Professor Christopher Dick
English Composition and Literature
17 January 2013
Lady Brett Ashley
To establish an overall opinion of someone based entirely off of another person’s assessment causes misinformed prejudice and mindless ignorance. In literature, often times readers are led to form biased conclusions in regards to certain characters based upon the favor of the narrator. For this reason, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises creates a disguised heroine; Lady Brett Ashley. She is often portrayed in a very negative light due to Jake’s partiality, however, though analysis of the text and collaboration with Hemingway critics, it is plain that Brett is a very complex and realistic character. Her unique characteristics interconnect and overlap, creating a powerful female figure that breaks all stereotypes of the previous roles of women in both literature and society. When Jake’s heartbroken narration is stripped away, Brett Ashley’s role as the “Hemingway Hero” is apparent through her masculine attributes, her outward appearance, her alcoholism, and her insatiable appetite for sexual love affairs.
Brett’s masculine tendencies have earned her an unfavorable reputation over the years. During her time, a woman drinking in excess, smoking cigars, participating in promiscuous affairs and attending bullfights would have been unspeakably shameful and offensive to those with pre-war, traditional values. However, Brett transcends the boundaries that set men and women as two separate species, “wearing the pants” better than any man in the novel does. A prime display of this is role reversal with Jake is when she stumbles very drunk into his home and upon realizing it was four thirty in the morning says, “Had no idea what hour it was... I say can a chap sit down?” (Hemingway 40) She not only refers to herself as a “chap,” which is decisively a man’s pronoun, but she also adopts the role of the man in their relationship by going to his home, causing a scene to see him, and then inviting him to go out with her. She exposes her most manly qualities when in the company of Jake; denying a romantic relationship because of the impossibility of sexual interaction, instigating the kissing scenes, and striking up intimate affairs with many of his friends. The references to her smoking are also with him, where Jake says, “She was smoking a cigarette and flicking the ashes on the rug. She saw me notice it” (Hemingway 64). After realizing he noticed her disregard for his things, she says, “I say, Jake, I don’t want to ruin your rugs. Can’t you give a chap an ash-tray?” (Hemingway 64). It has been established that Brett smokes and drinks as excessively as a man, and now it is made clear that she has also developed the manlike quality of negligence for nice things. If Jake had not seen her soiling his rugs, she most likely would have continued, lacking a respect for what she deems as silly accessories. Although not all of Brett’s masculine qualities make her appear classy and sophisticated, they certainly make her an extraordinary female character. According to Lorie Fulton, “Brett is one of Hemingway’s richest female characters; her personality gradually emerges as an intriguing mix of femininity and masculinity, strength and vulnerability, morality and dissolution.” These words could not describe Brett’s outward appearance any more accurately. When she is first introduced, Jake describes her as such: “Brett was damned good-looking. She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt and her hair was brushed back like a boys…She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht and you missed none of it with that wool jersey.” (Hemingway 29-30). This description alone gives the “mix of femininity and masculinity” validation, as her hair and clothing are more male inspired, yet her body is the essence of female beauty. Hemingway writes later that she would not wear stockings with her dresses and skirts. Some view...