Hemingway’s Anti-Semitic Design in The Sun Also Rises

June 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Beneath Hemingway’s graphic portrait of the lost and wounded post-World War I generation presented in The Sun Also Rises, a blatant anti-Semitic intent emerges. Whether Hemingway was merely a mouthpiece for the intolerant views of his contemporaries or allowed his personal prejudice to seep into the story line can not be ascertained, yet one of the main figures in The Sun Also Rises is consistently assaulted for his Judaic heritage.Robert Cohn’s scornful introduction occurs in the first few pages of the novel. The narrator, Jake Barnes, constructs a stereotypical image of Cohn, including a disfigured nose, a bought editorial byline in a magazine he helped finance, and a lackluster relationship, in which Cohn unwittingly succumbs to girlfriend Frances’ dominion. This contemptuous description correlates with the standard Jewish stereotype as presented by Edgar Rosenberg:The stereotype of the Jew is that of a fairly thoroughgoing materialist, a physical coward, an opportunist in money matters; secretive in his living habits, servile in his relations with Christians, whom he abominated,…an outlandish nose, an unpleasant odor, and a speech impediment also. He was a literalist…hardly qualified for tragedy. (56)Hemingway, via Jake Barnes, methodically illustrates each aforementioned attribute. For instance, Cohn’s stinginess is clearly evident as he entreats Jake to buy him a double-tapered fishing line, but insists on paying later rather than now. Moreover, as Cohn becomes enamored with Lady Ashley, he attempts to excise himself from Frances by buying her off, as she confesses that Cohn offered her a hundred pounds to visit friends in England. Frances, though, would not settle and so he bargained with her till they both agreed on two hundred pounds. However, it is Mike Campbell, Lady Ashley’s fiancee, who reveals Cohn’s closefisted personality best. In drunken frenzy, he tells Bill to stay for “Robert Cohn is about to buy a drinkâ€? (Hemingway 95), implying that, since Cohn seldom buys drinks, this event is too extraordinary for Bill to miss. All in all, Cohn consummates his role as the cheap Jewish type through “his callous and opportunistic use of moneyâ€? (Bloom 64).Further, Cohn fulfills the Jewish stereotype, as previously prescribed by Rosenberg, through his cuckold-like portrayal as a duped romantic figure, “who was repeatedly defeated in sexual matters until defeat became his trademarkâ€? (Knopf 125). To illustrate, Cohn’s first wife left him for a miniature-painter, which was “a very healthful shockâ€? (Hemingway 4). His next relationship was also a failure, as he permitted the domineering Frances to control every aspect of his life. For example, when Jake suggests that Cohn should travel with him to Strasbourg, because he knows “a girl there that will show the townâ€? (Hemingway 6), Cohn retorts in despondency, “You know Frances. Any girl at all. I couldn’t go that would be allâ€? (Hemingway 6). However, his blind nobility to Frances vanishes after an encounter with Lady Ashley, whose beauty leaves Cohn stupefied. The narrator directly mocks this incident by rendering Cohn as looking a “great deal as his compatriot must have looked when he saw the promised landâ€? (Hemingway 24). By equating Lady Ashley with Israel, Jake minimizes the gravity of Moses’ journey and compares it to a meager lustful attraction. Perhaps William Vance discerns it best in the following statement,“The impression of Cohn given in the first two chapters is unsympathetic, and the precipitate manner in which he falls in love in the third chapter is rendered satiricallyâ€? (41).Since Cohn is rendered as a very superficial figure, he is immediately enthralled with Lady Ashley. Thus, when she takes up his invitation for a trip to San Sebastian, he misconstrues her amiable intentions. Inevitably, when Ashley’s fiance arrives, she confesses to love-blinded Cohn that she only took up his invitation because she “wanted to get out of town [Paris] and she can’t go anywhere aloneâ€? (Hemingway 102). Cohn, being the ultimate cuckold, is still assured that Ashley loves him deeply; on this pretense, he follows Ashley and her fiancee around Europe in what ends up to be a disastrous turn of events.Moreover, as the only Jew within the novel, Cohn is treated with a double standard. Barnes is impartial when the count requests the Lady’s hand in marriage nor is he angry at Bill for ostentatiously flirting with her. Notably, Barnes even arranges the first meeting between Ashley and Romero, which ends in a torrid affair between the two. However, Cohn’s affections for Lady Ashley annoy Barnes considerably. Simply because Cohn is Jewish, he is subject to an unwritten law denying Jews admission into the ex-patriate circle; he is condemned to be a bystander, who can not participate nor have a woman from their group. Strikingly, even Lady Ashley admits that going to San Sebastian with Cohn was the lowest thing she has ever done and that “nobody else [except Cohn] would behave as badlyâ€? (Hemingway 182).The narrator is very thorough in shaping his stereotype, he doesn’t overlook any modest details that appear in Rosenberg’s model of a Jewish stereotype. To illustrate, Lady Ashley continually expresses her need for a bath and demystifies this need by alluding that Cohn left a residue behind and she used the baths and Romero to “wipe out that damned Jewâ€? ( Hemingway 246). Interestingly, this residue is closely related to the pungent odor ascribed by Rosenberg’s mold.Accordingly, the stereotypical Jew is also prone to tragedy as evidenced by the cruel remarks of Lady Ashley’s group. Cohn is constantly reminded of his “sad Jewish faceâ€? that “depresses them soâ€? and “doesn’t add much to the gaietyâ€? (Hemingway 182). Cohn, however, just waves the insults away, undisparaged. Consequently, the characters resort to derogatory ridicule; Bill calls Cohn a “kikeâ€? and comments that “all their Jewish friends are a pain to have aroundâ€? ( Hemingway 163).All in all, The Sun Also Rises is a host to an army of Anti-Semitic themes aimed at Robert Cohn, a stereotyped Jewish character forced to endure insult and outsider status due to his religion. This rampant bias diminishes the value of the story significantly and suggests that “the traits of meanness, corruption, and weakness are somehow bound up with Jewishnessâ€? ( Wagner-Martin 171).Works CitedBloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations “The Sun Also Rises. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishing, 1987.Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926.Knopf, Josephine. “Meyer Wolfsheim and Robert Cohn: A Study of Jewish Type and Stereotype. Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought no.3 (1969): 123-127.Rosenberg, Edgar. From Shylock To Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction. New York: Doubleday, 1965.Vance, William. Twenties, Poetry and Prose: Twenty Critical Essays. Columbus, Ohio: Merril 1966.Wagner-Martin, Linda. Ernest Hemingway: Five Decades of Criticism. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State

Read more