Characters and Analysis

Jake Barnes

Jake is a veteran of World War I. The protagonist working as a journalist in Paris. He and his friends live a life of drinking and parties. Jake is more stable than most of his friends. His weakness is his love for Lady Brett Ashley that is complicated by his own impotence and the general moral breakdown of social life following the war. The point of view we get from Jake is largely as an “objective” observer, however, we also learn about his character by paying attention to the way he observes others.

Lady Brett Ashley

Separated from her husband as the novel begins, Lady Ashley is British socialite caught up in the hard drinking life of post war Paris. She is in love with Jake, but his impotence prevents her from committing to him. Yet, she seems unwilling to commit to anyone in the novel, even as she engages in affairs with many of the men who are infatuated with her. She does not appear to find any real happiness or satisfaction in her care-free life. Like all the characters, she is unfulfilled and aimless.

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Robert Cohn

Another writer living in Paris. He is a wealthy American and an expatriate like Jake. He often appears separate from Jake because he had no involvement in the war and because he is Jewish. He clings to certain pre-war ideals such as love and fairness, even as these ideals have become absurd in the aftermath of the war. He is the target of scorn and ridicule from Jake and other make characters because he is such an outsider.

Bill Gorton

Another hard-drinking veteran of WWI, though not one of the expatriates. He shares a strong bond with Jake because of their war experiences, but he is more light-hearted. He treats the devastation of the war with humor. Though not as intense as Jake and some of the others, he is not above the cruelty that attends so many of the other characters in the novel.

Mike Campbell

A Scottish veteran of the war, he is drinking nearly all the time. His character is compromised by his drunkenness and his insecurities with himself and his relationship with Lady Brett Ashely. This is manifested as anger and self-pity. He does not understand her promiscuity and his own poverty.

Pedro Romero

The nineteen year-old bullfighter who captivates Lady Ashley. He is an emblem of the bravado and charm of bullfighting so many of the characters admire. He serves as an antagonist to the other characters in that he carries himself with dignity and grace while the main characters are compromised by drunkenness and cynicism. As post war Europe descends into an amoral atmosphere, Romero remains a symbol of dignity and moral grace.

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