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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

BOOK II

CHAPTER XIII

Jake and Bill head back to Pamplona. Cohn, Brett, and Mike have already arrived.

Montoya, the innkeeper, and Jake talk about bulls and aficion. Aficion means passion, and an aficionado is one who is passionate about the bullfights. Aficion is a special quality. Not every bullfighter has it. The pictures of those with aficion Montoya frames; the others he keeps in a drawer or throws out. Their inscriptions are full of flattery. Why? Probably because these men have to say with words what bullfighters with aficion say with themselves, with their gestures. Note that Hemingway uses language in the same way that men with aficion fight bulls-with precision and economy. Neither is interested in showing off.

The aficionados come from all over to stay at Montoya's; they're always treated well. They form a brotherhood. Only one of the Americans has aficion-Jake Barnes. How do the Spaniards know? Not by asking directly, but indirectly, by watching him. Montoya, a man with traditional values, forgives Jake for having shameful friends like Brett, Mike, Bill, and Robert Cohn. Why? Because Jake has aficion.

Bill and Jake talk about how steers are used to keep the bulls from fighting each other. When the bulls are let out of their cages the steers "run around like old maids trying to quiet them down."

NOTE:

Some readers see the bulls and steers as symbols for some of the characters. Which are bulls-active, domineering, courageous? Probably only Pedro Romero. And which are steers? Probably Jake, Robert Cohn, and Mike.


At lunch Mike tells the others a story about how he rented some war medals from his tailor before a dinner with the Prince of Wales. The Prince didn't show up, and Mike had no other need for the medals, so he gave them to friends. The tailor wanted them back because they belonged to other clients who had earned them and who valued them. None of the men at the table has any sympathy for those who lost the medals. They know too much of the horror of war to believe in honor or glory. In their eyes, World War I made heroes of no one.

After eating they go to watch the unloading of the bulls. Brett has told Mike about her affair with Cohn. What makes Mike mad, however, is not her infidelity-he's used to that-but the fact that Cohn doesn't know that Brett's now finished with him. Cohn's romantic sense of absolutes-absolute love, absolute commitment-goes against Mike's grain. Not man enough to fight Cohn, Mike taunts him, calling him a steer for following Brett around all the time.

NOTE:

What is Brett's power over men? Sexual, certainly, but more than that: she is a goddess of the wasteland. Men don't simply love her, they worship her. In a way she has replaced the religion that no longer works for Jake and his friends.

At dinner differences are put aside. Everybody behaves. The meal reminds Jake of times during the war when "there was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening." Jake is implying here that wine, like war, induces a feeling that events are beyond our personal control.

NOTE:

The idea of being carried away by forces outside his control seems attractive to Jake, as it would be to anyone who has difficulty handling emotional complications. Jake's life is in disorder; one reason he looks forward to the fiesta is that everybody will be wild and crazy and he can simply lose himself in the excitement of the moment.

CHAPTER XIV

Jake goes to bed that night very drunk. He hears Brett laughing in a nearby room with another man, and he starts to break down again. For six months he has never slept with the light off, and he's afraid to turn it off now-he's afraid of the dark. He curses Brett, but his real problem is his impotence.

"Enjoying living was learning to get your money's worth and knowing when you had it," he says, recalling Count Mippipopolous' philosophy. He hopes this thought will comfort him. But then he adds, "In five years... it will seem just as silly as all the other fine philosophies I've had."

NOTE:

Or will it? One of the issues in The Sun Also Rises is whether a person can get closer to the meaning of life as he gets older, whether he can become wiser, or whether each of us goes through life simply trying on one "philosophy" after another, all ultimately worthless. Maybe a person does learn something, Jake thinks, not in any ultimate sense, but in the practical sense of learning how to live in the world. Jake doesn't want deep philosophy; he just wants something that works. Does he find it? He refines his values throughout the book, but by the end he has also made huge mistakes-with Brett, and with his friend Montoya. We can say this much for him: unlike his friends, he tries to learn. Part of his nobility as a character comes from these private moments when he searches for a better way to live.

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