The Sun Also Rises mirrors Hemingway′s horrible summer spent in Pamplona. Baker devoted a chapter to this trip and observed that Hemingway, on his third trip, reserved rooms with Hadley at a hotel where matadors and veteran aficionados often stayed and where Bill Smith, Don Stewart and Harold Loeb would later join them (149). The fact that Robert Cohn′s character is based on Harold Loeb was stated by Hemingway himself saying: “I′m putting everyone in it and that kike Loeb is the villain” (Baker 154). Harold Loeb made the mistake of spending a week with Duff Twysden, in whom Hemingway was apparently interested as well. Duff Twysden decided to join the party, “beautiful, with a boy′s haircut, who was going through a divorce” (Nagel 89) made it into the book as a character of Brett. She did not come alone and her companion “Pat Guthrie, a Scotsman fond of wine,” (Nagel 89) is obviously Mike in the story. As for Pedro Romero, Hemingway was impressed by the skills of a young matador Cayetano Ordóñez. Ordóñez and the Fiesta were made immortal out of admiration; Hemingway′s company was on the other hand described in a worse light out of jealousy. Nagel comments on the situation: “The celebrations in Pamplona degenerated into jealous quarrels, with Hemingway and Loeb nearly coming to blows over Duff” (89). The reason for all the drama seems to be that Hemingway “could not or would not have Duff” and “Duff was ′wild about Ernest′” (Baker 150). Soon after the end of this unsuccessful trip Hemingway started writing The Sun Also Rises and finished it in a short time.
In The Sun Also Rises there is a considerable difference between Paris and places in Spain in how they are illustrated by Hemingway. In the third chapter Jake is sitting on the terrace and watches the street as the poules go by looking for the evening meal (12). At least one of them is a prostitute, she joins him and after drinking some Pernod Jake takes her for dinner. From this description it is obvious that Paris is described as a rather sinister city. In Moveable Feast Hemingway describes “women drunkards called poivrottes which meant female rummies” (3) and mentions the fact that the toilets were at that time emptied at night into horse-drawn tank wagons which produced a strong odor (3-4) and with the first cold rains of winter there is “only the wet blackness of the street”(4).
Spain is in general a much more religious country with religious festivals such as the Fiesta of San Fermin in particular. Burguette and Pamplona are described differently from Paris. The impression of Pamplona holds much more dignity. Even from far away you can see “the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches” (82) and its closeness to mountains which carry dignity with their height and pure white tops. It is the opposite of dirty, smelly Paris full of drunkards. When asked what she thinks about Paris, the prostitute Georgette says: “I find it dirty” (16) which corresponds with Hemingway′s description of Paris in autumn as well as the memory of similar part of Paris recalled by dying Harry in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (17).
All the girls in Pamplona were watching Brett (120) in her “inappropriate” clothes. Her provocative style of clothing was described earlier in Paris when Jake mentioned that she was not wearing stockings and Mike, her fiancé said “Brett, you are a lovely piece. . . . Let′s turn in early” (69). The emphasis on her sexuality is very clear. In Paris, as it is described, Jake′s friends fit in very well but in Pamplona Brett stands out and Jake earns only disapproval from Montoya regarding his company.
The question is why those places are described in such contrast. The reason may be to show young people and their behaviour in a different light. What seems to be normal in Paris; drunkenness, infidelity, prostitution; suddenly looks out of place in a more dignified place.
Jake is the main character of the novel and he also carries the biggest burden. As a result of a war injury he ended up impotent. Jake may be compared to a steer, about this similarity Hemingway said: “Actually he had been wounded in quite a different way and his testicles were intact and not damaged. Thus he was capable of all normal feelings as a man but incapable of consummating them. The important distinction is that his wound was physical and not psychological and that he was not emasculated” (29). While a steer with losing its masculinity loses its dignity as well, Jake lost only one part of his masculinity and it did not influence his dignity.
