English Literature » Notes » The Sun Also Rises: Significance of Bull Fighting

The Sun Also Rises: Significance of Bull Fighting

Bull fighting is a typical Spanish institution governed by ritual performance, and integrity of matador at one hand and bravery of bull on the other hand. From railway station bulls are left on the road and are directed towards corral. Those who have courage enough of running in front of bulls, run and those who do not have courage enough to run, stand by the roadside. Hence, bulls are brought into corral. In bull fighting, three matadors kill six bulls. Each matador kills two bulls.

In fact, “The Sun Also Rises” is a tragedy through ritual performance because it is a fight between good and bad. Bull fighting has aspects of tragedy, action, suspense, horror or terror, catharsis and tragic end. In bull fighting a matador fights two bulls. Bulls are led into bull ring where matador is ready to fight against bulls. The atmosphere is full of suspense when the wild bull attacks the matador. As soon as bull or matador is wounded, the whole atmosphere fills with horror, when bull or matador is killed our sentiments reach its peak and relieved latter. Hence, we can observe that “The Sun Also Rises” has requisites of tragedy.

Hemingway despite of the cruelty of bull fighting sees certain definite actions giving feeling of life and death. He presents these codes through bull fighting.

Man struggle against evil.
Winner takes nothing in the world.
Pain does not matter to a man.

In “The Sun Also Rises” bull fighting symbolically shows man’s struggle against evil in life, for bull is a symbol of evil and corral is a symbol of life. Group of expatriates does not have courage to fight against evil and Romero sets an example for them by instructing that they can find meanings of life by fighting against evils in life and that they should not be a victim of evils any more if they want to find meanings of life. Hence by fighting against bulls, Pedro Romero shows struggle against evils.

The theme of Hemingway’s novels, that winner takes nothing in the world, has also been conveyed through bull fighting. Pedro Romero, nineteen years old bull fighter, fights against bull, endangers his life for in fighting either bull or matador is killed. He can’t go out of bull ring as it is a coward and disgraceful action for a man. He fights against bulls, kills them but what he gets as a reward is applause of the spectators and two ears of bull which he gives to Brett Ashley. So, it a crystal clear that winner takes nothing in the world.

Hemingway coveys another theme that pain does not matter to man. Pedro Romero despite being hurt by Robert Cohn, manly fights against bull. Though he feels pain, yet his code demands that he has to fight and kill the bull and he does so not caring for his wounds and pain.

On the other hand, Belmounte, the other matador also fights against bulls. He is comparatively old and experienced man; he is expected to perform better than him. On not showing superior performance he becomes victim of contemptuous of crowd, they make insulting remarks, throw tomatoes and bottles on him. Belmounte is feeling pain, on the one hand, for his injured hand and on the other hand for insult. But his code demands that he must go through the performance steadfastly. Public may be indifferent to one’s action but it does not matter because only one’s conscience justifies one’s action.
This is the code that Hemingway has enunciated and his latter heroes will form. The code also implies that only in the face of death one realizes oneself and knows one’s potentialities.
Hence we can justly say that bull fighting is symbolically depicted. On the one hand it is a ritual performance indicating fight against good and evil and on the other hand it depicts certain Hemingway’s code.