The Sun Also Rises

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An ex-boxer from Princeton and a writer. He is the only one of the male characters who is not a veteran of the war. He is divorced, and at the beginning of the novel is in a relationship with Frances Clyne, though he drops her after publishing a novel. He believes in love, romance and the ideals he finds in literature but he gets on the nerves of most of the other men in the novel by the way he pathetically hangs around Brett and with his "superior, Jewish" way. He becomes a target for the other men's dissatisfaction.

Robert Cohn Quotes in The Sun Also Rises

The The Sun Also Rises quotes below are all either spoken by Robert Cohn or refer to Robert Cohn. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of The Sun Also Rises published in 1954.
Chapter 1 Quotes
I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together, and I always had a suspicion that perhaps Robert Cohn had never been middleweight boxing champion. – Jake
Related Characters: Jake Barnes (speaker), Robert Cohn
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

The Sun Also Rises opens with an account of Robert Cohn’s boxing career at Princeton. The novel’s narrator, Jake Barnes, seems intent on belittling Cohn’s middleweight title: he suggests that Cohn’s “simple” story is not to be trusted, and wonders whether Cohn’s “flattened nose” was really a boxing-related injury.

Though Jake goes on to dismiss these doubts (citing reports from Cohn’s coach at Princeton, Spider Kelly, who corroborates Cohn’s story) he remains unimpressed by Cohn’s purported title. By targeting Cohn’s successes as a boxer, Jake calls into question Cohn’s masculinity. Competitive sports seem to Jake to be a proxy for strength and honor: the lesser fighter, in Jake’s mind, is perhaps the lesser man.

Though Cohn’s collegiate fighting career is the subject of these lines, Hemingway here reveals as much about Jake as he does about the man Jake describes. Jake is deeply cynical. He claims to be skeptical of anyone who appears honest, believing that stories which “hold together” best are the least likely to have actually happened. Perhaps it is Jake’s own history – rarely mentioned but hardly forgotten – that has left him suspicious of any simple truths or straightforward answers. While Cohn was fighting in the controlled environment of a boxing ring, Jake was in the trenches of World War I. Cohn’s most severe injury is a broken nose; Jake’s is lifelong impotence from a war injury. Though such comparisons are rarely drawn by the narrator himself, they are never too far beneath the surface of Jake's competitive, and often disdainful, accounts of his "friend."

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Chapter 2 Quotes
"I can't stand it to think my life is going so fast and I'm not really living it."
"Nobody ever lives life all the way up except bull-fighters"
Cohn and Jake
Related Characters: Jake Barnes (speaker), Robert Cohn (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bullfighting
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Cohn and Jake discuss plans to travel to South America. Cohn has the vague desire to be “living” more, and Jake seems suspicious of any such attempt. Though Jake can certainly relate to Cohn’s lack of direction, it’s unlikely that Jake shares with Cohn a sense that life is “going so fast” – as a veteran of World War I, Jake has perhaps experienced too much. Jake seems to think that Cohn’s aspirations are naïve, and that life by its very nature is unfulfilling. If Cohn worries about feeling aimless, Jake asks what one can even hope to aim for.

This exchange provides the novel’s first reference to bull fighting, introducing a metaphor that much of The Sun Also Rises is committed to developing. Bull fighting represents to Jake the ideal that war never lived up to: its violence is controlled, its rules set, and its victories legitimate cause for celebration. Bull-fighters have the glory and romance of face-to-face conflict without the lasting traumas of war. To be sure, Jake’s claim that bull-fighters alone know how to live well is perhaps not to be taken at face value. Still, it’s telling that Jake looks to these men – fearless actors in a spectacle of violence – as examples of what “really living” can look like.

"You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. " – Jake
Related Characters: Jake Barnes (speaker), Robert Cohn
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Few quotes from The Sun Also Rises distill the novel’s central ideas better than Jake’s words here. This line comes as a response to Cohn’s proposal to travel abroad to South America. Jake understands, or thinks he understands, that Cohn’s plans are not so much about getting away from Paris as they are about escaping himself – a trip bound to result in disappointment.

Underlying Jake’s cynicism is his experience in the war: the physical, emotional and psychological toll has not lessened on account of Jake’s travels, nor does he expect future travels to accomplish what previous travels could not. Cohn, the only male character in The Sun Also Rises who hasn’t seen war firsthand, has not yet accepted this truth. Escape remains a possibility to him: if only we can change where we are, Cohn seems to think, we can change how we are.

Jake thinks not. And though he is responding most explicitly to Cohn’s travel plans, his words might be extended to other activities detailed in The Sun Also Rises. Endless socializing, heavy drinking, long leisurely meals, romances that come as quickly as they go – all seem attempts to escape oneself, or one’s present environment, through distraction and sedation. In the ensuing drama of The Sun Also Rises, Jake’s pessimistic thesis holds – no man escapes himself.

