Bullfighting in the Sun Also Rises

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Jonathan Rowe
Essay 1: The Sun Also Rises
English 42
Doctor Speirs

No Bull in Bullfighting

In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway writes “nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters” (100). Spoken by Jake, this line exemplifies the importance that bullfighting plays in the novel. It's not only portrayed as a sport, but rather as a complex, mathematical art in the form of a dance between the bull and fighter. The matador scene in chapter 18 is perhaps one of the richest in the novel due to it's use of symbols. The choreography between Romero and the bull is reflective not only of the characterization of Brett and Jake, but of the relationship between Brett, her masculinity, and her effect on the other male characters. It also provides penetrating insight to the role that Robert Cohn plays as a foil, and how he contrasts with the other characters.

The most prominent correlation that the bullfighting scene carries in terms of symbolism is a parallel to Brett's sexuality. On a closer inspection, the fight also resembles an improvised dance between two partners. Each dancer has a designated terrain, and “as long as a bullfighter stays in his own terrain he is comparatively safe” (213). And a dance between two partners can be compared to the tumultuous events that love can bring, for example the relationship between Brett and Jake. It's interesting to note that early in the novel, Brett responds to Jake's inquiry of living together by saying that she'd just “tromper” him (55), a French word meaning to abuse and cheat. The diction almost resembles an animalistic quality, as well as the word “trample,” foreshadowing the symbolism behind the bullfighting scene. Just like Romero is luring and enticing the bull with his cape, Brett lures men with her charisma and charm, and refuses to bring any meaningful relationship to fruition.

The diction of the scene involving Romero and the bull also carries some...
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