The Characterization of Lady Brett
In the novel by Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, the character named Lady Brett Ashley is assimilated in the words of another character, Mike, with the Greek Goddess Circe. This Goddess is known in Homer’s Odyssey for luring men with her irresistible charms and transforming them into animals. If this myth was to partake in reality, it would be without doubt represented in this novel. The majority of men in the story are tormented and subject to Brett’s physical and sexual assets. The first characterization we get from her is one of a selfish, alcoholic, manipulative, sexual and evil woman who emasculates her male partners.
However, this superficial characterization would ignore the principle of the iceberg which resonates in many of Hemingway’s characters, only one eighth of the meaning lies in the text. It is therefore correct to affirm that Lady Brett Ashley contains a deeper side in her personality that at first read we might not realize. Although, the question remains, can we affirm Brett as a passionate and positive character. In this essay we will discuss the characterization of Lady Brett Ashley, her pivotal role and her evolution at the end of the story.
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The first representation of Lady Brett that we encounter in this novel is one of an emasculating woman, this perception will retain itself throughout the novel. The power this woman has over all these men is a similitude that likens her to Circe: “ ‘He calls her Circe. ‘ Mike said. ‘He claims she turns men into swine’ ” (148). At many instances in the book, we are brought the evidence that the balance of powers in this novel does not shift towards the group of men but the only woman in the circle of Muco 2 friends. In chapter two, when we first meet Brett, she is surrounded by homosexuals.
This, in the time when this story takes place, could have been understood as the emasculation of these men by Lady Brett, in the same image as the wolves and that follow Circe, also symbols of emasculation. This is also present in the relationship between Cohn and Brett. His coward actions in Spain are motivated by the desire to possess Brett, but all men in this novel, except for Cohn himself, seem to have understood that she is cannot be possessed. This leads to a complete self destructive and uncontrolled anger which forces Cohn to leave Pamplona and be excluded from the group.
It is also pride and control over himself that Cohn has lost to Brett, a display of his loss of masculinity. Finally, this perception of an emasculating woman can be pushed further to one that is seen as a goddess. While in the fiesta in Pamplona, a group of dancers, astonished by her beauty stop and dance around Brett, a scene that resembles many dances of devotions to different gods : “ Brett want to dance but they did not want want her to. They wanted her as an image to dance around. When the song ended with the sharp riau-riau! They rushed us into a wine-shop” (159).
Lady Brett ,also, is the representation of a post-war woman. By the strength she brings in this novel, breaking the pre-war code of value and role of women, Brett holds a position in this novel which traditional ,at the time, only men held. While Jake is the narrator, it is clear that the main subject of interest is Brett. Her role as the catalyst of the actions defines this central role and mirrors the renew of women after the war. The participation of women in the war, having experienced the same atrocities, gave many of them the claims that led to the first-wave of feminism.
Lady Brett, is the fictional character that embodies this renewal. This is described in the early stages of the story, when we first meet Brett, she is dressed in an unorthodox manner : “her hair was brushed back like a boy’s. She started all that. She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht and you missed none of it with that wool jersey” (30). She does not only dress like man, she controls men. With the exception of Bill, every men is tormented by her charms, Jake explains this feeling in few words : “To hell with you. Muco 3
Brett Ashley” (152). The couple composed by the new woman that is seen through Brett Ashley, and the broken man that is symbolized by Jake, best represents this shift in the perception gender in a post-war. If seen in this angle, Lady Brett is undoubtedly a positive female model in her times. Thirdly, although she has numerous sexual encounters, Brett is driven by passion, not sex. As said previously, her image consists of a dominating promiscuous female model that devours her male partners, but this interpretation lacks deeper meaning.
Even though she has a relationship with every men, Brett does it out of passion, each of the men represent a side she craves. Jake is the man she loves but cannot have. Cohn is the pre-war values which she embraces but also rejects because she cannot fit a lifestyle limited by them anymore. Romero, seems to be the man that best represents her passionate aspect. She genuinely has feelings for this pure, strong and elegant man who nears perfection in her eyes : “it seems as if she is going to sacrifice another victim to the flames of her passion” (classnotes Jan 2011, 1) .
However, Lady Brett seems to have gone through a maturation, she commits a selfless act for the first time in the novel by sacrificing her needs. She leaves him, knowing he will be better without her. This decisive moment in the novel underlines an unexpected side of Brett, one of a woman that realizes her power over men, and restrains herself from abusing it, a strong display of self-control. An ambiguous question still remains, was this action taken by Lady Brett a true change of heart or a rejection of the demands of Romero, a more ladylike traditional role.
Also, is this characterization of Brett a symbolistic characterization of all strong and emancipated women by Hemingway’s as dangerous to men. Both questions seems to not have a precise and incontestable answer. Lady Brett Ashley is a central character in The Sun Also Rises. Brett’s personality becomes apparent as an amalgam of femininity and masculinity, strength and vulnerability, morality and rupture. She directly becomes the catalyst of the story, appearing as an emasculating force that stirs up the bond between the men in this story.
This emancipated woman is also a symbolic figure of the new post-war Muco 4 woman, that had abandoned the traditional code of values. Throughout the novel, we follow her evolution, and it is only by the end of the novel that she becomes sympathetic to the reader, a selfless act in the name of love is the shift. It is clear much more lies under the alcoholic and promiscuous character of Lady Brett, but it is unclear if the tip of iceberg could retain what lies beneath to be seen, some traditional values still remain, one of them being hiding emotions to deal better with problems.