Chapter 10 Quotes
I have never seen a man in civil life as nervous as Robert Cohn – nor as eager. I was enjoying it. It was lousy to enjoy it, but I felt lousy. Cohn had a wonderful quality of bringing out the worst in anybody. – Jake
Related Characters: Jake Barnes (speaker), Robert Cohn
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

Jake, Robert Cohn, and Bill Gorton are eating dinner in Pamplona when Brett and Mike’s train is scheduled to arrive, so Jake and Cohn head to the train station to pick the fiancées up. As the two men are waiting, Jake offers these words about his companion. By this point tensions between the two are high—Jake is extremely jealous that Cohn has not only fallen in love, but has already had an affair with Brett. Disdain and insecurity are likely behind Jake’s observations here. But his comments are not simply jealous half-truths: he’s seen Robert bring out a disrespectful side of Harvey Stone, nasty spite in Frances, and, most recently, flirtatious treatment from Brett, which Jake can’t help but resent. Cohn is a character whose attempt to do the best for himself directly brings out the worst in others. 

When examining Jake’s portrayal of Cohn, here and elsewhere in the novel, it’s important to consider the role of anti-Semitism. Cohn is the only Jewish character in the novel, and his heritage is mentioned more than a few times. It seems to be no coincidence, then, that he is the most marginalized character, and that in spite of his niceness he just can’t seem to do anything right, managing to seem a threatening presence to Jake no matter his intent.

Chapter 13 Quotes
It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people. – Jake
Related Characters: Jake Barnes (speaker), Robert Cohn, Lady Brett Ashley, Bill Gorton, Mike Campbell
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

Jake concludes chapter 13 by referring to the first dinner between Brett, Mike, Robert, Bill, and Jake, after the group has seen a bullfight and tensions between Mike and Cohn have calmed. The war continues to be on Jake’s mind, even in the midst of fighting, partying, and foreign adventure. Nor can its damages be relegated to the distant past: Jake’s current love life is spoiled by the war, his favorite sport is compared to war, the war comes up in conversation with many of his companions, and now the group’s love rivalries seem in some ways analogous to life on the battlefield. Alcohol, as always, seems capable of providing an escape; drinking is a way for these travelers to numb their feelings and distort their perception of the present into something bearable, if only briefly.

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Robert Cohn Character Timeline in The Sun Also Rises

