Thinking about the role that the matador plays in the novel, what is the role of a hero in a world disillusioned by war?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The protagonist, Jake, can be interpreted as a hero of a sort, but not a creative hero. One way to read the role of the matador in this novel is to see this figure as a "person of attraction" and Jake as one of several characters whose flaws make him succeptible to that person.

Romero draws Brett in ways that can be seen as similar to the way a matador attracts a bull - with no real prospect for success for the bull. This can also be applied to the way Brett attracts Jake, continually, desperately, and almost fatally.

Taking a narrow reading of the bull fight situation as a metaphor, we might say that the "tragic hero" of the novel is the bull/Jake, constantly attracted and compelled by the matador/Brett. The actions of the bull/Jake might appear to be generous or even chivalrous and heroic.

Considering the outcome of most bull fights, however, the heroism of the bull becomes mere bravery in the face of a challenge. The heroism becomes a willingness to submit to injury.

Jake comes to Brett's rescue as often as she calls, much like the bull charges the matador when the cape is waved. If Jake were a redemptive hero, we would expect him to redeem something with his repeated efforts, either Brett or himself.

The closest character to an actual redemptive, rejuvenating hero would have to be Romero, the young bull fighter. He is part of the city's ritual. He is young. He is talented. But instead of coordinating the souls of those around him into a single pattern, he breaks the pattern of tradition and loses his status as a hero.

If we want to relate Campbell's idea of a "coordinated soul" to this novel, we might say that the Afficionados are the collective hero, participating in a time-honored, culturally rigid ritual and receiving spiritual pleasure from this ritual. Jake and his friends, however, stand outside this collective hero group and reap no spiritual benefit from the bull fights.


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