We can find Hemingway’s two distinct personalities in The Sun Also Rises; they are found in Jake and Robert. Although Jake (“the weaker man”) and Robert (“the robust”) have unique metaphysical qualities in separate spheres, as in a Venn diagram, the places at which they overlap are in the physical text and within the mind and body of Ernest Hemingway. For example, at Hemingway’s best, “he was good tempered, high-spirited, ambitious, confident, and courageous. He awoke each morning eager to face life. He invariably saw the humorous side of things and made fun of himself and others, displaying a talent for repartee” (Brian 318). We see in Jake the same ability to draw humor from otherwise depressing situations, such as when talking to Brett about his injury: “Besides, what happened to me [the “accident”] is supposed to be funny. I never think about it” (Hemingway 34); “It’s funny,’ I said. ‘It’s very funny” (35). Again, while looking in the mirror of an armoire, he finds a dark humor in his situation: “Of all the ways to be wounded. I suppose it [the “accident”] was funny” (38). Jake also finds humor in the liaison colonel’s visit to his bedside; however, this is a humor that is apparent only to Jake, but not yet made apparent to the reader: “That was where the liaison colonel came to visit me. That was funny. That was about the first funny thing” (39). These seemingly light moments from Jake are congruent with Hemingway’s sometimes passive and humorous approach to life (that is, unless Jake means “funny” as in “strange”). However, there are also darker parts of Hemingway that we find concealed in the text, yet these are attributed to an entirely different character, i.e. Robert Cohn, so as to make them appear to be unrelated to the other characteristics.
It has been argued that Hemingway modeled Robert Cohn after a friend Harold Loeb; however, Loeb states in an interview with Denis Brian, “He gave an account of my marriage and my editing of a magazine, but then he gave me a character I didn’t recognize” (Brian 57). Denis Brian expounds on this deviation:
When Loeb asked Hemingway why he had portrayed Cohn as a wimp who cried all the time, Hemingway denied the character was based on Loeb, saying that if Loeb was Cohn, then he, Hemingway, must be Jake Barnes. ‘Do you think I had my prick shot off?’ he asked somewhat rhetorically. ‘And incidentally,’ Hemingway concluded, ‘you do cry an awful lot for a man.’ So did Hemingway. (Brian 57)
While this further supports the theory that Jacob may not have had his “prick shot off,” it also serves to highlight further emotional congruence between Hemingway and each of the main characters of The Sun Also Rises. For instance, Hemingway “at times…apologized for his behavior and was easily moved to tears” (Brian 319), a similar behavior we find in Robert Cohn. “At his arrogant, aggressive worst he went around spoiling for a fight,” which serves as another parallel we see by way of Robert’s frustrated attempts to woo Lady Brett resulting in a fight (Hemingway 194-195). Whenever Frances, Robert’s fiancée, brings up the issue of marriage to Robert she says they “have dreadful scenes, and he cries and begs me [Frances] to be reasonable” (Hemingway 54), and “when I [Frances] tell him he just cries and says he can’t marry” (54).
These emotional responses overlap with Jake’s sudden breakdown when thinking about his “accident”: “I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn’t keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it went away. I was thinking about Brett and my mind stopped jumping around and started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry” (Hemingway 39). This is again part of his covert “necessity to hide or disguise what he was compelled to express” (Benson qtd. in Brian 5), which was a struggle with his masculinity and his emotions.