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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

BOOK II

CHAPTER VIII

With Brett and Robert Cohn away, Jake's life quiets. Then his old friend Bill Gorton arrives from the States. Bill is another writer (a successful one), and another drunk. He has just come to Paris after a long binge in Austria.

Bill is also a talker and a compulsive joker. Though he can be funny, often he's very cruel. Gifted as he is with words, he scatters them at times like machine-gun fire, caring little for whom or what he hits.

Jake, who's more careful with his words, nevertheless enjoys talking with Bill and trying to play his game. And sometimes Bill says telling things about himself and about the world he lives in.

Once, when they're walking by a taxidermist's shop, Bill asks Jake if he wants a stuffed dog. "Simple exchange of values," Bill says. "You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog."

NOTE:

Bill's words should remind you of the count and his value system. Bill unwittingly parodies it. At least the count knows value; Bill, however, is willing to spend his money on something as worthless as a stuffed dog. The count is right about one thing: When you shop in the wasteland you do well if you get anything at all of value. But love, faith, abundant life-can they be bought?

Walking the streets, Jake and Bill bump into Brett, just back from Spain.


NOTE:

Brett says she must have a bath. This is certainly not an unusual wish after a long trip, but Brett often remarks that she needs a bath. This is symbolic of her need to cleanse herself spiritually. Having just returned from a tryst with Jake's friend Robert Cohn, she may want to wash away a sense of sin, or at least an unpleasant experience. For the corrupt, water is a symbol of renewal. Do they ever get truly cleansed? It doesn't seem so, at least not so that it lasts.

Even Bill falls for Brett, but when he hears she's engaged, he backs off. Bill has a better sense than Robert Cohn of where he belongs and where he doesn't.

The three characters wind up at Madame Lecomte's restaurant, a place where they've dined before, but not since it was written up in an American guidebook. Now it's crowded with American tourists. Jake and bill resent finding themselves surrounded by the very people they had come to Europe to escape.

NOTE:

Though Jake and his friends are expatriates and familiar with European ways, they are really tourists themselves. Tourists keep appearing in the novel, reminding these members of the Lost Generation that they themselves are eternal tourists without homelands, onlookers instead of participants in life. Their sense of being outside of life looking in will be made more acute in Spain, where they remain strangers to the closed culture and to the rituals of the bullfight.

After dinner Jake and Bill stroll through Paris. This long description of Parisian life has little to do with the action of the novel. The beauty of Paris, though, makes an impression on Bill, and for the first time he turns down a drink.

Finally they arrive at the Rotonde cafe where they meet Brett and her newly arrived fiance, Mike Campbell. Mike is a Scot, and by his own admission a notorious drunk and bankrupt. He is also a vicious anti-Semite-you'll see him constantly refer to Robert Cohn as "little Jew." He even speaks disparagingly of Brett, saying in his drunken and rambling way, "I say, Brett, you are a lovely piece." And yet Mike is accepted by Jake and the others. What makes him more acceptable than Cohn? For one thing, he's not Jewish. But the ways of the "in crowd" are often mysterious, and you'll have to decide for yourself why Mike is accepted. By the end of the chapter we can see that Mike is as dominated by women as Robert Cohn is. When Jake and Bill invite Mike to a boxing match, he doesn't think Brett would want him to go, so he declines.

NOTE:

As you read The Sun Also Rises, take note of the similarities among characters, how one reminds you of another. There is some of Cohn in Jake and Mike, some of Brett in Jake, and a little of Jake in the bullfighter Pedro Romero. In some ways the characters are parodies of each other; in other ways, they complement each other.

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