Summary and Analysis Chapter XVIII



It is the last day of the fiesta. Cohn has left Pamplona, presumably to return to his girlfriend, Frances, and Mike, drunk as always, is clearly embittered by Brett's affair with Romero. Jake and Brett pray at the cathedral, where she feels uncomfortable, before she visits Romero. Then Jake, Brett, and Bill attend the bullfight, in which Romero, beloved of the crowd, kills the bull and presents its ear to Brett — even though he is cut and bruised from his fight with Cohn the night before. After Jake and Bill share a meal, Mike tells Jake that Brett has left town also, with Romero.


This is a climactic chapter structurally, in that it resolves the conflicts of most of the book's central characters.

Apparently accepting that he will never have Brett, Robert Cohn leaves Pamplona and the novel; we will not see him again.

Pedro Romero, on the other hand, gets exactly what he wants: a victory over the bull he was scheduled to fight (not to mention survival in this mortally-dangerous activity) as well as Brett herself — and this despite long odds, considering Romero's sickly state following his fight with Cohn.

Brett too gets what she wants: Romero, who seems to be the only man since Jake for whom she has felt true passion. (As a result, she is "radiant . . . happy." "I feel altogether changed," she tells Jake.)

Bill, of course, never quite had a conflict, other than his desire for a good time, which he seems to have fulfilled.

The jury is still out on the fate of poor Mike, who desperately wants his fiancée Brett, as always.

Jake's handpicked substitute has triumphed, but at the end of Book II, Jake, as ever, remains alone. "The three of us sat at the table," Jake says of himself, Bill, and Mike in the concluding sentence of Book II, "and it seemed as though about six people were missing." Brett, Romero, Cohn, the Count, Harris, and Edna — six characters are, indeed, gone from the book, most of them never to return.

Remember the inside/outside dichotomy introduced earlier, and pay attention to Hemingway's use in the last few chapters of the English tourists from Biarritz. "They sat in the big white car and looked through their glasses at the fiesta," Jake tells us. Most of the foreigners at the fiesta only observe the goings-on, much as Cohn has lived his life through books. They are outside the festival, while Jake, Bill, Mike, and Brett are inside it, participating almost as fully as do the locals. The English tourists serve as a sort of collective foil to the novel's ensemble of central characters. Similarly, Jake brings Brett inside the cathedral to pray, but she belongs outside the church in the pagan world of the fiesta and the bullfight and asks to leave. Jake is comfortable in both worlds.

Though Hemingway's meaning is not made explicit, the awkward encounter with the German maître d'hôtel dramatizes the rage that these war veterans feel toward the country that instigated the conflict that so damaged all of them. It also reminds us, late in the novel, of the ultimate source of their pain and sadness. Remember, The Sun Also Rises is a war novel; in typical Hemingway style, it happens to omit the war.

In terms of symbolism, it was noted earlier that, whereas Jake and Cohn are like steers, the rest of the novel's central characters resemble bulls — even Brett, despite the fact that bulls are male cattle. This is reiterated in the lines "Pedro Romero . . . loved bull-fighting, and I think he loved the bulls, and I think he loved Brett."

In fact, the bullfight is described by Hemingway much as one might describe a sexual conquest. First there is a kind of flirtation, then a passionate, intimate intermingling: "Each time he let the bull pass so close that the man and the bull and the cape . . . were all one sharply etched mass. It was all so slow and so controlled. It was as though he were rocking the bull to sleep." The bullfighter's blood-stained fighting-cape is said to be made of percale (a fabric most often associated with bed sheets). At last (if the toreador has succeeded) comes penetration of the bull with his phallic sword (". . . the sword went in, and for just an instant he and the bull were one, Romero way out over the bull. . . . Then the figure was broken. The was a little jolt as Romero came clear. . . ."), after which boys converge upon the bull from all over the arena and dance around it — much as the peasants danced around Brett at the start of the fiesta. Remember that this is the very bull who killed a man earlier in the day — symbolic of Brett's devastation of the hapless Cohn?

Symbolism aside, the description of the bullfight that takes up most of this chapter is a brilliant bit of expository writing. With regard to description, pacing, and overall impact, it stands beside the writer's other towering achievement of this kind: the famous retreat from Caporetto, in A Farewell to Arms.

And lastly, here's a brilliant bit of high-Modernist creativity on Hemingway's part: Mike's dialogue at one point appears to contain a series of typographical errors: "I'm getting a lit tle sleep. I've want ed a lit tle sleep for a long time," he tells Jake. In fact, this line and a few that follow are the writer's attempt to recreate Mike's drunken, sleepy slurring of words on the page. Whether the desired effect is achieved or not, you've got to give Hemingway credit for trying.


Paseo de Sarasate a park in the center of Pamplona.

She did not knock implies that Brett and Romero are intimate.

death mask a cast of a person's face taken soon after death.

smooth-rolled before a bullfight, the sand of the bullring is flattened and smoothed by means of heavy rollers.

muleta (Spanish) a red flannel cloth draped over a stick and manipulated by the matador in his series of passes.

glasses opera glasses or binoculars.

Belmonte Juan Belmonte was a matador renowned throughout Spain during the early 1920s. In other words, Hemingway here features an actual person as a minor character in his fictional story.

It looked badly marked that is, bruised from his fight with Cohn.

percale fine, closely woven cotton cloth.

fistula an abnormal passage from an abscess, cavity, or hollow organ to the skin or to another abscess, cavity, or organ.

motor automobile.

"quite" according to Hemingway himself, in his bullfighting treatise Death in the Afternoon, "the taking away of the bull from any one who has been placed in immediate danger by him."

veronica a move in which the matador holds a cape out and pivots slowly as the bull charges past it.

templed again, according to Death in the Afternoon, temple is "the quality of slowness, suavity, and rhythm in a bullfighter's work."

spraddle (blend of spread and straddle) (Informal or Dialectic) to spread (the legs) in a sprawling or straddling way.