Brett Ashley: Whore or Herione
After a thorough reading and in-depth analyzation of Ernest Hemingway's riveting novel The Sun Also Rises, the character of Brett Ashley may be seen in a number of different ways. While some critics such as Mimi Reisel Gladstein view Brett as a 'Circe'; or 'bitch-goddess,'; others such as Carol H. Smith see Brett as a woman who has been emotionally broken by the world around her. I tend to agree with the latter of these views, simply because of the many tragedies that befell Brett. She is a heroine who, despite being wounded by love and war, continues to pursue true love.
Mimi Reisel Gladstein does make an excellent case for Brett as a 'modern-day Circe'; or 'bitch-goddess.'; Brett is a '. . . drunkard, a nymphomaniac, or a Circe who turns men into swine. . .'; (58). She has this transforming effect on several men throughout the course of the novel. Because of her extreme physical beauty, men such as Robert Cohn and Mike Campbell place Brett on a pedestal where she can do no wrong. Robert offers himself to Brett, then follows her around as if on a leash, 'sniveling and squealing as if he were swine'; (58). While Brett saunters around on her sexual escapades, she does not take into account the feelings of Jake, the man who truly loves her, because he is unable to meet her sexual needs. Brett does bother with Jake's frustrations; she uses him only as an emotional support to fall back on when the flings leave her emotionally unsatisfied. 'Brett's bitchery is fully revealed by her treatment of Jake. . . he truly loves her but she uses Jake to get the emotional fix she cannot find is sexual union . . . this is ironic since she would most likely find both if Jake were fully functional'; (59). By looking at her treatment of Robert Cohn, Mike Campbell, and Jake Barnes, Brett could easy be seen as a self-centered, promiscuous nymphomaniac whose quest for love destroys men but leaves her relatively unharmed.
As Carol Smith points out, however, '. . . analyzing Brett in terms of bitch-goddess or Terrible Mother does not do justice to her'; (55). Smith's quotation is well-founded. Hemingway has done much more with the character of Brett than it may seem. 'She is a good woman the world has broken . . . a complex woman who has endured much'; (55). T...
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Bardacke, Theodore. 'Hemingway's Women: 1950,'; Ernest Hemingway: The Man and His Work. Ed. John K. McCaffery (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1950), pp. 342-44. Rpt. in Brett Ashley. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: G.K. Hall and Co., 1995. pp.12-13.
Gladstein, Mimi Reisel, 'Hemingway,'; The Indestructible Woman in Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. (Ann Arbor, UMI Research Press, 1986), pp. 59, 62. Rpt. in Critical Essays on Earnest Hemingways The Sun Also Rises, ed. James Nagel. New York: G.K. Hall and Co., pp.58, 59.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1926.
Smith, Carol H., 'Women and the Loss of Eden,'; Ernest Hemingway: The Writer in Context, Ed. James Nagel (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), pp132-4. Rpt. in Critical Essays on Earnest Hemingways The Sun Also Rises, ed. James Nagel. New York: G.K. Hall and Co., 1995. 54-
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