In the first chapter, the reader is introduced to both Jake Barnes and Robert Cohn.
As Jake describes Cohn and criticizes his personality and behavior, the narrator is revealing much about himself as well. Jake’s cynicism is developed through the foil of the nave and somewhat doltish Cohn. Jake keeps a distant, noncommittal stance from this passive man, just as he keeps a distant, noncommittal stance on life and relationships in general with the help of his ironic views.
Cohn is a good target for Jake to practice his irony on. He is a man without a healthy sense of his own limitations. Moreover, Cohn wants to be Jake’s friend and goes about culling Jake’s favor in exactly the opposite way Jake likes. He continually checks with Jake about Jake’s feelings.
Since Jake is a man who works hard to avoid dealing with his feelings, he develops a special dislike of Cohn. He also sees in Cohn a part of himself that is disgusting, a romantic side that he would like to desert forever, but that he cannot escape. He also resents Cohn because he has not been through the war and lost his idealism. As a result, Jake believes that Cohn still acts like an immature boy. Despite his feelings about Cohn, Jake does not admit his dislike openly. In fact, he says he likes Cohn.
It is in his subtle critique of all of Cohn’s life choices that his dislike of this passive creature is clearly revealed. OVERALL ANALYSES CHARACTERS Jacob Barnes Jake is a spectator character. He watches the others and largely stays in control. He enjoys easy camaraderie and dislikes false sentimentality. He is happiest when his life is structured by steady work, either at the newspaper or with fishing.
He is also happiest when out of the city and away from women. He is flawed, a flaw marked physically by his wound, which makes him impotent, but one that shows up on the level of personality as well. His weakness is in his inability to separate from Brett. He goes along with her desire for Romero and in so doing, he violates the code that he so much respects.