The Sun Also Rises


An Analysis of Major Characters

Jake Barnes

Jake Barnes is the narrator and protagonist of the novel. His doomed love affair with Brett Ashley constitutes the core conflict of The Sun Also Rises. Ironically, it is a conflict with no resolution, for as Jake tells Brett right at the beginning, “And there’s not a damn thing we can do.” The cruel tragedy of Jake’s impotence, the bitter punishment that is his postwar life, haunts the novel at every turn and influences Jake’s perception of the world and of those around him. Jake is a typical Hemingway character, a kind of character that Hemingway in fact popularized and who has appeared in much American literature since. He is calmly self-destructive, organized in his aimless traveling and self-poisoning with alcohol. He is hard-boiled and stoic. He does not complain. He does cry sometimes and feel rage and the unfairness of it all, but never in front of anyone else. Essentially, he appears to have accepted his fate and to try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible. Hence, he fills his time with drinking, traveling, sports, bullfighting, and so on.

It is an important characteristic of Hemingway’s writing style that Jake actually tells us very little about himself. We learn about him through his actions and through the comments of other people. Through these we see that he is likeable and well-liked, and that he inspires warmth, and even passionate love from Brett. However, everything about this is subtly implied rather than stated outright. From Jake’s actions we can discern that even in the midst of his pain, he has a kind of generosity and moral center which seem to be lacking in most of the other characters. Several times in the novel, Jake refers to being Catholic, usually adding that he is a rather poor Catholic. He does, however, go to churches deliberately to pray. Significantly, Jake does not just pray for himself, but for all of the men and women he knows, including Cohn, who is a rival and whom he does not like. When Jake leaves the bar with Brett at the...

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