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In Our Time | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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In Our Time | Chapter 14 | Summary



The bullfighter Maera lies face down in the ring. He can feel the bull goring him. He feels one thrust go all the way through him and into the sand.

The narrator reports that someone seizes the bull by the tail. Others swear at the bull and wave a cape.

Maera is then aware the bull is gone. Stretcher bearers take Maera from the ring and lay him down on a cot, and the doctor is sent for. He has been sewing up the picador horses. Maera feels "everything getting larger and larger and then smaller and smaller." These distortions repeat themselves. Then Maera dies.


Hemingway sets himself a challenge in this vignette. He represents a character's death partially through the dying character's eyes. At first, the perspective is the third-person narrator's. He is focused on Maera's perceptions, but he is the one reporting: "Maera felt everything getting larger and larger ..." As Maera's dying progresses, the narrator moves closer to Maera's experience. Now it is Maera's perspective: "Then it got larger and larger and larger and then smaller and smaller."

Sometimes the narrator's perspective includes things Maera could not know. The narrator knows the doctor has been attending to the horses and has to stop and wash his hands. The final shift in perceptions signals Maera's death. Readers get Maera's perception of time like a "cinematograph film." When Maera dies, he has no perceptions anymore, so the perspective switches to the third-person narrator: "Then he was dead."

Hemingway's other challenge is to present Maera's death as sensory perceptions and not thoughts. Since no one can say exactly what dying is like, Hemingway must choose a way to represent it. He focuses on distortions in Maera's perception of time and space. As the dying man's perceptions of space become distorted, he perceives things as larger or smaller. As his sense of time becomes distorted "everything commenced to run faster and faster as when they speed up a cinematograph film."

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