The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 2, Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

The fiesta begins. The entire city comes alive for the celebration. Once relaxing and calm, Jake notes the café now looks "like a battleship stripped for action." As Jake and his friends sit drinking in a café, fireworks sound, announcing the official start of the fiesta. A parade marches past, with the "village idiot" leading a group of children with his pipe. Everywhere dancers and musicians build atmosphere and create a sense of riot. A group of men begin dancing with Brett, but when she tries to join in they stop her: "They wanted her as an image to dance around." Jake and his friends are welcomed into a wine shop, where they drink alongside the locals. Jake leaves the party to buy two large wine skins, which he passes around the crowd. Mike joins some local men at the table, sharing their meal. Cohn has passed out in the back room of the café. A couple of hours later Brett leaves to bathe and the rest of the "chaps" return to the hotel for dinner. They drink heavily, and Jake stumbles back to his room. The door is locked, however, so he sleeps on Cohn's couch. He awakens to the sound of fireworks announcing the first running of the bulls, which he watches from Cohn's balcony. He sees the stream of people rushing away from the stampeding bulls, and one man gets knocked down.

The next morning they watch the first day of bullfights. Brett has never seen a bullfight before and feels nervous about the violence, but Cohn is only worried that he will be "bored," which infuriates Bill, who laments Cohn's "Jewish superiority." Before the fight Montoya introduces Jake and Bill to the most promising new bullfighter, Pedro Romero. Romero is 19 years old and the "best-looking boy" Jake has ever seen. During the bullfight Romero proves he is the "real one. There had not been an real one for a long time." In the bar afterward Brett admits she couldn't take her eyes off Romero, and she didn't feel badly at all about the violence. Michael pokes fun at Cohn, teasing about whether he was "bored," but though Cohn felt sick at times he agrees bullfighting makes a "wonderful show."

The next day there is more bullfighting, and Jake explains to Brett why Romero's technique is superior to all the others. Mike observes Brett is "falling in love" with Romero.

Analysis

In this chapter the reader meets Pedro Romero, the novel's last important character. Romero stands out from the rest of the bullfighters for many reasons: he is young, handsome, and supremely talented. He embodies all the masculine characteristics revered in the novel: he excels at a blood sport, is well mannered and noble, strong, handsome, and although not a veteran he stoically faces death. In many ways young Romero represents who soldiers like Jake and Mike were before the war, or at least who they might have wished to be. Montoya refers to Romero as a "real" bullfighter, but in a novel concerned with masculinity and competition he could just as easily have called Romero a "real" man. Jake observes, "Romero had the old thing, the holding of his purity of line through the maximum of exposure, while he dominated the bull by making him realize he was unattainable, while he prepared him for the killing."

Although Jake feels at home in Spain during the fiesta, he is undoubtedly an outsider. The characters discuss what it means to belong when realizing, "We're the foreigners." As expatriates and members of the lost generation Jake, Brett, Mike, Bill, and Cohn will always be outsiders. They wander from place to place—and for Brett, relationship to relationship—searching for a sense of belonging. The fiesta likely excites the characters because it allows them to feel intense emotions like passion, fear, and outrage, which have been suppressed since the war. Interestingly all those who experienced the war firsthand are able to stomach the bullfight's violence, while it sickens Cohn, the only wartime civilian.

Brett's treatment by locals gives readers further insight into gender expectations. She is a beautiful woman so the locals lavish her with attention, yet they don't want Brett to engage in their revelry: "They wanted her as an image to dance around." This parallels the way most of the main male characters treat Brett. They consider her an equal, yet they still objectify her. First Cohn and later Romero want to change Brett's character. They desire to tame her spirit and transform her into a traditional woman in a traditional relationship. Being with Brett is a badge of honor, yet only Mike—who remains engaged to Brett despite her many infidelities—accepts her for who she really is.

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