Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Sun Also Rises

Go To

The Sun Also Rises is a 1926 novel by Ernest Hemingway.

Jake Barnes, American veteran of World War I, drifts around Paris, meeting random people and disillusioned with the world around him. He is in love with the lady Brett Ashley, but then so is everyone else. He is also followed around by Robert Cohn, a Jew with a chip on his shoulder and a weak personality. Jake learns that Cohn is infatuated with Brett and that she slept with him. Jake goes fishing with his friend Bill Gorton in Burguete, and then rejoins Cohn, Brett and Brett's fiancé Mike Campbell in Pamplona for the annual Running of the Bulls. Brett seduces an up-and-coming bullfighter, the 19-year-old Pedro Romero, whose genuine skill puts the others to shame. Cohn gets pissed off, beats up Mike and Jake, and then Romero, and then flees the country. Romero, despite having gotten quite beat up, fights flawlessly in the ring, and then scampers off to Madrid with Brett. Soon, however, Brett telegrams Jake and asks him to retrieve her, as she has forced Romero to dump her for fear of ruining him. Brett sighs regretfully that she and Jake would've been so good together, and Jake replies—with just a tinge of cynicism—that it's nice to think so. The end.

Encapsulated the experience of the "Lost Generation," who had seen The Edwardian Era get mowed down in droves by the Great War. Jake in particular carries the Symbolism Ball: he sustained an injury in the war that makes him unable to boner, representing pre-war masculinity being out of place in this new World Half Empty. Cohn, on the other hand, still clings to those old values, which is why nobody likes him. Meanwhile, Brett, whose sexually liberated exterior hides a history of Domestic Abuse, furthers the emasculation imagery as a Femme Fatale who uses sex to protect herself... But maybe we're starting to read too much into this. Ask the Hemingway scholars if we are.

A film adaptation was made in 1957, directed by Henry King and starring Tyrone Power as Jake Barnes, Ava Gardner as Brett Ashley, Mel Ferrer as Robert Cohn, and Errol Flynn as Mike Campbell. (Hemingway disliked it so much he walked out of the theater after 25 minutes.) There was also a TV miniseries adaptation on NBC in 1984, starring Hart Bochner as Jake, Jane Seymour (Actress) as Brett, Robert Carradine as Cohn, and Ian Charleson as Campbell.

The novel entered the US public domain on January 1, 2022.

Not to be confused with Something Else Also Rises. Especially given Jake's injury.