The timeline below shows where the character Robert Cohn appears in The Sun Also Rises. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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The narrator, Jake Barnes, describes Robert Cohn, who was a middleweight boxing champion in college at Princeton University. Born into an old,... (full context)
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Jake comments that he naturally distrusts anyone who seems as simple and honest as Cohn, but after some checking around he did verify that Cohn was in fact what he... (full context)
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Cohn emerged from college shy and self-conscious, and quickly married the first girl who was nice... (full context)
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Cohn moved to California after the divorce. He fell in with a literary crowd and began... (full context)
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When the magazine failed, Frances decided to get what she could from Cohn, and got him to take her to Europe. They settled in Paris. Cohn lives on... (full context)
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...this same time, Frances realizes that she's losing her good looks and shifts from treating Cohn carelessly to trying to get him to marry her. Jake notices this change in Frances... (full context)
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Later, Cohn walks Jake out of the café and scolds Jake for making Frances jealous. Any mention... (full context)
Chapter 2
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That winter, Robert Cohn takes his novel to America and it is accepted by a publisher, and several women... (full context)
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Cohn is at the same time having a lucky streak with bridge, and becomes vain about... (full context)
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Jake realizes how affected Cohn has been by the book when Cohn comes to Jake's office and asks him to... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Jake excuses himself to return to his office. Cohn asks to come and sit with him. While Jake works, Cohn falls asleep. Later, wanting... (full context)
Chapter 3
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After Cohn leaves, Jake goes by himself to a café and watches the crowds. He is interested... (full context)
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...calling out to him. He sees a group of his friends, including Frances and Robert Cohn sitting at another table. (full context)
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Brett walks over to Jake. As they greet each other, Jake notices Cohn looking at the "damned good-looking" Brett, as if towards the "promised land." Brett jokes with... (full context)
Chapter 5
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In his office, Jake finds Cohn waiting for him. Cohn asks Jake to lunch. At the restaurant, Jake asks if Cohn... (full context)
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Cohn then asks Jake about Lady Brett Ashley. Jake tells him what he knows: that she's... (full context)
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Cohn accuses Jake of sounding bitter, and. Jake tells Cohn to go to hell. Cohn stands... (full context)
Chapter 6
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As the two of them talk and drink, they spot Cohn, who is waiting for Frances. Harvey insults Cohn, calling him a moron, and then asks... (full context)
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Cohn says his writing isn't going very well, that it's harder than the first time. Jake,... (full context)
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...arrives, and asks to speak privately with Jake. When they're alone, she tells Jake that Cohn has refused to marry her, saying that he just can't do it. She worries that... (full context)
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Back with Cohn, Frances, with obviously sarcastic cheerfulness, tells Jake that Cohn has given her two hundred francs... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Jake doesn't see Brett or Cohn for a good long while. He receives one brief, appropriately warm postcard from Brett in... (full context)
Chapter 9
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The next morning, Jake gets a telegraph from Cohn, who says he's in the country having a quiet time, playing golf and bridge, but... (full context)
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Once they're alone, Brett asks Jake if Cohn is coming on the trip. When she learns that he is, she worries that it... (full context)
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Four days later, Brett tells Jake that she's heard back from Cohn, who wants to come even though he knows that Brett and Mike will be there... (full context)
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They meet Cohn at the station in Bayonne. He is shy around Bill, because he's read Bill's books.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...like leaving, but they sort out the money for the rooms. While they wait for Cohn to finish up in his room, Jake sees a cockroach and they say it must... (full context)
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Cohn joins them and the cab and driver arrives. Soon they are out in the country,... (full context)
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Cohn tries to cancel one of the meat courses. He seems nervous, and doesn't know that... (full context)
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At dinner, Cohn arrives shaved, shampooed, and nervous. Brett and Mike are due on the train, and Cohn... (full context)
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...they return to the hotel, Bill asks if he can pay off the bet later. Cohn tells him to forget the bet. He'd rather bet on something else, like the bullfights.... (full context)
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...card from Brett, saying they've stopped in San Sebastian. Jake, jealous and angry, spitefully tells Cohn that they send their regards. The men decide to get the earliest bus the next... (full context)
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Later, Cohn announces that he has decided he won't leave with them. In a confidential tone, he... (full context)
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Back at the hotel, Bill says that Cohn told him all about the date with Brett, which makes Jake angry. Bill comments that... (full context)
Chapter 11
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The next morning, Jake and Bill leave Cohn behind and board a bus to go to a small rural town of Burguete. The... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...is. Harris tells him it's Wednesday. Later that same day they receive a telegram from Cohn, which says that he will arrive in Burgueta on Thursday. They respond that instead they... (full context)
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Afterwards, they go to a café and discuss the unloading. Cohn jokes that he wouldn't want to be a steer, at which Mike erupts in fury,... (full context)
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...everything, the group has a nice meal. Brett looks stunning in a black dress, and Cohn watches her relentlessly. Jake likens it to dinners during the war, when everyone ignored the... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Jake then starts thinking about morality and about Mike's insults of Cohn. He feels bad for Cohn and wishes that Mike hadn't done that, but admits to... (full context)
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...town. In the mornings of those quiet two days, they all keep their own time, Cohn getting shaves, Jake taking walks, all meeting up for drinks. On the day before the... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...he returns he finds the others singing and dancing, while Mike eating with some locals. Cohn, they tell him, has passed out. Bill says lightly that he thinks Cohn is dead.... (full context)
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After his nap Cohn reappears, and the group walks to the hotel and have a big meal. The restaurant... (full context)
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...begin that afternoon. Jake and Bill sit close to the action, while Brett, Mike and Cohn sit further up in the stands. Jake warns Brett not to look when the horses... (full context)
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...mentions Romero, Mike says she couldn't keep her eyes off him. Mike then adds that Cohn, in contrast, was made sick by the gore. Brett says she wants to sit below... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Mike now once again starts to insult Cohn, shouting at him to go away, begging him to see when he isn't wanted, and... (full context)
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...to go off and make fun of the English tourists. Brett decides to stay behind. Cohn tries to stay with her, but she snaps at him to get going because she... (full context)
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When they're alone, Brett complains to Jake about Mike and Cohn's behaviors, both of which she finds disgusting. Jake defends Mike, saying how hard it's been... (full context)
Chapter 17
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They go to another café, where Cohn finds them. He demands to know where Brett is. Jake claims not to know, but... (full context)
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When Jake gets in to the hotel, Bill tells him that Cohn wants to see him. Jake doesn't want to, but finally gives in when Bill insists.... (full context)
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Back in the hotel, as Jake tries and fails to sleep, he curses Cohn for believing in true love. Then Mike and Bill knock on the door. They tell... (full context)
Chapter 18
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By the next morning, Cohn has left Pamplona. Brett, looking beautiful but with shaking hands, meets Jake, Bill, and Mike... (full context)
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...in a row, which makes him feel slightly better. Bill says he is sorry for Cohn, and Jake speculates that he'll go back to Frances. Despite everything they agree that the... (full context)