The Sun Also Rises Symbolism Essay


Bullfighting dominates the second half of the novel and symbolizes the fraught relationships among the men—Cohn, Jake, Mike, and Romero—and Brett. Throughout the novel Brett antagonizes the men into fighting for her affection, much in the same way the bullfighters flaunt the red flag to antagonize the bulls into a fight. If Brett is the bullfighter, the men are bulls, with emasculated Jake acting as a steer (a castrated bull). In bullfighting the steers herd the bulls together after the run. In much the same way Jake, who cannot have sex with Brett, works to keep the group of friends together—he is always at Brett's beck and call, making travel plans and inviting men who are competing for Brett's attention to join them. Perhaps because Jake cannot have sex he cares about forming friendships and keeping everyone happy, even if it means swallowing his emotions and sacrificing his own happiness.

After the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Jake and his friends assess the bulls' strength and aggressiveness, two traditionally masculine characteristics. In the same way Jake assesses each of Brett's suitors to judge whether they are "worthy" of her affection. According to Jake, Cohn is unworthy of Brett; this fuels Jake's anger toward Cohn. Jake deems the Count and Mike both passably masculine, perhaps because they are both veterans. But the only man truly "worthy" of Brett is the bullfighter Romero, whom Jake helps Brett attract. In and out of the ring Romero is the most masculine of the bunch. He is handsome, full of youth and vitality, honorable, and talented. But in the end Romero is heartbroken; just as even the strongest and most aggressive bull is killed by a skilled bullfighter in the end, Romero falls to Brett.


For the characters in The Sun Also Rises water symbolizes purification, both physical and emotional. Jake, bitter and hopeless after the war, spends his days searching for distraction in small pleasures. The only time he truly feels at peace is in nature—specifically in or near water. He fishes in Burguete with Bill, and this minivacation is the happiest in the novel. It's the only time Jake sleeps peacefully: "Once in the night I woke and heard the wind blowing. It felt good to be warm and in bed." Jake and Bill spend their days in the sun and in the stream; he spends far more time describing the landscape than he does describing Brett. Similarly after leaving the stress of Pamplona, Jake is eager to get back to the purifying water in San Sebastian: "The water was buoyant and cold. It felt as though you could never sink." In the water Jake is at peace; nothing, not even his injury or his heartbreak over Brett, can weigh him down.

For Brett water equals purification as well, as evidenced by her frequent bathing. Brett often uses bathing as an excuse to escape social situations or to explain why she perpetually runs late. Her bathing sessions frequently follow romantic liaisons. For example, when she returns from San Sebastian where she had an affair with Cohn, she says she can't meet with Jake: "Haven't bathed [yet]. Michael comes in tonight ... Must clean myself." Brett's perpetual bathing signals remorse over her promiscuous behavior; she needs to wash away her guilty feelings.

The Sun Also Rises By ?Ernest Hemingway Symbolism Of The Bullfight

Arena del Toros

When an event that incorporates life, death and serious emotions occurs, it is bound to

parallel several other facets of life. One of the few events in life that can thoroughly present life

and death in a graphic and public manner is the bullfight. Ernest Hemingway seems rather

attached to the bullfight as it becomes a central symbol in "The Sun Also Rises". Hemingway's

rugged individualism is shown throughout the novel and can be seen represented in the bullfight.

The economy of motion in a good bullfight is a parallel to monetary economy. While betrayal is

not directly related to a bullfight, the fight allows for the characters in "The Sun Also Rises" to

betray love. A bullfight may be the best example to prove the futility of life. In "The Sun Also

Rises", Hemingway relies heavily on the bullfight to represent and enhance major aspects of life.

The individualistic life that most characters lead in Hemingway's novels is represented in

many ways. In "The Sun Also Rises" Individualism is represented by sports; boxing, tennis,

fishing, and more importantly, by the bullfight. The element of the bullfight serves to show the

ultimate of individual triumphs. There is only one man in a bullfight, it is a battle between that

one man and the bull. While tennis and boxing could stand alone as metaphors for

independence, the bullfight acts as a foil to enhance the concept of solitude.

Throughout the book allusions to economy abound. The number of words used in

telegrams is a prominent example of ones efficiency. Jake is an economical person and thus he is

a great admirer of the bullfight. When Jake speaks of being economical with his money "he is


talking more abstractly about other kinds of economy - the economy of motion in a good

bullfight, for example"(Magill 1599). Jake can truly appreciate a real matador, he can respect

"how close Romero always worked to the bull"(167) Romero never wastes motion, he gets the

most out of every bull. It is for this economical smoothness that Romero's fights are so

enjoyable. In Hemingway's code "one must learn to get his money's worth"in everything that he

does (Magill 1601).

As much respect as Jake has for the bullfight, it can never be outweighed by his love for

Brett. Jake loves the bullfight, in the town of Pamplona he is considered a true aficionado.

"Somehow it was taken for granted that an American could not have afiction"(132). Jake was an

exception though, he had real passion for the fights. "He betrays his afiction by introducing Brett


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