Tropes in this work include:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Cohn to Brett. He misinterprets her decision to sleep with him as an expression of love, and spends much of the second half of the novel following her like a lost dog while she gets increasingly sick of the sight of him.
  • The Alcoholic: Basically everyone (except Bill, who insists he can have a good time without getting drunk), but Mike Campbell gets special mention. He regularly gets "blind" after the group is re-united in Pamplona, and the more drunk he is, the more abusive he is to Cohn for his Abhorrent Admirer tendencies toward Brett.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Ohh, Brett. One of the more outstanding examples of this trope in early 20th-century American literature. She is already sleeping with various men when the reader first encounters her in Paris, sleeps with Cohn on her way down to Spain, and seduces Pedro Romero upon arriving in Pamplona.
  • Author Avatar: Jake is basically Hemingway. Both character and author lived in Kansas City before World War I, worked in Paris as journalists in the 1920s, and loved trout-fishing in Burguete in northern Spain and watching the bullfights at the Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona. (However, unlike Jake, Hemingway was not left impotent after the war.)
  • Badass Bookworm: Robert Cohn may be a writer and intellectual, but we learn in the novel's first sentence that he was middleweight boxing champion at Princeton, and proves that he can still pack a punch when he knocks out Jake and Mike for what he perceives as their roles in getting Brett to sleep with Pedro Romero, then beats Romero himself to a pulp.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Much of Book II is spent at the Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, the centrepiece of which is the running of the bulls and ensuing bullfighting. Hemingway goes into loving detail at the bullfights, several of which end with Pedro Romero killing the bulls, cutting off their ears, and presenting them to Brett as souvenirs.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cohn has fled Spain and, presumably, returned to his strained relationship with Frances after his confrontation with Romero. After parting ways with Bill and Mike, Jake is called to Madrid by Brett, who has decided to leave Romero and marry Mike for fear that she will drag Romero down with her if they stay together. As they share a taxi in Madrid, Jake and Brett's final exchange suggests that he is beginning to distance himself from her.
  • Breakfast Club: The book deconstructs this trope by featuring a close-knit group of expatriates including impotent World War I veteran Jake, jaded party girl Brett, fall-down drunk Mike, and Cohn, a shy guy who just wants everyone to get along. All are dealing with their own problems and drama, some of them exacerbated rather than mollified by the other people in the group.
  • Broken Ace: Jake Barnes' struggles with traditional masculinity after World War I is one of the central themes of the book. Comes with a pretty symbolic injury as well.
  • Butt-Monkey: Robert Cohn, the Jewish non-veteran. Jake makes fun of him, Brett despises him, Mike yells at him.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Jake has been physically unable to perform since being injured in World War I, though the precise nature of his injury is left vague. This puts a damper on any possible relationship with Brett; though there is love between them, her main goal in a relationship is sex.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Frances, Robert Cohn's current romantic entanglement, seethes with jealousy if he so much as talks to another woman. In Chapter 1, when Jake suggests that he and Cohn go to Strasbourg where an American girl he knows can show them the town, Frances kicks him under the table to get him to drop the idea.
  • Curves in All the Right Places: Brett is rather curiously described as having "curves like the hull of a racing yacht", not the first object that may leap to mind when one thinks of conventionally attractive female forms, but she is clearly perceived as an example of Ms. Fanservice by the other characters.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Cohn aspires to this. Nobody lets him.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The expatriates are all psychological messes. Jake is tormented by the war wound that has left him sexually impotent and unable to give Brett, whom he loves, the only thing she really wants from a man. Brett's ex-husband, Lord Ashley, is implied to have abused her, prompting her to jump from bed to bed in search of fulfillment but never finding it. Cohn has spent his life trying too hard to be liked and simply gets on everyone's nerves instead. Mike has nothing even resembling financial stability in his past or future, and gets stinking drunk on a regular basis to help him forget this. Bill, who has a debilitating gambling addiction, is the only member of the group to even approach functionality.
  • Everyone Can See It: Jake and Brett confide in and support each other, but never quite progress to a romantic relationship. Jake can give Brett love, but not sex. Brett is interested in sex, but not love. By the end of the book, Brett is musing on how happy the two of them could have been together had things been different; Jake, meanwhile, seems to be finally going off the idea.
  • The Flapper: Brett is an enthusiastic drinker, dancer, and lover by the standards of the day, and keeps both her hair and her skirts short.
  • Foreshadowing: The first sentence of the book alludes to Robert Cohn's boxing prowess. Late in the book, when Brett sleeps with Pedro Romero, he punches out Jake and Mike and beats the tar out of Romero.
  • Full-Name Basis: While most of the characters are referred to by their first names, Robert Cohn is nearly always referred to by both names, or as "Cohn".
  • Gay Paree: Book I is set here among the members of the "Lost Generation" who settled there after World War I. The characters spend their evenings drinking and partying and doing what they can to avoid confronting their personal demons.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Brett can more than keep pace with the men around her when it comes to booze or sex, although she's not as carefree as most examples of the trope, drinking instead to dull the pain of the psychological scars her abusive ex-husband inflicted on her.
