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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 XV

A rocket goes up and the fiesta begins. The hurly-burly of the festivities gives the expatriates a sense of excitement they haven't felt since the war. Perhaps that's why the rocket's smoke, hanging in the sky, is compared to a shrapnel burst. Dancers move to the sounds of wild music. The people, needing an icon to worship, turn to Brett: "Brett wanted to dance but they did not want her to. They wanted her as an image to dance around." For a brief, beautiful moment Brett is transformed into a goddess. Caught up in the excitement, she, like the others, becomes whole again, and content. For as long as the festivities last she and her friends can escape into a world of blind revelry and regain a sense of oneness with life that they have lost. Jake describes his mood when he says, "It seemed out of place to think of consequences during the festival." Anything goes, nothing matters, all ethical constraints are lifted. Being at the fiesta feels like freedom, but, as you'll see, it doesn't make anybody feel very good for long. Only working within a framework of responsibility seems able to do that.

Jake wakes from a nap and goes out on the hotel balcony to watch the famous running of the bulls.

NOTE:

Each year bulls are turned loose from their cages, and chase a crowd of Spaniards and tourists through the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Pamplona. The buildings are flush against the street, so each street is like a long, tight corridor. Men, trying to prove how macho they are, run in front of the bulls, challenging them, and not all of the men get away unscathed.


This is Brett's first bullfight and she's worried about what she's going to see. The horses that carry picadors-the men who use pics or long lances to prod the bulls when they're not fast enough or angry enough-are often gored to death. The bulls are killed, too, and Brett worries that the blood and violence may be too much for her to handle. Jake says she'll be fine; she can simply turn her head away when the scene gets too bloody.

Robert Cohn says he's not concerned about the blood. His only worry is that he'll be bored. The tension between Mike and Cohn continues to build; we know it has to resolve itself soon.

Montoya introduces Jake and Bill to Pedro Romero, and we finally see the famous bullfighter.

NOTE:

Some readers think that Romero is Hemingway's hero because he best exemplifies the manly virtues of Hemingway's code of behavior-bravery, honesty, and passion. Romero is very handsome, very much the image of the bullfighter. The two other bullfighters look mediocre in comparison.

Bill uses binoculars to see if Cohn, sitting across the stadium, is looking bored. He isn't. Bill calls him a "kike," and nobody objects.

NOTE:

Anti-Semitism is easily tolerated if not actually enjoyed by most of the characters in the novel. Perhaps that's because The Sun Also Rises was written in 1925, well before the German dictator Adolf Hitler began his campaign to exterminate the Jews. Yet the willingness of the expatriates to condone, or at least to remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism, makes them-particularly Mike and Bill-morally suspect. If you try to understand these characters rather than judge them, you can see that they need Cohn as a scapegoat to compensate for the powerlessness of their own lives. Turning Cohn into an outsider gives them a sense that they themselves belong to a private and privileged group, a small gain considering the moral price they must pay.

Cohn, hardly bored, is nearly sick to his stomach at the sight of the bullfight. Reality is more than he can bear.

On the second day of bullfighting Romero is "the whole show." Jake tells Brett what makes him special: he "never made any contortions, always it was straight and pure and natural in line." That is, he was not interested in show; none of his movements was wasted, all he cared about was doing his job. The true aficionado loves to watch Romero "because he kept the absolute purity of line in his movements and always quietly and calmly let the horns pass him close each time. He did not have to emphasize their closeness." Other bullfighters put on a show of bravery for the audience that gives the aficionado "an unpleasant feeling." Remember Jake writing his letter on the fancy hotel stationery and feeling bad about it? He was using a trick to make his letter look better. Romero gets as close as he can to real danger, he uses no tricks.

Brett, true to her nature, is excited by the spectacle, even when a bull gores a picador's horse. Although she's engaged to Mike, she falls for Romero.

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