Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jake Barnes vs. Lady Brett Ashley

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In 'The Sun Also Rises', four different men are compared and contrasted as they engage in some form of relationship with Lady Brett Ashley, a near-nymphomaniac Englishwoman who indulges in her passion for sex and control.

Jake Barnes, as the narrator and supposed hero of the novel, fell in love with Brett some years ago and is still powerfully and uncontrollably in love with her. However, Jake is unfortunately a casualty of the war, having been emasculated in a freak accident. Still adjusting to his impotence at the beginning of the novel, Jake has lost all power and desire to have sex. Because of this, Jake and Brett cannot be lovers and all attempts at a relationship that is sexually fulfilling are simply pointless. Brett is a passionate, lustful woman who is driven by the most intimate and loving act two may share, something that Jake just cannot provide her with. Jakes emasculation only puts the two in a grandly ironic situation. Brett is an extremely passionate woman but is denied the first man she feels true love and admiration for. Jake has loved Brett for years and cannot have her because of his inability to have sex.

It is obvious that their love is mutual when Jake tries to kiss Brett in their cab ride home. ( You mustn't. You must know. I can't stand it, thats all. Oh darling, please understand!, Don't you love me?, Love you? I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me. ) This scene is indicative of their relationship as Jake and Brett hopelessly desire each other but realize the senselessness of further actions. Together, they have both tried to defy reality, but failed. Jake is frustrated by Bretts reappearance into his life and her confession that she is miserably unhappy.

Jake asks Brett to go off with him to the country for bit ( Couldnt we go off in the country for a while?, It wouldn't be any good. I'll go if you like. But I couldn't live quietly in the country. Not with my own true love, I know, Isn't it rotten? There isn't any use my telling you I love you, You know I love you, Let's not talk. Talkings all bilge. ) Brett declines Jakes pointless attempt at being together. Both Brett and Jake know that any relationship beyond a friendship cannot be pursued. Jake is still adjusting to his impotence while Brett will not sacrifice a sexual relationship for the man she loves. Since Jake can never be Bretts lover, they are forced to create a new relationship for themselves - they have become best friends. This presents a great difficulty for Jake, because Bretts presence is both pleasurable and agonizing for him. Brett constantly reminds him of his handicap and thus Jake is challenged as a man in the deepest, most personal sense possible.

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After the departure of their first meeting, Jake feels miserable. (This was Brett, that I had felt like crying about. Then I thought of her walking up the street and of course in a little while I felt like hell again.) Lady Brett Ashley serves as a challenge to a weakness Jake must confront. Since his war experience, Jake has attempted to reshape the man he is and the first step in doing this is to accept his impotence. Despite Bretts undeniable love for Jake, she is engaged to marry another.

Jake, as the supposed hero of the novel, is challenged by his emasculation in the deepest sense possible, because the traditional ways in which masculinity are defined are insufficient and impossible for him. Jake needs the strength and courage to confront his impotence because he has not yet adjusted to this weakness. With the absence of a leading male ideal, Hemingway betrays the larger socio-cultural assumptions about men and masculinity and questions the conventional means in which they are defined in his society.

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