  • Henpecked Husband: Cohn and Frances may not be married, but she clearly expects them to tie the knot at some point, and needles him constantly over this fact as well as anything that looks like interest in other women.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Cohn has spent his entire life trying to get people to like him, but has a habit of misinterpreting gestures of kindness as expressions of friendship and latching onto the givers until they get fed up with him. Jake describes Cohn as a friend at the beginning of the book, but is sick to death of his antics by the end.
  • In Harmony with Nature: Bill and Jake seem pretty serene when they go fishing (Jake more so than Bill).
  • The Insomniac: Jake has many sleepless nights over the course of the novel as he grapples with his personal demons and those of his social circle.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Brett and Jake. She loves sex. He's impotent.
  • Inspired by…: Quite a few details were taken from Hemingway's own life. He was a journalist in Paris in the 1920s, had a circle of friends including many American and British expatriates (who inspired Jake's friends in the novel), and spent an extended holiday in northern Spain fishing for trout near Burguete and watching the running of the bulls and the bullfights at the Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona.
  • Likes Older Women: Romero, with Brett.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The Sun Also Rises derives its name from The Bible, from Ecclesiastes 1:5 ("The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose").
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Jake is incapable of performing, though not of desire. No other details are given.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Jake is constantly willing to throw everything out the window to support Brett's whims. He makes various minor arrangements to allow her to act on her desire for Pedro Romero, even knowing how badly Cohn will take it, and how her behaviour in general is causing his local acquaintances in Pamplona to lose respect for him.
  • Manchild: Robert Cohn never really seemed to grow into emotional maturity, which Jake hints is partly due to the exclusion he faced as a Jew at Princeton, stoking his desire for a level of acceptance from others that he doesn't know how to achieve. He married his first wife not because they loved each other but because she was "the first girl who was nice to him". He falls into the same trap with Brett after she sleeps with him, and his obsession with a woman who gets ever more fed up with him causes his friendships with the other expatriates in Pamplona to break down, prompting him to flee back to Paris in shame.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Brett is 34, Romero is 19.
  • Noodle Incident: Jake does not go into much detail about the war wound that has left him impotent, saying only that it is the sort of injury that seems funny to everyone except the injured person himself.
  • Old Maid:
    • Brett is of a certain age and not married. Subverted as she does not obsess about settling down, and she does have a fiance.
    • Frances, who is leaning heavily on Cohn to marry her, having seen his literary magazine fail to take off as she had hoped and instead focusing on the notion that her fading looks mean she is running out of time to marry and settle down.
  • Only Sane Man: Bill is the only one of the five main characters who doesn't have some sort of personal flaw that plagues him. Jake is impotent, Brett sleeps around to feel whole, Cohn constantly tries to win other people's approval, and Mike often gets drunk to escape his financial woes. Bill might not be perfect, but he's nowhere near as dysfunctional as everybody else. Interestingly enough, he's the only one who's not an expatriate.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Jake hires a prostitute, but since he Can't Have Sex, Ever, he's just interested in having a conversation with her. He still pays her for her time.
  • Random Events Plot: The book is really more about a lifestyle than a story, following an assortment of American and British expatriates around France and Spain as they drink, fish, drink, watch bullfights, drink, and seem uncertain as to what they really want out of life.
  • Really Gets Around: Brett, over the course of the few weeks during which the novel takes place, sleeps with, among others, her fiance Mike Campbell, her Abhorrent Admirer Robert Cohn, and the young bullfighter Pedro Romero.
  • Roman à Clef: Jake is based on Ernest Hemingway himself, while the other members of his social circle are based on fellow expatriates who lived in Paris at the same time as Hemingway and his wife Hadley in the 1920s. Cohn was based on Harold Loeb (a scion of the Guggenheim family on his mother's side), Frances on Loeb's friend Kitty Cannell, Brett on Mary Duff, Lady Twysden (a former member of the English aristocracy), Mike on Pat Guthrie, Bill on both Donald Ogden Stewart and Bill Smith (a fellow writer and a fellow fishing enthusiast, respectively), and Pedro Romero on Cayetano Ordóñez (a crowd favourite in the bullring in Pamplona).
  • The Roaring '20s: The whole novel takes place in a few weeks of June and July 1924. It is also one of the defining novels of the Lost Generation.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Cohn and everyone else, respectively. Yes, even Brett.
  • Sex for Solace: This is one of the reasons Brett hops from bed to bed despite being engaged to Mike. She's been married twice already, neither one a happy marriage, and fears her age (34) catching up with her.
  • A Shared Suffering: Pretty much the reason the group of expatriates stick together— they've all experienced in one way or another the horrors of World War I.
  • Sleeps with Everyone but You: Brett to Jake. Enforced Trope, since she would like to but he, you know, can't.
  • Toros y Flamenco: The Trope Codifier, at least in the US. If there is a work set in Spain (even more Pamplona), there is a high chance that it will reference Hemingway or The Sun Also Rises.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Jake and Brett clearly have chemistry, but their sexual tension is destined to remain unresolved since Jake is physically incapable of resolving it.