Summary and Analysis
After receiving telegrams from Mike and Cohn, Jake and Bill return via bus to Pamplona. There they meet up with Brett, Mike, and Cohn at a café, where a drunken Mike tells anecdotes before the group walks to the corrals outside of town to see the unloading of the bulls. At another café afterward, Mike browbeats Cohn for tagging after Brett. (Apparently Cohn returned to San Sebastian while Jake and Bill were fishing in Burguete.) Bill leads Cohn away before any punches are thrown; later, in their hotel room, Bill tells Jake that he feels for Cohn.
Hemingway continues to celebrate male friendship in this chapter, as well as directing our attention to the specialness of combat veterans, by means of the character of Harris, the Englishman with whom Jake and Bill play bridge in the evening during their fishing trip. "I've not had much fun since the war," says Harris, before presenting Jake and Bill with a gift of hand-tied flies. Intimacy is possible between men, Hemingway shows us, though it must occur via sports and games (and/or war).
Jake is also intimate with the hotelier Montoya:
"He smiled as though bull-fighting were a very deep secret that we knew about. He always smiled as though there were something lewd about the secret to outsiders, but that it was something we understood. It would not do to expose it to people who would not understand."
This passage makes explicit a dichotomy that has been hinted at in this novel but never addressed directly before now, between what we might call insiders and outsiders. We have already observed the split between war veterans (including, even, the Count) and those, like Cohn, who did not participate. Other inside/outside sets in The Sun Also Rises include those who live life and those who merely read about living; Catholics vs. non-Catholics; and aficionados (of not just bullfighting but fishing and even eating and drinking) and those who lack passion for and knowledge about these activities.
Note that in every case mentioned, Jake is on the inside, while characters like Brett, Bill, and Mike are on the inside of some groups but not others. (Mike is a veteran, but he can't hold his liquor. Bill is an expert fisherman but knows nothing about bullfighting.) Cohn is on the outside, period. Notice as well that Hemingway never ceases dramatizing these differences. In this chapter, for instance, Brett and Mike wear Basque berets, while Cohn is bareheaded. Even while shaking hands, Mike has "a way of getting an intensity of feeling" into it, while Cohn shakes hands only as a formality, "because we were back." Mike asks Cohn, "Why don't you ever get drunk, Robert?" as if insulting him — and he is. Cohn has no need to get drunk, because he hasn't been wounded, and he hasn't been wounded because he hasn't lived. He is an outsider.
The bitter joking continues in this chapter, with its many references to steers; a steer is a castrated ox. Though Mike compares Cohn to a steer, it is Jake, of course, who is most like this animal. In fact, notice that the herd described during the chapter's central scene comprises four bulls and two steer, an exact parallel to this novel's ensemble cast: Jake and Cohn are the steer, and Mike, Bill, and Brett are bulls — even though bulls are male; Brett is sufficiently androgynous to qualify. She is also sufficiently brave (a result of her status as a veteran), "watching, fascinated" when one of the steers is gored. The fourth bull will be the matador Pedro Romero, not yet on the scene.
Finally, Hemingway is justly celebrated for his descriptive abilities but rarely for his command of dialogue. This chapter's climactic scene stands alongside the most accomplished dramatic writing ever. To wit: In four pages featuring four characters, the speakers often are left identified, and yet — thanks to the writer's expert characterization prior to the scene — there's never any question about who is speaking. The characterization continues, with Bill's sympathetic reaction to Cohn, and with Mike's behavior after the near-fight — "as though nothing had happened." As for Jake, he compares the meal at chapter's end to "certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening." This technique is called foreshadowing; encountering the passage, we wonder what warlike things are about to occur, and we read on.
Por ustedes (Spanish) For you
copper a coin of copper or bronze, as a penny.
Vengo Jueves (Spanish)I come Thursday.
desencajonada (Spanish) releasing.
San Fermines Fiesta de San Fermín, which lasts from noon on July 6 to 14 every year.
Buen hombre (Spanish) Good man.
the spilling open of the horses When the horses on which the picadors, or lancers, ride are gored by the bull, their entrails often fall out onto the floor of the bullring.
SOL, SOL Y SOMBRA, and SOMBRA (Spanish) SUN, SUN AND SHADE, and SUN.
Piccadilly a street in London, England; traditional center of fashionable shops, clubs, and hotels.
Prince of Wales (1894–1972); son of George V; Duke of Windsor; later king of England, as Edward VIII; abdicated.
gazette any of various official publications containing announcements and bulletins.
King George V (1865–1936); king of Great Britain and Ireland (1910–1936); son of Edward VII.
cove (British slang) a boy or man; chap; fellow.
shakes (Slang) ability, importance, and so on.
blind (Slang) drunk.
counsel a lawyer or group of lawyers giving advice about legal matters and representing clients in court.
loopholes a hole or narrow slit in the wall of a fort, for looking or shooting through.
Castile region and former kingdom in northern and central Spain: gained autonomy in tenth century and united with Leon, and later with Aragon (fifteenth century), and became the nucleus of the Spanish monarchy.
Toro (Spanish) Bull.
buck to dislodge or throw by bucking.
buck up to cheer up.
Circe in Homer's Odyssey, an enchantress who turns men into swine.