The Sun Also Rises begins with a brief description of Robert Cohn, and Jake Barness early relationship with him in Paris. Jake Barnes is the narrator, and he explains that Cohn had been a boxing champion at Princeton, and that this title mattered a great deal to Cohn. Cohn, who is Jewish, had not encountered anti-Semitism until college, and Jake says that this prejudice had made him bitter. Boxing became a way for Cohn to deal with that bitterness. Cohn had married after college, but the marriage did not succeed, and he began pursuing a literary career. Eventually, Cohn had become editor of a literary review but had been forced to close it when it became expensive. But Frances, the woman who became interested in him in the process, had convinced him to come to Europe to write. Cohn meets Jake in Europe, where they play tennis together. Jake depicts Frances as a woman who wants to quickly marry Cohn, and who is concerned that she might be getting too old to keep Cohns attention.
Cohn finishes his novel and returns to New York when it is published. When he comes back, Jake notices that Cohn has changed, and that the attention he received from women in New York has damaged his relationship with Frances. Apart from the attention, Cohn also had won money playing bridge, and had read a book that provided an unrealistic picture of foreign travel, The Purple Land by W.H. Hudson. The book convinces Cohn that he should visit South America. He has become bored with Paris, and wants to go somewhere where things happen.
Analysis, Chapters I – II
Jakes portrait of Cohn is interesting because it is complex and ambiguous. Jake seems capable of genuine admiration for Cohn, as in his boxing ability, and perhaps even sympathy, but these things are often overcome by his frustration and annoyance with Cohn. Cohn will almost become the antagonist of the novel, with an understanding of the world that is quite different from Jakes, Bretts, and many others. These first two chapters depict some of the things that Jake considers important parts of that difference. Cohn has an inflated ego, and Jake works against that from the first page.