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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
ANSWERS - TEST 1
11. His wound makes Jake impotent, incapable of making love. The torture of his wound, though, is that he can still feel desire. For a year now he and Lady Brett Ashley have been in love, but Jake's wound has kept them from consummating it. They're in a seemingly eternal hell of thwarted desire-both desperately want something that they cannot have.
Point out that Jake is defined by this wound. He's always thinking about it, even when he doesn't seem to be. Mention that whenever he's about to go to bed, and his thoughts loosen, he thinks about his wound and Brett.
Jake's wound also reflects the sickness of postwar society. This can be called the Fisher King interpretation, referring to T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land." Jake, like the Fisher King, has become a living symbol of a sterile world in which nothing grows or flourishes. Jake tries both the church and love, but neither works for him. The Sun Also Rises is a bleak book because of the apparent inevitability of Jake's impotence.
12. The first strike against Cohn, at least in the eyes of his so-called friends, is that he's a Jew. Whether Hemingway failed to find this anti-Semitism repugnant (he was writing years before Hitler began his program to exterminate the Jews), or whether he used anti-Semitism merely as a window into the minds of his characters is something you'll want to discuss in your answer.
Being a Jew automatically makes Cohn an outsider. He was never accepted at Princeton, and he's not accepted in the Bohemian Left Bank of Paris where, ostensibly, he's among friends. Everybody makes fun of him behind his back.
There are some good reasons to ridicule him, though. For one, Cohn's a hopeless romantic among realists. He's gotten his notions from books, not from life itself. The fantasy that sets the book in motion is that he and Brett are storybook lovers; in truth, she goes off with him because she's bored. Cohn can't shake his fantasy, even when Brett turns on him and her fiance Mike arrives. Cohn continues to follow Brett around like a puppy, embarrassing her and humiliating himself.
Cohn has another problem: his lack of self-awareness. He can't see when he's making a nuisance of himself. He is self-conscious and full of self-doubt. The other characters think Cohn a fool, in part because they need a scapegoat for their own failings. Making fun of Cohn relieves them of their own frustrations and gives them a sense of power missing in their own lives.
You should also realize that Cohn's romantic obsession has a sort of nobility to it. At least he believes in true love (nobody else does except perhaps Pedro Romero). Cohn is, in a sense, a modern-day equivalent of a chivalric hero. Perhaps, like Don Quixote, his real problem is that he's living in the wrong age.
13. First you might discuss the way Belmonte fights. He is the bullfighter who once was great but who is now a parody of himself. Hemingway contrasts him with Romero. "Romero did always, smoothly, calmly, and beautifully, what he, Belmonte, could only bring himself to do now sometimes."
Now turn to Jake's long description of Romero fighting a bull in Chapter XVIII. Two key sentences say much about him: "It was not brilliant bull-fighting. It was only perfect bull-fighting." In other words, Romero is not a showoff, he performs for the sake of his art, not merely to impress his audience. What he does he does simply, purely, perfectly. No gestures are wasted. He fights partly for Brett (because he loves her) but mostly for himself. He has his own standards and works timelessly to meet them.
Even after Romero fights beautifully, he remains modest. In his last fight, when the crowd wants to carry him triumphantly on their shoulders, he concedes reluctantly. He has already satisfied himself; to be worshipped by an unruly mob makes him uncomfortable.
Why does Jake like Romero? He is the personification of Jake's ideal of the hero. He stands for what Jake himself would like to be, but can't.
14. You might start to answer this question by asking, What hasn't changed for Jake? His wound is still affecting his whole life. He still loves Brett, and she him, but they cannot consummate their love. He's not any happier, and his life doesn't seem to have changed in any great way. He will return to Paris and continue his life as a journalist.
He has learned some things, however. In his search for meaning he has found Pedro Romero, who embodies the values he seeks. He has also learned that when he's in serious trouble, he can't live up to his values.
Some readers, including Hemingway, see the story as a tragedy, with Jake as the tragic hero. On a personal level The Sun Also Rises is the portrait of a single man who has a vision of a better life, aspires to it, and fails to attain it. On a wider, social level (the Fisher King interpretation) Jake is symbolic of a lost generation-all casualties, in some way, of World War I-who, try as they may, cannot make anything grow in a sterile world.
In real terms none of the characters changes, grows happy, or improves. They simply live out their fate, whether it's Brett as Circe, Cohn as a romantic fool, Mike as a drunk, or Jake as an impotent, tormented soul.