The Sun Also Rises | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises | Book 2, Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

On the final day of the fiesta Mike, Bill, Brett, and Jake share a meal. Mike flips over the table after a heated exchange with Brett about her relationship with Romero, but Brett does not seem bothered: "Brett was radiant. She was happy." Brett asks to go into a church to pray for Romero's final bullfight, but Brett quickly feels uncomfortable and returns to the hotel to care for Romero's injuries.

At the bullfight Brett comments "one doesn't mind the blood." Romero gives Brett his cape, but she is not sure what to do with it. Another bullfighter, Belmonte, draws boos and condemnations from the crowd when he does not give them the "tragic sensations" they desire. Belmonte had once been considered a bullfighting legend, but when he came out of retirement and returned to the ring he was never able to live up to his legacy. The audience sees him as an illusionist, creating the image of tension without ever being in danger. Romero performs brilliantly despite his many injuries. He kills the bull that gored the man the previous night, cutting off and presenting its ear to Brett in the crowd. Romero is carried like a hero out of the ring.

On the last evening of the fiesta Jake and Bill go out drinking. Jake muses that Cohn will probably get back with Frances, and Bill describes the fiesta as a "wonderful nightmare." Jake agrees, saying he believes in nightmares. Jake drinks to attempt to get over feeling depressed. Brett and Romero leave for Madrid. Bill, Jake, and Mike share one final drink, though Jake thinks "it seemed as though about six people were missing."

Analysis

For each of the characters, personal conflicts come to a close in the final chapter of Book 2. Brett has made her romantic choice—Romero—and those who cannot accept it simply fade away. Cohn leaves immediately, while Jake and Mike fade out of the scene as the narration focuses solely on Romero's spectacular performance during the final fight and—symbolically fitting—his victory. There are hints of foreboding, however, despite Brett's "radiant" happiness. When Romero presents her with his cape she is unsure what to do with it, and when he presents her with the bull's ear the reader has already learned that she left it, wrapped in Jake's handkerchief, in the back of a drawer at the hotel. It may be Brett has simply found another injured man to care for, as she did during the war, and now that the passion of the fiesta is over she will leave Romero once he is well.

The character of Belmonte symbolizes the men of the lost generation, further separating Romero from men like Jake, Mike, and Bill. Like the veterans Belmonte was once filled with pride and honor, yet after his career ended he was unable to return to those ideals. Audiences who once adored him turned against him, leaving him feeling bitter and isolated. Similarly, soldiers returning from the war struggled to reconnect with friends and family, which further angered and isolated them. Like Belmonte, the lost generation relies on distractions and "tricks" to create an illusion of happiness, fooling no one. Bill's and Jake's conclusion that the fiesta is a "nightmare" suggests the bullfighting fiesta is somehow like the war—full of violence and death, blindness and distraction.

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