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Free Study Guide-The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 15

Summary

Jake says that the peasants from the countryside had come to Pamplona and begun the fiesta of San Fermin in the wine-shops. Jake himself begins the day by going to eleven o'clock mass, for San Fermin is a religious festival. He leaves the cathedral and goes to a café in the square where he finds Cohn and Bill. It is noon on July 6, and a rocket announces the fiesta has officially begun. The arcade fills suddenly with people. Fifes, pipes and drums are played, and boys dance behind them. Banners read, "Hurray for Wine! Hurray for the Foreigners!" Cohn asks where the foreigners are, and Bill replies, "We're the foreigners."

The fiesta continues for seven days. Everything becomes unreal, and it seems that no behavior will have a consequence. They will not, however, allow Brett into the cathedral because she had no hat to wear. On the street, some dancers form a circle around her. Brett wants to join in the dancing, but they want her to remain in the center as an image to circle. When the dance ends, the people rush Brett and her party into a wine shop and sit her up on a wine-cask. Jake tries to pay for wine, but a man puts the money back into Jake's pocket. The dancers teach Brett how to drink out of wine- skins and place a wreath of garlics around her neck. They then go into the back room, where they put arms on one another's shoulders and sing.

Cohn drinks too much wine, passes out, and is carried away. Bill jokes to Jake by saying, "I think he's dead." Jake, however, insists on finding out where Cohn is. A Spanish man shows him where Cohn is sleeping on some wine-casks. Two hours later, Cohn reappears with a wreath of garlic still around his neck, and the group decides to return to the hotel, where they have a large dinner. After the meal, they all return to the streets and party most of the night.


Jake oversleeps the start of the running of the bulls, when the brute animals are released into the street in pursuit of wild and excited festival goers and are driven into the awaiting arena, the location of the bullfights. When Jake awakes, he goes out on the balcony and sees a crowd rushing down the street. Then he spies the bulls galloping behind. Since he has missed the action of the morning, he goes back to sleep. Cohn returns and tells Jake that at the bull ring one of the bulls got loose and tossed six or eight people. Jake wants to know how Brett liked it.

Jake has arranged seats at the bullfight for everyone. Before going to the ring, the group has lunch amongst an excited crowd that looks forward to the action. Bill tries to advise Cohn about the gruesome sight to come when the bulls gore the horses. Cohn replies that he is only worried that he will be bored, which makes Bill complain of Cohn's "Jewish superiority." Jake advises Brett not to look at the horses after they are gored. They return to the hotel before the fight. Montoya takes them to meet Pedro Romero, one of the best bullfighters. Jake is impressed with his dignity and beauty.

It is a good bullfight, "a real one. There had not been a real one for a long time." Montoya catches Jake's eye and nods in approval. Jake's group also seems to approve, caught up in a feeling of elation over the fight. After leaving the ring, they go to a restaurant and watch the dancers. While there Bill asks Cohn if he was bored. Cohn says he wishes Bill would forgive him for that remark. Mike then reports that Cohn has said Brett is a sadist. Mike just thinks Brett is a "lovely, healthy wench." Brett herself is interested in knowing more about Romero, especially his age.

The bullfight on the second day is even better, for Romero is at his best, stealing the show. Brett, sitting between Jake and Mike, cannot keep her eyes off of him. Jake describes Romero's artful movements to her, "Always...straight and pure and natural in line." It is obvious that Jake is filled with emotion over the fight. Even Mike is impressed with what Romero knows, but Jake says he was born with it. Brett simply exclaims over Romero's good looks.

Notes

San Fermin is a religious holiday, and Jake honors it by going to church. Ironically, Brett, who normally wears a hat throughout the novel, is excluded from the cathedral for being bareheaded. (This rare "bareness" and rejection foreshadow Brett's baring of her immorality in Pamplona.) Jake also notices the religious procession that winds through the streets while the others in his group are busy drinking wine. By comparison to these quiet moments of the festival, most of the celebration of San Fermin is riotous and pagan. In fact, the fiesta of San Fermin literally bursts upon Pamplona with the blast from a rocket, quickly followed by music and parades. Everything is now blown out or proportion; the paper-mache figures are thirty feet tall and the prices of everything in town are doubled. For the next seven days, all will be one long, loud party, a time of freedom from responsibility. Just like in Burquete, time will not be important. That is probably why Jake overslept and missed the running of the bulls. It is important to note, however, that he watches the activities from his balcony, from "above". The image is significant. Jake really is above most of the crowd. Unlike most who will watch the bullfight in order to see the thrill of the blood and killing, Jake is a true aficionado who fully understands the art of the matador. Unlike Cohn, he is not a bore. Unlike Mike, he is not loud, obnoxious, constantly, drunk, or mean. Unlike Brett, he is not unfaithful.

With the exception of Cohn, who is never a full participant in life, everyone in Jake's group is excited over the festivities. Brett appropriately seems most excited. She dances in the street, drinks wine from a wineskin, and wears garlic around her neck. At the wine shop, she becomes the center of attention, just as she had been in the street. The men almost worship her, setting her up in goddess-like fashion on the wine casks. The women are enthralled with her short hair and natural beauty and envious of her easy, free ways, especially around the men. At the bullfight she is mesmerized. She understands the philosophy of grace under pressure and quickly recognizes it at work in the ring. She cannot take her eyes off the matador, especially the good-looking Romero. This matador is special, the personification of grace under pressure, a Hemingway code hero. It is obvious that Brett has a sexual interest in him. When the fight is over, she is totally drained from the emotional and physical exertion she has put into the fight, almost as if it had been a sexual act.

In total contrast to Brett, Cohn is aloof from the festivities and not the least bit excited about his first bull fight. Remember, at the unloading of the bulls in the previous chapter, he noticed that some of the animals seemed tired or weak, a reflection of his own being. At the wine shop on the opening day of the festival, he quickly drinks too much wine, passes out, and is moved out of sight to sleep it off on top of the wine casks in the back of the room (a total visual contrast to the picture of Brett brightly perched on top of them.) When Bill warns Cohn of the blood and gore visible in the bullring, Cohn replies that he hopes he will not be bored. At the fight, the sight of blood and death makes him feel queasy, and Mike laughs at his turning almost green. Cohn admits that the goring of the horses is just too violent for him, probably because he identifies with them. Because of his being a Jew and acting as a loser, he has always been picked on; like the horse, he feels himself the scapegoat, separated from those he so wants to join.

Ironically, Cohn, Mike, and Jake do have one thing in common; her name is Brett Ashley. All three men, in their own way, are desperately in love with her. But Mike is usually too drunk to appreciate her, and Cohn is sickening in his open display of passion for her. Only Jake behaves well around Brett; perhaps that is why she is more fond of him than she is of any other man. The two of them truly believe in grace under pressure, and Jake exhibits this trait for the woman he loves.

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