He tries to live according to his “code” which he explains as some kind of value transfer, “Enjoying living was learning to get your money′s worth and knowing when you had it” (129). He pays for his friendship with Brett through sleepless nights, pain and partly with a small amount of dignity as well. He loses dignity by matching her up with Romero, through his practical involvement in her infidelity which he knows is wrong. This destructive relationship forces him to drink more than he used to, he admits “Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy” (127). When he gets to the point when he was “drunker than I ever remembered having been.” (194) it is a kind of catharsis, for a moment he loses his strength and dignity for the short time and then Fiesta is over and his life becomes normal again and he slowly recovers and heals. At the end when he goes once more to help Brett, he is a different person – as Daiker claims “he no longer harbors romantic fantasies about their marrying or living together” (183).
Brett′s dignity is disputable. She shows some kind of dignity, when she is offered a considerable amount of money to go to a hotel with a count and she refuses, but she adds the ambiguous comment that she knows too many people everywhere (29). It is possible that her dignity made her refuse to go with a man for money, or she actually considered it and decided not to, because of people she knew could see them. Another possibility is that by “people” she actually meant ex-lovers since she is quite promiscuous or a different option is that she lied to Jake. Daiker states “there may be no earlier instances in the novel of Brett’s outright dishonesty, she often makes statements that are simply not true” (177).
Robert Cohn is a pitiful person in the novel. If he had some dignity, the narrator chose not to mention it. Nagel highlights the fact that the narrator is Jake who at the time of the telling (shortly after the Fiesta) cannot be trusted for objectivity and his negative portrait of Robert Cohn is skewed by his bitterness (90). Cohn is, at the beginning, described as “very shy and a thoroughly nice boy” (3) who began to box even though he “disliked it” (3). The image of him being a boxer seemed improbable enough that Jake asked around if it was true. Cohn sent his girlfriend, who hoped to marry him, away without telling her proper reason – they had a scene in public that made Jake leave them. Cohn is a coward, giving his girlfriend money to go away so he can go for a week away with Brett. He falls in love and instead of understanding her flighty personality he takes it too seriously, which results in more undignified behaviour on his part. He is portrayed as a pathetic figure – the manner of his following up Brett even with her fiancé present was humiliating. He was so jealous in Pamplona that it was he, and not Brett′s fiancé, who beat up Romero for sleeping with her and before doing this he also attacked his friends. First he is always around Brett like a loyal dog and then acts like a wounded animal, ending up crying in bed. He was an easy target for the rest of the company to hurt him. Jake confessed that he “certainly did hate him” (87). Ironically it is Cohn who is compared to a steer when Mikes said: “I would have thought you′d loved being a steer. . . . Is Robert Cohn going to follow Brett around like a steer all the time?” (123). This is emphasised by several repetitions. Cohn is considered emasculated, without tact, moderation or self-respect. He acts as if addicted to Brett and he must watch her and be close to her at any cost, losing that little dignity he had left by making the rest of the group feel pity, disgust and irritation.
Mike is almost always drunk. He lost all his money, he lives from an insufficient allowance and he owes money to a lot of people, which does not stop him from borrowing more. Finding some kind of job to repay his debts would be a dignified way to deal with his trouble but he chooses to escape it with alcohol and increasing his debts. Another thing that derogates his dignity is his relationship with Brett. He somehow tolerates her promiscuous behaviour, at least on the outside, but inside he is being slowly destroyed. To handle the presence of Cohn he must consume more alcohol which makes him bitter and aggressive. When Brett leaves with Romero he drinks on his bed and says to Jake: “Bad thing to do. . . . She shouldn′t have done it” (194). This contrasts with Cohn′s crying in bed, Mike has some dignity left and he still carries himself with his chin up.
Bill′s dignity was not tested by any kind of stressful situation but he possesses great qualities as calmness, fairness and cheerfulness. He is the only character without any personal drama going on who just wants to enjoy his trip and not let it be spoiled by the undignified behaviour of some of his companions. Since he has no reason to lose his dignity it can be assumed he has it.
Pedro Romero is a talented bullfighter and his style has a lot of dignity. His work is described by Jake when he points out that Romero never makes any contortions, he always uses straight, pure and natural line and he is nothing like the others who use tricks to make it look as though they are working closely (145). In an aficionado′s eyes the regular bullfighters were cheating, pretending and lying to the audience but Romero was “a real one” (142).