The End of The Sun Also Rises Based on all of the readings we have done so far in this class, I would not have expected an ending from a Hemingway story so particularly poignant and effective as the one found in The Sun Also Rises. Where most of his other stories seem to simply end altogether (with the exception of “Hills Like White Elephants,” which has a particularly thought-provoking ending), this one seems to have a particular quality of contentedness and catharsis that, in the last pages, is halted and replaced with something of a punch in the gut.
Book III, also Chapter 19, starts with the three remaining men, Jake, Bill and Mike, going their separate ways, and for several pages Jake goes on about his further experiences in France and Spain. In detail he describes what he does most days, that he drinks alone, and that he feels comfortable in this lonesome reprieve, in the simplicity of France where one needs only make friends by paying them.
He then goes on about the extended details of his stay on the Spanish beach of San Sebastian, which, similarly, has a very peaceful quality to it. This is a very cathartic section of the book, and there’s never any kind of impediment to Jake’s peace in his lonesome vacation.
This catharsis is completely broken upon the reappearance of Brett in his life. Her romance appears so false and spur-the-moment when it happens that the book almost seems above mentioning it again when she is revealed to have gone off with the man to God Knows Where, until Jake receives a telegram from Madrid from Brett, saying she’s gotten into some trouble and that she wants him to come see her.
Noting Jake and Brett’s sexual and romantic tension is important for the next scenes, because before Jake had peace and catharsis with the mess of the fiesta behind him, with Brett gone. Now that she leaves the bullfighter, she ropes him in again, and his peace is gone. The book puts this symbolically by insisting that the trains stop in Madrid, that this is where it all ends and the only direction is back from whence you came, and the interpretation here is that Jake is going back to the tension he experiences with Brett.
Most brilliantly, the chapter, and the book, ends with a passage about Jake getting drunk, presumably because he knows it’s all downhill from here, and Brett implores him not to get drunk but Jake insists he isn’t. The final lines of the book have Brett remarking on how they’d have had such a great romance. The car then slows suddenly and causes them to press against each other, and Jake, almost sarcastically, shoots back, saying, “Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so?” This is the culmination of their romantic subplot, or lack thereof. Jake can’t escape Brett, coming at her beck and call, and Brett can’t actually have Jake because Jake can’t satisfy her, so here they are, Brett wishing things could have been different, and Jake shooting her down because he is definitely not happy about this situation.