Summary and Analysis
Jake writes to Robert Cohn in Spain to say that he and Bill will meet Cohn at Bayonne (near the French-Spanish border), to go fishing together. At a café that evening, Mike Campbell (who is drunk again) invites himself and Brett along on the excursion, and they arrange to rendezvous in Pamplona. Brett tells Jake that Cohn was with her in San Sebastian before Jake and Bill depart Paris via rail. After encountering various Americans on the train (a small family and a large group of Catholic pilgrims), they arrive in Bayonne in the evening.
This chapter begins with a reference to the boxing match mentioned in Chapter VIII. As in books like A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway here is constructing a kind of continuum that connects heterosexual love with war, via "blood sports" like boxing, hunting and fishing, and (later in this novel) bullfighting. The writer believed that loving a woman could prove just as dangerous as fighting in a war; conversely, battlefield combat can teach a man lessons useful in his love affairs, or at least harden him for the pain that Hemingway believed was unavoidable in matters of the heart. Note that both ends of the spectrum meet, here, in Jake's war wound, which prevents him from engaging in sexual intercourse. Cohn is a boxing champion and, therefore, he is somewhat prepared to engage in the battle of the sexes (the same can be said of the bullfighter Romero, who appears later in the book) — but he is not as well-prepared as the veterans Mike, Brett, and, of course, Jake. The price these characters pay for their wisdom is unending pain that they can only hope to dull with alcohol.
The theme of paying for things continues here, with Bill's response to the waiter on the train who refuses to offer special service in exchange for a ten-franc bribe: "I suppose if I'd given you five francs you would have advised us to jump off the train." Bill persists in believing in what he called "a simple exchange of values," as does Brett. Jake alone understands that life is unfair. Meanwhile, Hemingway continues to connect Brett with prostitution: "I think it's a brothel!" Mike says of their hotel.
Chapter IX includes a major turning-point in the plot of The Sun Also Rises, in the revelation by Brett that she was joined in San Sebastian by Robert Cohn; presumably, they slept together while there. Brett doesn't seem to take Cohn terribly seriously, but this information nevertheless devastates Jake, as we will begin to observe in the next chapter. At first Jake's foil, Cohn begins now to emerge as a rival, even a full-fledged antagonist, making his introduction on the book's first page (in fact, this novel's first two words are "Robert Cohn") more understandable than it was at first.
Note the presence on the train to Bayonne of the American pilgrims and especially the tourists from the States. "See America first" has been their attitude, according to the wife; the husband seems indifferent to the fishing available in his home state of Montana. These are the philistines whom Jake (not to mention Hemingway himself, and the circle to which Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald belonged) avoided by living in Paris during the 1920s. Jake and especially Bill see the pre-booking of all but the last lunch sittings by the pilgrims as less than fair play: "It's enough to make a man join the Klan," says Bill, alluding to the white supremacist group that targeted Catholics as well as Jews, like Cohn, and African Americans. He is joking, of course, but the extremity of his remark is an index of the intensity of his anger — and, probably, his drunkenness.
Hendaye a seacoast town in southwestern France, in that country's Basque region.
Bayonne a city in southwestern France.
Burguete a town in northern Spain, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Gare d'Orsay a neoclassical train station, across the Seine from the Louvre and the Tuileries; now a museum of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art.
Comment? (French) Why?
Chablis a dry white Burgundy wine made in or near the town of Chablis, France.
chateau a large country house and estate, especially in France.
Tours a city in west-central France, on the Loire.
Bordeaux a seaport in southwestern France, on the Garonne River.
the Landes a region of southwestern France.
fire-gaps avenues through the woods created by cutting down trees, so as to discourage the spread of forest fires.