The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 2, Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

Jake and Bill say goodbye to the Englishman, Harris, who had survived the war and bonded with the Americans over fishing and drinking. Jake and Bill travel to Pamplona, where they meet up with Brett and Mike at the Montoya hotel. Montoya awaits Jake's arrival every year and always offers him the best room. Jake is an aficionado, "one who is passionate about the bullfights," which Montoya appreciates in a foreigner. All the good bullfighters and the resident aficionados stay at Montoya's hotel, and he is proud to have cultivated such a respectable community.

Bill has never been to a Pamplona fiesta, so Jake describes what he should expect during the running of the bulls. Outside on the square they meet up with Brett, Mike, and Cohn. Brett is annoyed that Cohn stayed behind to ensure her safe arrival to Pamplona. She tries to talk up Mike to the other "chaps," but he is uninterested in sharing his war stories because they "reflect discredit on me." Eventually he gives in and tells a story about picking up a suit from the tailor that was full of medals he hadn't earned. Rather than give them back Mike handed out all the medals to beautiful women in clubs. Later the tailor frantically phoned to get the medals back, but Mike had no idea where they were. Everyone laughs at the story. Mike used to pay the tailor a hundred pounds a year to "keep him quiet," but he is now bankrupt.

The group travels down to the arena to see the bulls and assess their strength. The bulls are all released from their cages and stampede dominantly into the arena. The steers (castrated bulls) are there to help calm the angry bulls and form them into a herd. One of the steers is gored and therefore excluded from the herd. At the bar later Cohn laments he would hate to be a steer, which prompts an angry response from Mike, who is sick of the lovesick Cohn following Brett around: "Is Robert Cohn going to follow Brett around like a steer all the time? ... What if Brett did sleep with you? She's slept with lots of better people than you." Cohn is stricken but does not fight back. Bill takes Cohn for a walk to clear the air, and everyone else agrees to blame the unpleasantness on alcohol. With Cohn gone Mike admits to knowing all about Brett's affairs, but they never bothered him because none of the men hung around like Cohn has done. Additionally Mike points out Cohn is a Jew. Back at the hotel Jake and Montoya discuss the bulls.

Analysis

This section is the first to definitively present Brett as a bullfighter and the competing men as bulls. Brett has each of the men wrapped around her finger, and each comes running as soon as she calls, just as a bull charges at the bullfighter's red cape. Jake rushes to Pamplona, despite the lovely time he has fishing, as soon as Brett telegraphs. Similarly Cohn waits anxiously for Brett's arrival, even skipping the fishing trip to be sure she arrives safely, and follows her around like a lost puppy. Brett uses the men's affects to pit them against each other, cutting them down one moment but showing affection the next. Because Jake cannot actually compete for Brett's love, he is relegated to the role of a steer. In the novel the castrated steers rally the raging bulls into forming a herd. In much the same way Jake rushes around tending to the needs of his friends, helping ensure everyone has a good time. Later in the novel Jake goes so far as to help Brett sleep with Pedro Romero, despite being in love with her himself. Within the symbolism of bullfighting, Cohn represents the gored steer, which none of the other bulls want in the herd. Because Cohn never served in the war, is Jewish, and does not share their disillusionment, the rest of the men taunt and humiliate him.

Jake feels at home in Pamplona because he is a member of Montoya's inner circle of bullfighters and aficionados. This sense of belonging is unique because Jake and Montoya share a mutual interest, as Jake and Bill do with fishing, which leaves the rest of Jake's friends feeling out of place. As soon as he sees Jake's friends, Montoya recognizes they don't share Jake's passions, which leaves him feeling skeptical. Later in the novel Montoya reveals his fears that Americans will corrupt Romero's talent. In his original assessment of Jake's friends he rightly seems to recognize them as negative, not positive, forces at the fiesta. Nevertheless Montoya welcomes Jake and his friends with open arms, looking past Jake's flawed friendships out of respect for their shared passion.

Mike's story about the medals highlights the characters' disillusionment with the war. Although The Sun Also Rises is considered war literature, there are no scenes or discussion of battle. Mike's story is as close as the novel comes to discussing the war outright. Rather than discussing his experiences in the trenches or the reason he was given medals at all, Mike tells a humorous story about giving away another soldier's medals. Everyone laughs at the story although it is heartbreaking to think about, showing how emotionally disconnected the lost generation is from the war. The story ends with Mike's bankruptcy, which is a modern-day emasculation.

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