That winter, Robert Cohn takes his novel to America and it is accepted by a publisher, and several women are nice to him while he's in New York. He comes back changed, more aware of his attractiveness, and less pleasant. His new popularity and the praise he gets for his novel have gone to his head and his horizons have changed. After being focused on Frances for four years, he now sees beyond her.
As Cohn becomes successful, his "love" for Frances evaporates. Relationships are changeable, dependent on travel and activity and status, rather than love or sexual passion. The change of Cohn from self-conscious to arrogant transforms his role in the group, making him a masculine competitor.
Cohn is at the same time having a lucky streak with bridge, and becomes vain about this too, boasting that, if necessary, he could make a living from playing cards. He also becomes obsessed by a book called The Purple Land, a romantic tale about an English gentleman traveling abroad, which Jake says is a dangerous text to take seriously too late in life. Cohn is doing exactly that. He seems to be taking it as a guidebook for life.
The Lost Generation lives by playing games and gambling. Success and happiness is as superficial and temporary as a good or a bad game of bridge. Despite his success, Cohn continues to believe in romance, chivalry, and adventure. Jake, having experienced the war, views these as false and dangerous ideas.
Jake realizes how affected Cohn has been by the book when Cohn comes to Jake's office and asks him to go with him to South America. Jake responds that everything he could want is already in Paris and that all countries look like they do in films, but Cohn persists. He keeps saying that he is wasting his life and that he needs to go to South America. Jake responds that only bullfighters live their lives to the fullest.
Cohn wants to life a full life. Jake thinks any such desire is ridiculous—that the only way to live life to the fullest is to constantly face death, as the bullfighters do. This suggests that WWI affected its veterans not just by stealing their belief in nearly everything, but also by being so intense that nothing else feels real.
Jake suggests they have a drink, intending to then leave Cohn in the bar and come back to the office. Cohn continues the same argument in the bar, saying that they will be dead in thirty-five years, which angers Jake. Jake tells Cohn, from personal experience, that you can't escape yourself just by moving from place to place. But Jake decides this argument is useless because these ideas are stuck in Cohn's head from, Jake assumes, books like The Purple Land.
Though Jake advises Cohn not to try to avoid himself as it doesn't work, he continues to avoid hard truths himself, as indicated by his anger when Cohn forces him to briefly confront the idea of death. Jake's comment that all cities look like they do in films is profoundly skeptical, as he is basically saying that nothing is real, or any more real than fictional representations of it.
Jake excuses himself to return to his office. Cohn asks to come and sit with him. While Jake works, Cohn falls asleep. Later, wanting to go home for the night, Jake touches Cohn's shoulder to wake him and hears Cohn sleep-talking, saying things like 'I can't do it'. When he wakes up, Cohn admits it was a bad dream and says that he didn't sleep the night before because of "talking". Jake imagines this talking must involve a "bedroom scene" and says he has a bad habit of imagining these scenes of his friends. They go out again for a drink and to watch the crowds.
The masculine competition and insecurity changes here as Cohn appears like a child having a nightmare, and Jake, watching over him, like a father. Traditionally, men were supposed to "do" things. Cohn's being unable to "do it" is a nightmare of masculine insecurity. Now, instead of doing things, the men are always "talking," a traditionally more feminine activity. Jake, meanwhile, imagines the bedroom scenes of his friends, but none of them actually discuss these issues. They talk without any real content, and further avoid any real issues by going out to drink and people-watch.