Summary: Chapter III
After Cohn leaves, Jake continues to sit in the café. He catches the eye of a pretty prostitute named Georgette. They have a drink together, and Jake decides it would be nice to have dinner with someone. They catch a horse cab to find a restaurant. While in the cab, Georgette makes a pass at Jake. Jake refuses her, saying he is sick. At dinner he explains that he received a wound in the war that makes such sexual dalliances impossible for him. Georgette exclaims against “that dirty war,” but Jake is in no mood to talk about it. He escapes from the conversation when a group of his friends—Cohn and Frances among them—hails him from a nearby table. They invite him and Georgette to go dancing.
The club is hot and crowded. Lady Brett Ashley arrives with a crowd of callow young men wearing jerseys. Jake reacts with hostility to Brett’s male friends. Brett states that she can “safely” get drunk around these friends. Jake states that one of these men dances “big-hippily.” He says that he knows he should be “tolerant” but that he cannot help being “disgusted”—the implication is that these men are homosexuals. Cohn asks Jake to go for a drink, and Brett joins them. Cohn immediately becomes infatuated with her, and he tries unsuccessfully to persuade her to dance with him. Jake and Brett leave the club together. Before he goes, Jake leaves fifty francs with the club patronne, or owner, telling him to give it to Georgette if she asks for him. Once she and Jake get into a taxi, Brett declares that she is miserable.
Summary: Chapter IV
As they ride through the streets of Paris in the taxi, Jake kisses Brett, but she tells him to stop. They love one another, but Brett refuses to have a romantic relationship because Jake cannot have sex. Brett laments their fate, saying that she is now paying for all the “hell” she has made men endure. Jake disingenuously remarks that he finds his war wound funny and rarely thinks about it. As they head to a café to drink, Brett asks Jake to kiss her once more before they arrive. At the café, Jake and Brett again run into their friends. A man called Zizi introduces them to Count Mippipopolous, a Greek man who takes an immediate interest in Brett. Jake and Brett make an appointment to meet the next day, and Jake leaves to return home for the night.
Jake arrives at home, takes his mail from the concierge, and goes to his room. When he gets into bed, he begins to think about his wound. He received it while flying a mission on a “joke front” in Italy. Other people make more of a fuss out of it than he does. He remembers a colonel who visited him in the hospital and said that Jake had “given more than his life.” He supposes he would never have had any trouble if he had never met Brett. He begins to cry before drifting off to sleep. After four in the morning, Brett wakes him up by making a drunken scene trying to get past the concierge. The count is waiting outside in his car. Jake lets her up to his room, and Brett reports that the count offered her ten thousand dollars to go to Biarritz, on the southern coast of France, with him, but she turned him down. She wants Jake to go out with them, but he declines. He tries to persuade her to stay, kissing her, but she refuses.
Analysis: Chapters III–IV
In his narration, Jake never directly refers to the aimlessness and purposelessness of his own life and the lives of his friends, but he often implies it. Though he never states that he and his friends suffer from a lack of meaning in their lives, he reveals the absence of meaning through his descriptions of their activities. All the conversations he repeats are full of trite expressions; he and Georgette, for example, agree that the war was a “calamity for civilization,” and Jake remarks that they come dangerously close to agreeing that it “would have best been avoided”—a comment that marks the very height of banality. Georgette and Frances talk about whether Paris is clean or dirty and whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. Jake and his friends allfollow the same schedule: wake up, work for a few hours, have lunch, drink, meet a friend, drink, go to a café, drink, go to a club, drink, go home, drink, go to sleep. They are constantly moving from one place to another in an endless procession of social appointments, always drinking copious amounts of alcohol, seemingly never having conversations of any substance. In short, they live a decadent lifestyle devoid of meaning, direction, and emotional connection. Jake’s trite conversation with Georgette about the war reveals the extent to which the struggle to cope with the terrible conflict lies at the heart of the Lost Generation’s search for meaning. Members of this generation cannot really express what the war has done to them, which stifles them emotionally and psychologically.
When we learn about the mysterious wound that has rendered Jake incapable of having sex but still capable of experiencing sexual desire, his anxiety regarding his masculinity becomes more urgent. His impotence symbolizes the emasculation of World War I veterans. Soldiers suffering from shell shock were considered effeminate and weak. The horrific conditions of trench warfare shattered prewar notions of masculinity, as stoic courage under fire was hardly possible in the trenches. Moreover, the war often involved sitting helplessly under enemy bombardment. This powerless state hardly conformed to the prewar ideal of the tough, masculine soldier who fights with courage to perform his duty. Jake and other soldiers like him were confronted with the task of redefining their masculinity, and Jake’s anxiety reveals that he has been unsuccessful so far in this regard.