THE SUN ALSO RISES
6. The Sun Also Rises is narrated by one of the characters, Jake Barnes. Discuss what difference that makes to the development of the novel and its theme.
This novel takes on different characteristics with Jake Barnes narrating the story. Using him as a vehicle of information to tell the story adds many key twists and turns in the plot. Using Jake as the key character to revolve the book around is very important for a variety of reasons. Jake’s insight to Brett, his approachability with others, and his World War I experiences create an atmosphere that keeps the reader involved. Even though there is tension between several characters in the novel, all of these people still seem to respect and enjoy Jacob Barnes.
Robert Cohn had major points of contention with Jacob, Remero, and Michael, but Jake was the only character with whom Robert tried to make amends. Robert respected Jake enough to ask him along to South America. Even though Jake spit the idea back up to him, Robert revered Jake enough to ask his opinion and advice-as he did the night before he went to South America.
Listen Jake, don’t you ever get the feeling that all of your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?
Although Jake was not that fond of Robert, he still respected Robert enough to give him advice. Here is an example when Robert asked about going to South America.
Listen Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another, there’s nothing to that.
Many of Jacob’s friends were very fond of him, thus leading them all to feel very comfortable in his presence. Additionally, they asked for his advice and told him stories and personal details that they would not share with most people. This gave us a distinct advantage in this story. It allowed us to peel back the layers of the characters and see right into them through Jake’s eyes.
Another reason that Jacob is a key figure in telling the story is his relationship with Brett. In a sense, the whole novel revolves around Brett. Since Jacob is basically the only person that Brett is honest with, it gives the reader an insight to the evolution of her relationship and life experiences. Jacob starts to get irritated at Brett’s casual confessions to him; his discomfort clearly shows that he does not like being her confidant. After all, his sex life with her is tender. His empathy towards Brett dissolved because he is repulsed that Robert Cohn is her lover. This created more conflict as days passed and Jacob realized that his affair with Brett was over.
Everyone liked Brett and enjoyed her company. Jake’s relationship with Brett is a treasured path through which we learn more about the characters. His love situation with Brett makes Jacob the ideal person to help the reader to understand Brett and to learn about the other characters. For example, when Brett sent the count away for champagne she opened up to Jake.
Do you feel better, darling? Is the head any better? Brett said to Jake as she was nursing him back to health. …It’s my fault, Jake. It’s the way I’m made. I know you are right. I’m just low, and when I’m low I talk like a fool.
Other insights into the novel would never have occurred if Jake did not narrate the story. When Robert Cohn and Frances Clyne see Jake in Paris, Frances takes Jake aside and begins to unload her problems on him.
Oh, he told everyone that we were going to be married, and I told my mother and everyone, and now he doesn’t want to do itI wouldn’t marry him if he doesn’t want to. Of course I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t marry him now for anything. But it does seem to me to be a little late now, after we’ve waited three years, and I’ve just gotten my divorce.
Jacob also adds a compelling thickness to the plot with his thoughts about Robert Cohn. Cohn is very much in love with Brett, but without Jake he would not have had the gall to stay with the crew as long as he did. The whole time that Michael was around, there was tension between Robert and Micheal. If the reader didn’t have the advantage of Jake’s experiences, they probably would have felt bad for him. After seeing Jake’s side, however, I took a new approach in analyzing the situation, and didn’t feel as bad for Robert.
Knowing very little about bullfighting kept me puzzled about the sport until I met Romero. Jacob’s narration and knowledge of bull fighting allowed him to convey Romero’s talent in a way the reader was able to easily comprehend it. Anyone who explained the story could’ve stated that Romero was good, but it takes knowledge of the sport to translate the true beauty to the uninformed. Without understanding the art and style that Romero possesses, Brett would seem more like a tramp than a woman with an obsession. Without this knowledgeable narration from Jacob, the reader could have many misunderstandings about bullfighting and Brett-which alone could’ve changed the whole context of the story.
Jacob’s life experiences and past encounters during World War I made him the best candidate for the narration position. His job of working at the newspaper has allowed him to be successful. Jake had been given the opportunity to carefully structure his battles and realize his strengths and weaknesses. His powerful and uncontainable love for Brett, plus his envy for Robert, adds to the strong storyline of the novel. The added flaws of jealousy, love and failure to act on his beliefs added to the humanistic and believability of the storyline. Jacob’s narration gave the novel a realistic read and allowed the reader to relate to Jacob’s emotions.
Hemmingway’s use of dialog and the use of characters for narration would naturally result in a character from The Sun Also Rises telling us a story. This character would be Jacob Barnes. Jake’s insight to Brett, his approachability with others, tension with Robert and his War experiences creates a supplemental storyline for the novel. This allows the reader to relate to Jacob and keeps them reading on. Jacob’s narration really affected my view of the novel and allowed me to easily comprehend what I was reading.