Summary and Analysis Chapter XII



The next morning, Jake awakens early and digs for worms near the inn. After Bill wakes up, they go together to breakfast, during which they joke nonsensically and tease one another. Packing a lunch, they hike together to a trout stream, where they split up in order to fish; they meet again for lunch and joke some more, during which the subject of Jake's injury arises and is dropped. After napping, they walk back to the hotel. Jake tells us that this goes on for five more days, during which he and Bill hear nothing from Cohn, Brett, or Mike.


This chapter comprises a sort of mid-book idyll. The author offers it to us by way of contrast to the Paris scenes that went before. In this novel, Pamplona will serve as a kind of anti-Paris, semi-rural and organic where the City of Light is urban and decadent. The woods outside Burguete where Jake and Bill fish for trout are even more different from Paris, and the sense of tranquility that the fishing trip creates in them and us could not be more different from the freneticism of the novel's opening chapters.

Hemingway makes explicit here the themes of irony and pity: the irony of Jake's situation (he is a kind of superman who nevertheless can't perform the most basic of manly activities) as well as the pity we feel for him. The writer does so in an extended section, rich with dialogue, that is meant to be funny but has not dated well. The joking between Jake and Bill, over breakfast and later at lunch, is certainly believable as such, but it's difficult for a contemporary audience to follow, because the references to Frankie Fritsch and so forth have grown obscure with the passage of time. (The reference to Bryan's death tells us exactly when these scenes are occurring: 1925.) Do note, however, that Jake's physical condition is alluded to — and quickly backed away from. ("I'd a hell of a lot rather not talk about it" could be the motto of Hemingway's stoic take on the world, and Jake's, too.) The writer has established, however, that Jake's condition is not simple impotence and that it was caused by an accident.

Another theme of Jake and Bill's banter concerns the latter's status as an expatriate. He has fled America, with its prudish Anti-Saloon League and bourgeois President Coolidge (who famously said "The business of America is business"). Finally, note the gruff tenderness shared by Jake and Bill in these scenes. One of Hemingway's pleasures in life as in art was what we now call "male bonding," and in this case the bonding is poignant, as in some ways it replaces the love that Jake cannot fully express with female companions.

More black humor: "Get up," Jake tells Bill, who replies "What? I never get up." Of course, it is Jake, not Bill, who never gets up. Later, trout (again, a phallic fish) try in vain to swim against the current of a waterfall, and — not so humorously — Jake reads a book about a man frozen inside a glacier whose wife awaits the reappearance of his body for twenty-four years. Jake is "frozen," too, only no one awaits his unthawing.


diligence a public stagecoach, especially as formerly used in France.

mattock a tool for loosening the soil, digging up and cutting roots, and so on; it is like a pickaxe but has a flat, adz-shaped blade on one or both sides.

… shitty (rhymes with pity)

"The Bells are Ringing for Me and my Gal" a popular-song title.

Riff a mountain range along the northeastern coast of Morocco, extending from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Algerian border.

Caffeine, we are here. pun on Charles E. Stanton's "Lafayette, we are here" (Paris, July 4, 1917).

General Grant Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822–1885); eighteenth President of the U.S. (1869–1877); commander in chief of the Union forces in the Civil War.

Jefferson Davis (1808–1889); U.S. statesman; president of the Confederacy (1861–1865).

Dred Scott case a controversial U.S. Supreme court decision (1857) that denied the claim of a U.S. black slave to be free as a result of living in free territory.

Anti-Saloon League American temperance organization.

landing-nets a small bag-like net attached to a long handle, for taking a hooked fish from the water.

ford a shallow place in a stream or river where one can cross by wading or riding on horseback, in an automobile, and so on.

fly-book a book-like case to hold artificial fishing flies.

sinker a lead weight used in fishing.

strike the pull on the line by a fish seizing or snatching at bait.

moraine a mound, ridge, or mass of rocks, gravel, sand, clay, and so on carried and deposited directly by a glacier along its side (lateral moraine), at its lower end (terminal moraine), or beneath the ice (ground moraine).

Bryan William Jennings (1860–1925); U.S. politician and orator.

Great Commoner nickname for William Jennings Bryan.

simian of or like an ape or monkey.

Holy Cross a college located in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Frankie Fritsch a college football star of the 1920s known as "the Fordham Flash."

Fordham a Jesuit university located in the Bronx, New York.

Loyola any of a number of colleges and universities named for Saint Ignatius de Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits.

cock-eyed (Slang) drunk.

Notre Dame a Catholic university located in South Bend, Indiana.

Ford Henry (1863–1947); U.S. automobile manufacturer.

President Coolidge (John) Calvin (1872–1933); thirtieth President of the U.S. (1923–1929).

Rockefeller John D(avison) (1839–1937); U.S. industrialist and philanthropist.

Jo Davidson (1883–1952); U.S. sculptor.

three-handed bridge a version of the card game featuring three rather than the standard four players.