Following the divorce of Cohn and his wife, he moved to California, where he started a magazine and met a girl named Frances Clyne.
He willfully ignores the unhealthy components of his love life so he can chase his naive storybook idea of love. This is subtly identified with a discussion of Cohn’s love of the book The Purple Land, which is said to be safe only for the young (Hemingway). Cohn’s bittersweet history of love and his childlike glamorization of romantic martyrdom are why he is so intensely infatuated with Lady Brett. Her divergent mannerisms, behaviors, and motivations make her the perfect surrogate for his romanticized fairytale love ideas. Brett lacks any interest in his wealth or success; she is not interested in manipulating him or inserting herself into his affairs; instead, she gives off an aura of tragic heartbreak, nonchalance, and bereavement (Hemingway).
As we continue to examine Hemingway’s life, it is glaringly clear that his contempt for his mother never worn off. The parallel between Brett and his mother may not be always completely clear, but there is one sure thing that rings true for both of them: their ability to control the men in their lives. Hemingway’s mother held power over his father in the same way that Brett holds power over her relationships with men. Hemingway also is accused of often calling his mother ‘that bitch’, where he explicitly states that Brett is a ‘bitch’. It is difficult not to see the comparison of his mother to his female characters, especially when they are demonized for the same things and called the same
When Mike was drunk, he said to Robert: “ I would have thought you’d loved being a steer, Robert… Why do you follow Brett around like a poor bloody steer?... You came down to San Sebastian where you weren’t wanted, and followed Brett around like a bloody steer” (Hemingway 146). Mike is drunk and when people are drunk they tend to express their true feelings. Mike is calling Robert a steer and telling him that he thought that he loved being a steer. By definition, a steer is a castrated male bull. This means that they have been neutered and they no longer have their reproductive organs. Although Robert is not literally castrated like Jake, he is referred to a steer because he is weak. Mike said that Robert follows Brett like a steer. Mike is not talking about Robert’s relationship with France’s but he is talking about another girl. This shows that Robert is weak even when he is not around France’s. France’s is controlling and she takes advantage of Robert but he continues to obey her. If Robert is capable of being impotent in front of other women, he is weak in front of everyone because he had the chance to be strong while France’s was not
The pivotal character of Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises is Jake Barnes. He is a man of complex personality--compelling, powerful, restrained, bitter, pathetic, extraordinarily ordinary yet totally human. His character swings from one end of the psychological spectrum to the other end. He has complex personality, a World War I veteran turned writer, living in Paris. To the world, he is the epitome of self-control but breaks down easily when alone, plagued by self-doubt and fears of inadequacy. He is at home in the company of friends in the society where he belongs, but he sees himself as someone from the outside looking in. He is not alone, yet he is lonely. He strikes people as confident, ambitious, careful, practical,
In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the qualities found in Robert Cohn break traditional gender binary expectations. Robert Cohn’s naive mentality ultimately obstructs his ability to become a man like his fellow companions. Due to his immaturity, Cohn has not yet mentally achieved manhood.
Jake and Robert Cohn and their relationship is another indicator of the theme of masculine insecurity. Hemingway plays up the tensions of competition and jealousy to demonstrate just how uncertain his male characters are. Cohn seems to sincerely be keen of Jake, and while Jake is normally nice toward him although he does not really seem to reciprocate Cohn’s warmth. Their relationship changes once Jake discovers Cohn’s fling with Brett. After this incident, he is more unfriendly toward him, and more critical of him. A conversation that happens later between Jake and Bill hints at Jake’s jealousy. Bill asks Jake if he was ever in love with Brett and Jake responds with “Off and on for a hell of a long time.” Bill apologizes for being inconsiderate, Jake them claims he no longer cares. Bill is skeptic of this though (128). The competition between Jake and Cohn relationship reaches its first peak, when he finds out about Cohn’s trip with Brett and their sexual affair and by Cohn’s belief that he knows Brett better than Jake does. His hatred for Cohn grows even more throughout the novel with Jake
In Hemingway's philosophical paradigm, it is subconsciously encoded that Jake suffers with poise and refinement. He does not become irate with Brett for her decision, by contrast, he accepts her promiscuity and even chooses to help her in a multitude of ways, even though she repeatedly claims that she loves him. Consequentially, this is not to say that Jake did not suffer, rather than to suggest that he keeps his pain suppressed so as not to enervate himself any further. Jake knows the two can never initiate a relationship yet he still wishes to do so; his undying desire to be with Brett serves as his illusion even though it is a complete contradiction of his reality, as presented in the novel. This is the disheartening romantic imagery that deceits his realistic views. For example, in Chapter 7, Hemingway’s use of minimum dialogue between Brett and Jake has much meaning, which is rarely expressed throughout the novel. “Couldn’t we live together, Brett? …” “I don’t think so. I’d just tromper you with everybody.” (p. 62) Essentially, what Brett is saying is that due to his – handicap, if you will, all she would do is hurt Jake and commit constant infidelity against him, therefore, any chance for commitment is but a joke. This direct dialogue sets the underlying conflict as a form for one of the main themes expressed by Hemingway throughout this novel.
“I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn’t keep away from it, And I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it went away.”(Hemingway, 39). After a long night of bar hopping, drinking with Brett, Robert, and among other friends, Jake comes home and lays down; then he starts having flash backs from the war. However, Jacob’s love for Brett assuaged him into a calmer state of mind. Jake Barnes’ alienation results from his physical injury and sexual impotence, this cut him off from other men not just physically and sexually but also emotionally and socially (Toker, 27). His inability to preform sexually, causes a
He was once a great fighter, but now refuses to subscribe to the new “decadent” (215) bullfighting style. His fighting style represents Cohn in the sense that they both had their shining moment—Cohn's brief relationship with Brett, and Belmonte's glory days of bullfighting: which they're still trying to win back. Belmonte stands apart from the other fighters because he adheres to an traditional form of fighting. Similarly, Cohn is the only character with no involvement in the war, he preserves a sort of innocence and value system that disappeared with the “lost generation.” He tries to preserve the idea that sex equals intimacy and love, and throughout the novel his clumsy attempts to win back Brett are reflective of his refusal to understand that his brief relationship with Brett was simply a series of sexual encounters, nothing more.