The Sun Also Rises is a story of partying, drinking, suffering, laughing, and life outside the norms of daily existence. It follows Jake Barnes, a returned soldier made impotent in the war, and his group of friends on excursions and outings in Paris, San Sebastian, Burguete, and Pamplona. He and his companions enjoy fishing trips, dance parties that continue well into the early hours, running with the bulls in Pamplona, and numerous bull fights. Jake has an intimate connection to a woman named Lady Brett Ashley; they seem as if they could be a couple if he were not impotent. They never date, but he serves as her friend and rebound between men, and their link lingers throughout the tale. Robert Cohn is Jake's "friend" and acquaintance, and he has a fling with Brett (as do Mike and Romero, the star bull-fighter) but Brett is over him quickly and everyone is mostly annoyed that he's with them. Things escalate until Robert punches Mike and Jake because they let Brett run off with Romero (and Robert was a boxer, so Mike and Jake get pretty knocked around) and Robert finds Romero and beats him up as well, then finally he leaves the group and returns to Paris to his wife, Frances (or perhaps they never were married and she's his lover. Can't quite recall if that was made clear.) The group disassembles after the weeklong fiesta of the bull-fights and ensuing celebrations, at which point Jake returns to San Sebastian alone and relaxes. After a few days, Brett sends him an urgent telegram telling him she needs him. He travels to Madrid where he finds that Brett has sent off Romero, realizing that their affair will never work (she's 34, he's 19, he wanted to marry her, she was all, "get in line/go enjoy your youth", yadda yadda yadda.) She sent the telegram when she wasn't sure Romero would agree to leave, but he left in the time it took Jake to get there by train. Brett tells Jake she will probably go back with Mike, and the novel ends with the two of them side by side in the back of a car, driving through Madrid and contemplating if they would have made a good pair.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here
- "I can't stand it to think my life is going so fast and I'm not really living it."
- "It's awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing."
- "There are people to whom you could not say insulting things. They give you a feeling that the world would be destroyed, would actually be destroyed before your eyes, if you said certain things."
- "I had the feeling as in a nightmare of it all being something repeated, something I had been through and that now I must go through again."
- "I read the Turgenieff. I knew that now, reading it in the oversensitized state of my mind after too much brandy, I would remember it somewhere, and afterward it would seem as though it had really happened to me. I would always have it."
- Speaking on fiesta -- "Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences."
- Jake explains the bull fight to Brett -- "I explained to Brett what it was all about...so that it became more something that was going on with a definite end, and less of a spectacle with unexplained horrors."
- "The fiesta absorbed even the Biarritz English so that you did not see them unless you passed close to a table."
- "Mike lay on the bed looking like a death mask of himself."