Summary and Analysis
What's left of the group splits up, with Bill returning to Paris and Mike to Saint Jean de Luz, on the French side of the border. Jake travels to San Sebastian, where he relaxes alone in cafés and on the beach. Soon, however, his relative tranquility is shattered by a telegram from Brett begging him to join her in Madrid. Jake faithfully travels to the capital overnight; when he finds Brett in her hotel room, she is devastated by the end of her affair with Romero. Though she says she doesn't want to talk about it, she does nothing but talk, and Jake of course listens. Brett reveals that it was she who ended the relationship, and that she intends to return to Mike. As the novel ends, Jake and Brett are drunk and riding in a cab, their bodies pressed together by the movements of the car — just as they were at the start of Chapter IV.
It has been suggested that the final chapter of The Sun Also Rises is unnecessary, as the conflicts of its major characters were for the most part resolved by the end of Book II. But most novels feature some sort of denouement (literally, "unraveling"), a dramatization, by the author, of the ways in which the world has been changed by the action of the book. (Think of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the final pages of which show us the protagonist's once-perfect lawn now overgrown, with Nick Carraway preparing to return to the Midwest.) One sense in which The Sun Also Rises is a Modern, even radical, book is in its insistence that change (or change for the better, at least) is a myth. After 250 pages overflowing with almost-uninterrupted violence, alcohol abuse, and sex, the novel's characters end up exactly where they began: Cohn is presumed to be with Frances; Bill is in Paris; Mike is still engaged to Brett, who still plans to marry him; and Brett is, of course, miserable, and turning to Jake for comfort — comfort he is all too willing to provide, at the expense of his own sanity.
The early Moderns presumed that technology would make life easier, happier, better. Similarly, the Great War was called "the war to end all wars" — as if human beings had finally evolved to the point where wars would be unnecessary. And yet it is precisely technology, in the form of airplanes and submarines, machine guns and mustard gas, that made the conflict of 1914–1918 so universally devastating. Unlike the American pilgrims on the French train, and even the English tourists from Biarritz, the veterans of World War I who populate The Sun Also Rises know the brutal truth that nothing has changed — that nothing can change, because human nature can't change. Thus, the only possible ending for this book is one that mirrors the beginning, with the awesomely attractive and yet profoundly destructive Brett once again taking advantage of Jake's decency and desire. In fact, Brett has actively refused to change — for Romero, who requested that she grow her hair out (that is, behave more conventionally for the sake of his pleasure). On the other hand, she does resist his charms and insist that Romero leave her for his own good, and this, indeed, seems evidence of growth.
The bulk of the chapter is therefore taken up by a series of strangely quiet scenes in which Jake Barnes eats, drinks, swims, and so on. Remember, however, the scene in which he is joined while sunning on a raft off of San Sebastian by a boy and girl at the raft's opposite end who do little besides talk quietly but are obviously in love. The point about this episode, and the others like it in Chapter XIX, is that Jake is alone. He is rehearsing for the rest of his sorrowful life. This is a bitterly sad book, because Jake's injury is apparently permanent. Jake can only be tortured by women to whom he is attracted, feeling a desire for them that he cannot satisfy.
Once again and to the very last, black humor abounds. A bike racer cannot ride properly due to the boils that have developed in his crotch; ride is slang for sexual intercourse. ("Want to go for a ride?" Jake asks Brett in the final scene. Of course, the ride he would prefer is impossible.) A soldier near the beach has only one arm, the other having been symbolically castrated. In the Hotel Montana, Jake cannot make the elevator to Brett's floor work. Finally, after Brett's almost obscenely absurd contention that she and Jake "could have had such a damned good time together," we observe a policeman directing traffic who, Jake says, "raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me."
Note the contrast between Spain and France that is reiterated in this chapter. In France, there is "a safe, suburban feeling," which stands in opposition to the wild, frontier quality of Spain. "It was a big meal for France but it seemed very carefully apportioned after Spain," Jake tells us. He also tells us that living in France is a simple matter of paying for the things you want, while in Spain the situation is much more complicated. Money is not enough. ("The Spaniards . . . did not know how to pedal," says a bike racer; Hemingway is punning on peddle, meaning "to sell.") France, therefore, is a kind of cleaned-up illusion about life, while Spain, in this book, represents life itself: unpredictable and often difficult. Remember, however, that Jake returns to Spain, and it is in Spain that the book ends. Despite his Sisyphean situation, Jake Barnes nevertheless chooses to engage with the world and all its insurmountable difficulties. He chooses life.
I think I'll go to San Sebastian Jake is returning to the scene of Brett's affair with Cohn.
Saint Jean de Luz a seacoast town in the Basque region of France, near the Spanish border.
very Ritz very fancy.
tick (Informal, chiefly British) credit; trust.
consigne (French) baggage-check room.
Château Margaux a French wine.
Pyrenees a mountain range along the French-Spanish border.
strega an Italian liqueur made from herbs and flowers.
vieux marc (French) literally, old dregs or grounds. An after-dinner drink.
summer-time the European equivalent of daylight savings time.
Tour du Pays Basque (French) Circuit of the Basque Region.
Rue du Faubourg Montmartre chic a particular kind of Parisian stylishness.
Bilbao a port in the Basque country, in northern Spain, near the Bay of Biscay.
terasse (French) terrace or balcony.
sportif (French) sporting.
La France Sportive (French) Sporting France.
Chope de Negre a Parisian café
depart (French) start (of the race).
bootblack a person whose work is shining shoes and boots.
L'Auto a French periodical.
MADRID the capital of Spain, in the central part.
Sud (French) south, southerly.
LOVE Note that Brett's telegram is signed with her name only. Though profoundly attracted to Jake, she is perhaps incapable of love.
Avila a city of central Spain, west of Madrid.
Escorial a huge quadrangle of granite buildings near Madrid, built in the sixteenth century by Philip II of Spain; it encloses a palace, a church, a monastery, and so on.
the Norte station a Madrid railroad station where trains from the north arrive.
Puerta del Sol (Spanish) Gate of the Sun, in the very center of Madrid.
Carrera San Jeronimo a street in central Madrid.
Muy Buenos (Spanish) Very Good.
a female English probably a literal translation of the woman's phrasing in Spanish.
chica (Spanish) girl.
fonda (Spanish) inn.
the male English Because he speaks English (and perhaps because of his clipped, curt manner) the woman has mistakenly assumed that Jake is from England rather than America.
a sou any of several former French coins, especially one equal to five centimes.
scad (Informal) a very large number or amount.
Gib a town in Spain; also a pun by Hemingway at Jake's expense — a gib is a castrated male cat.
one of these bitches that ruins children an older woman who corrupts young men.
nickelled plated in nickel.
He thinks it was me. Not the show in general. Because he is inexperienced, Romero attributes his pleasure to Brett in particular, rather than to sex generally.