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Free Study Guide-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 2

Summary

Jake reveals that during the winter after he met Frances, Cohn leaves her behind in Paris to go to the United States and publicize his new novel. During that trip, Frances loses Cohn because "several women were nice to him in New York." Now that he has found women who like him, he does not want to be tied down to one lover. His change in attitude about Frances is not the only change that occurs in Cohn during the trip. When he returns from America, he is not as simple or as nice as he had been before his departure. Jake attributes this change to Cohn's success with his first novel while in America. After all, it is the first time that Cohn has accomplished anything on his own. He was coached into a boxing championship, the success of his literary magazine came from the talents of other people, and his wealth came from his family, not his own efforts. Ironically, the simple Cohn is equally pleased with his success at the game of bridge, and this success has also gone to his head. Jake notes that before these successes, Cohn has led a very limited and passionless life. He had married his wife on the rebound from a bad time in college and then had gone with Frances on the rebound from his realization that his wife could do without him. Now that he has a tiny taste of success, he wants more out of life, but he has no idea how to get it.

For Jake, the worst of Cohn's changes occur due to the fact that he has read and re-read W. H. Hudson's The Purple Land, and now takes it as a guidebook to life. As a result of the book, Cohn feels he is not truly living his life and wants to go to South America, a romantic idea that the narrator finds absurd. For Jake, "no one ever lives their life all the way up except bullfighters," who face a life/death situation each time they enter the ring (unlike Cohn, who has never had a serious thought about or taste of death in his entire life). Jake knows that Cohn is incapable of living life to the fullest whether in America, Europe, or South America. Jake is also disgusted that Cohn cannot think for himself, but gets all his ideas from books.


The latter part of this chapter is written in dialogue and occurs in Jake's office at the newspaper. Cohn tries unsuccessfully to convince Jake to come to South America with him, even volunteering to pay the expenses and hoping that Jake will make the plans for the trip. Cohn bemoans the fact that he has longed to go to foreign places all his life, but cannot seem to get started. (In truth, Cohn is too passive to accomplish most things and allows others to do it for him.) Jake responds, "Cheer up. All countries look just like the moving pictures," because Jake knows that Cohn would get no more out of a South American adventure than he would from the screen. When Jake is frustrated with Cohn's refusal to give up the idea of South America, he notes, "he had a hard, Jewish stubborn streak." To break the conversation, Jake suggests they soon go downstairs for a drink and reveals to his reader that he often uses such "graceful exits" in the newspaper business. However, Jake actually uses the excuse of sending cables to unentangle himself, but Cohn asks to come up with him and wait in his office. When Jake finishes work, he finds Cohn asleep on the chair. He then takes Cohn to a bar, the Napolitain, to have a drink.

Notes

Jake's criticism of Cohn continues in Chapter 2. He cannot believe that Cohn has no values and no roots, rushing from woman to woman and place to place. Cohn's naiveté and inability for self- criticism also amaze him, he is always blaming his troubles on being Jewish. Cohn's enthusiasm for the novel, The Purple Land, further disgusts Jake. This book contains the kind of writing that Jake (and Hemingway) scorns. It is romantic, idealistic, and sentimental, but Cohn takes it seriously, which reveals to Jake that Cohn is a romantic fool, who has poor literary taste. The book also gives Cohn the absurd idea of traveling to South America, where he wants to escape from the nagging Frances and the burden of beginning a second novel. Cohn, unlike Jake, runs from life. Cohn also has an unrealistic view of South America in the twenties. His image is based on the movies where jungles are portrayed as harmlessly exotic and peopled by princesses. Cohn, who is appalled by the thoughts of wild game hunting with the resulting bloody animals and of bullfighting with the possible death of the matador, is ill equipped to make a difficult journey through the tropics. He does not, and will never understand, that there are no guarantees in life, and any man can be devoured by fate. Man's challenge and the way to prove himself, as Jake knows from bullfighting and from the war, is to stand and fight.

The contrasts between Jake and Cohn are stark in other ways as well. Cohn talks about his feelings, a habit that is in bad form in Jake's world. In addition, Jake is always on the move, always ready with an escape plan; on the other hand, Cohn is passive and content to sleep in Jake's office while waiting for him to finish work. Jake is a war-scarred realistic thinker, who resents the streak of romanticism he sees in himself. Cohn is a silly romantic, who cannot think for himself and who has no real set of values. Jake sees Cohn as an amicable fool, and his animosity toward Cohn is further fueled by a vague sense of anti-semitism.

Jake's tone in describing Cohn in this chapter (and the previous one) is gently satirical with laconic wit and is always characterized by understatement. Through these techniques, Jake successfully captures Robert Cohn as a pathetic, romantic, and immature "boy" of a man who has wasted his life and who lives in a world of self- deception, believing himself to be a successful writer. In the rest of the novel that follows, Jake will remain the ironic narrator who views the world he is reporting on with skepticism and sarcasm.

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