Chapter I introduces us to Robert Cohn, who will serve as a foil to the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Jake Barnes. Cohn is descended from two prominent New York Jewish families. He encountered anti-Semitism in college, at Princeton, and learned to box as a response to it. Soon after college, Cohn married a wealthy woman with whom he had three children, but his wife left him for a painter. Cohn founded a journal and then became involved with a jealous and controlling woman named Frances who was determined to marry him. He traveled with her to Europe, settling in Paris after a year. They have stayed for two years. Financially supported by his mother, Cohn wrote a novel that was not well-received by critics.
After his return from a trip to America, Robert Cohn visits Jake Barnes in the offices of the newspaper where Jake works, in Paris. Cohn suggests a trip to South America, even offering to pay Jake’s way, but Jake declines, suggesting British East Africa and then encouraging Cohn to enjoy Paris itself. The two share a drink, after which Jake returns to work and Cohn falls asleep in a chair outside Jake’s office.Sitting in an outdoor café, Jake picks up a prostitute named Georgette and they ride a horse-drawn cab into Paris’s Latin Quarter. Sharing dinner at a restaurant there, Jake and Georgette are discovered by a group of North Americans: Robert Cohn and Frances, Jake’s friend Braddocks and his wife, and some others. The group goes dancing at a nightclub, where a woman named Brett (also known as Lady Ashley, because she is a titled British aristocrat) appears in the company of a group of homosexual men. Cohn is obviously attracted to Brett, who seems to have been involved with Jake at some time in the past.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
(Jake admits to the reader that her arrival with the gay men makes him angry, while Brett seems jealous of Georgette.) Brett suggests to Jake that they leave the club. They hail a cab, and Brett tells Jake she has been miserable.As they ride through the streets of Paris in a cab, Jake tries to kiss Brett, but she withdraws, telling him that, although she loves him, she “can’t stand it.” They talk elliptically about Jake’s condition before rejoining their friends at a café in the Montparnasse section of the city.
The Count Mippipopolous joins the group, and Jake learns that Georgette has gone home after causing a scene at the dance club. Cohn and Frances have gone home, too. Jake leaves Brett with the Count and goes home himself, where he lies in bed, drunk and miserable. He sleeps, only to be awakened at 4:30 by an extremely intoxicated Brett.
They share a drink, she tells him that the Count has invited her to travel with him, and Jake finally.