If you have read The Sun Also Rises then you know that the plot revolves around a web of conflicts. These struggles between characters are what make the novel so dynamic. I don’t know about you, but when I read this book I was so drawn in that I couldn’t put it down! According to Cliffs Notes, a novel without conflict is like listening to a song with no melody. It can’t be done!
Jake Barnes vs. Lady Brett Ashley
One of the most prominent conflicts in this Hemingway masterpiece is Jake’s struggle with Brett. This would be considered a man vs. man conflict. The war left both of these characters with emotional and physical wounds beyond the point of repair. Jake is hopelessly in love with Lady Brett Ashley, but since the war left him impotent, there is no way they could ever be together. This leaves Jake emotionally damaged because even though he would do anything to be with Brett, that just isn’t how his cards were dealt. Brett loves Jake equally as much as he loves her; however, she is not willing to give up the physical aspect of a relationship to be with him. Unfortunately, their love isn’t strong enough to overcome the harsh reality that they are not meant to be together. An internal conflict, also known as a man vs. self conflict, is sparked within Jake when he becomes frustrated with himself for not being able to have the power to make Brett stay.
Jake Barnes vs. The Other Guys
Jake Barnes, Robert Cohn, Mike Campbell, and Pedro Romero all have one thing in common: their undying love for Brett. All of these men have their hearts set on winning over Brett, but only one can claim her. Jake is envied by the other men because he already has Brett’s love, however they aren’t threatened by him because they all know why Brett doesn’t want to be with him. Robert and Mike become even more enraged with Jake when he sets Brett up with Pedro Romero, a young and attractive bullfighter. The fight over Brett Ashley causes enormous amounts of tension between these men, who somehow manage to remain friends even after the Brett debacle is over and done with. This would also be considered a man vs. man conflict.
The Men vs. Lady Brett Ashley
This adds to the ongoing list of man vs. man conflicts within this novel. The conflict between Brett’s suitors and herself is one that that can be compared to a cat and mouse chase. Brett constantly tempts the men, and when they think they’ve finally won her over, she runs off to the next guy waiting in line. Jake is tortured by this relationship with Brett because he knows that if he hadn’t gone off to war, he would never have suffered his injury that is keeping him from Brett. On the other hand, Jake would not have had the privilege to know Brett since she nursed him back to health during the war. No matter how you slice it, there is no happy ending for Jake. Poor kid. Brett at one point was also engaged to marry Mike Campbell whom she soon leaves for Pedro Romero. Mike Campbell is hurt by this and joins his friends, who have also been left in Brett’s dust. However, once Romero kicks Brett to the curb, she runs to Jake to console her. This leaves Jake wondering if she finally made up her mind to be with him, but he soon realizes that Brett wishes to marry Mike like she had previously planned. Even if the tensions lessen between characters, something always comes along to rock the boat.
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