Masculinity In The Sun Also Rises

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In The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, the main character, Jake Barnes, is experiencing life post World War I. In a war that denounced faith and integrity, Jake becomes troubled by the concept of being part of a world without purpose. As a result, he starts drinking heavily along with his friends, who are also experiencing the same problems. However, no matter how much these characters drink, they cannot escape their sadness. To add to this purposeless life, Jake also struggles with male insecurity which all the veteran males struggled with after the war. In particular, Jake’s castration soon leads him to a troubling love life. Brett, his love interest, says she is in love with him, but cannot commit because he wouldn 't be able to give…show more content…
Robert Cohn, Jake’s friend from tennis, embodies feminine traits. Cohn’s effeminate behavior demonstrated by his following Brett around, helplessly in love. In the text, Mike Campbell, Brett’s fiancé, points this failure and weakness out by saying, “’Tell me, Robert. Why do you follow Brett around like a poor bloody steer?’” (146). Thus, Mike criticizes Cohn’s masculinity, saying he cannot have a relationship the woman he wants, confirming the statement with: “’’Why don’t you know you 're not wanted?’” (146). Therefore, Cohn becomes incredibly frustrated upon hearing these remarks; not being able to be in a relationship with Brett is the ultimate failure because the men see her as an object they must get. For instance, Mike refers to Brett as a piece and not as a human being when he says “’I say, Brett you are a lovely piece’” (85). The reader can see from the attention the men give Brett that all the men 's goals are geared towards winning the ‘piece’ of affection as a way to prove their masculinity. With this in mind for the rest of the novel, Cohn’s jealousy explodes, resulting in an attack on Jake and Mike near the end of the book. Brett’s irresistible nature makes the men lose control. This control, in turn, makes Brett more powerful, while the men become weaker, letting a woman take over the consciousness. Brett’s…show more content…
Brett is another interesting character in the book, defying the feminine traits Jake and Cohn portray. For example, men were not, and still are not, ostracized for sleeping around. Women, however, were and still are. However, Brett lives a carefree life, and sleeps around anyway, showing her independence and resistance to normal societal standards. Her defiance has become so evident that Mike, her own fiancé, acknowledges Brett’s tendencies, saying, “’Mark you. Brett 's had affairs with men before. She tells me everything’" (147-148). The fact that Brett ‘tells him everything’ proves that she does not care about her commitment to someone. Brett’s fluidity within her own identity and sexuality confuses the men in the book, who are in love with her and are unfamiliar with the concept of a free, independent woman. This then, as mentioned above, evokes different reactions from the men. Cohn’s huge reaction was, of course, beating up the other men he was competing against to
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