Today’s society has defined masculinity as how many women a man has, how much money he has and how brave and strong he is. People who are masculine have a large quantity of all these. Men were seen as physically strong and not as emotional beings, while women were seen as weak and emotional. Ernest Hemingway reverses this thinking in his novel The Sun Also Rises. He uses bulls and steers as symbols for the truly strong and the more feminine characters. The characters that would be assumed to be the least masculine, Brett Ashley, a woman, and Jake Barnes, the impotent narrator, are indeed the most bull-like characters. While the boxer, Robert Cohn and soldier, Mike Campbell, who are physically bulls, are more like steers. In reevaluating the stereotypical masculinity, one begins to question society's traditions, and more specifically war, in general.
Although Jake is impotent, and therefore not physically considered one of the bulls, he is much stronger emotionally than Robert and Mike. Jake has been in love with Brett longer than Mike or Robert, he shows his strength in that, he is the only one who can stand to see her with other men. He is always there for her to fall to when she is at a point where she needs help. However, he is constantly tortured by the thought that he is the one person in Brett's life with whom she could be content. He admits that he is torn up by his love for Brett. Jake is strong because he lacks the pettiness that the others seem to revel in, just as the steers are commendable because they allow themselves to be gored, and do not try to fight back. In a sense this makes Jake a steer. When the characters who are physically bulls attack each other, Jake acts as a steer in that he "quiets down the bulls and keeps them from breaking their horns against the stone walls, or goring each other" (Hemingway 138). This, however, does not make him weak. It shows his emotional strength in that he can control himself and not pick fights when he feels...
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