Jake Barnes: "You're not an aficionado?" Spanish waiter: "Me? What are bulls? Animals. Brute animals... A cornada right through the back. For fun-you understand." (Hemingway, 67) Why does everybody hate Robert Cohn? At the beginning of Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes, the story's point-of-view character, wants us to believe that he has at least some appreciation for Cohn. He relates some of Cohn's life for us, how at Princeton he was a middle weight boxing champ, how despite his physical prowess he had feelings of "shyness and inferiority...being treated as a Jew," (Hemingway, 11) his turbulent career as a magazine editor and his failed marriage. It's easy to begin to feel sorry for this guy. The only mistake he made was falling for Lady Brett Ashley. Cohn's infatuation with this heartless wench, coupled with the jealousy and competitive nature of the novel's other bon vivant characters, lead to his disgrace.
Brett Ashley is, from the start, a careless woman. A lady by marriage only, she has affairs with many men, breaks many hearts, and drinks lots of liquor. She wants to be the center of everyone's attention. She may be physically stunning, but she lacks class and restraint. Like the rest of the novel's main party, she has a taste for living the good life in disregard of the feelings and actions of others. It seems everyone loves or has loved her, including Jake Barnes. So Robert's unfortunate attraction to Brett Ashley has already heightened tensions between the male characters.
For a significant portion of the novel, Cohn is defending himself from the threats and name-calling of Mike, the man to whom Brett...
... middle of paper ...
...on, he posed no great threat to the group and was more a victim of racism than of unrequited love. If his interest in Lady Brett amounted to anything, it was as a target for the jaded sentiments of his "fellow" bon vivants; someone should have clued Cohn in and told him he'd be better off staying in Paris. I suppose these sordid affairs only prove Hemingway's feelings, as expressed by Bill in the novel: "You're an expatriate. You've lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend your time talking, not working." (120) Maybe Robert Cohn, a victim of this ruination, will know better than to waste his time with these dark-hearted dilettantes who hold costly ideas of enjoyment.
Hemingway, Ernest The Sun Also Rises. Scribner Paperbacks: NY, 1997.
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