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"The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway is replete with scenes of bull fights. Hemingway absolutely loved bullfighting, perceiving it as a true test of manhood. He boasted of having seen fifteen hundred bulls killed on the field; he read over two thousand pamphlets in Spanish on the contest of man and bull, and he published a book entitled "Death in the Afternoon" on this very subject.
Of his attraction to the "sport" of bullfighting Hemingway wrote,
The only place where you could see life and death, i.e. violent death now that the wars were over, was the bull ring, and I wanted very much to go to Spain where I could study it. I was trying to learn to write, commencing with the simplest things, and one of the simplest things, and most fundamental is violent death.
This representation of bullfighting and its pitting of man against a force of death is basic to the existential themes of Ernest Hemingway. Because life has no meaning (his philosophy of nihilism), but that which man makes of it, the life/death struggles clarify otherwise ambiguous situations in which man finds himself.
It is Hemingway's love of bull fighting that is primarily reflected in the novel, but boxing and fishing are also included. One of the major characters, Robert Cohn, was an amateur boxing champion in college, and his boxing skills become part of the plot. Bill Gorton is introduced as Jake's friend and fishing buddy. The main story is interrupted with a fishing trip the two of them take to Burgette.
Bullfighting plays the strongest role in the plot, especially with the introduction of Pedro Romero's character. He is a dashing young matador whose grace and courage are celebrated in the story. Jake and the others attend the bull fights in Pamplona, which are described in great detail by Hemingway. Jake, Hemingway's hero, is a genuine aficionado of the sport, reflecting Hemingway's own feelings.
And don't forget Tennis, Tennis plays a significant part in the novel, too.
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