Book II, Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis

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Charlie Blackman: Edna’s friend from Chicago; just mentioned in the story

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Vincente Girones: a 28-year-old man who is gored and killed by a bull

Jake finds Mike, Bill, and Edna outside a bar. They tell him they were thrown out when they got really drunk. They were in a fight with Englishmen and got rowdy.

They go to a cafe for a drink. Robert comes and asks where Brett is. Jake tries to put him off, but Robert persists. He panics when Jake refuses to tell him; then Mike says Brett has gone off with Romero. Robert gets angry and calls Jake a pimp. Jake swings at Robert, who ducks before hitting Jake. He tries to get up but Robert hits him two more times. He then hits Mike and leaves.

After he is gone, Mike and Edna rehash what happened. Jake is still dazed and decides to walk it off. Even on familiar terrain, he seems to experience the night for the first time.

When Jake stumbles back to the hotel, Bill tells him Robert is upset and wants to see him. At first Jake refuses. When he agrees, he goes to the room and finds Robert crying. Robert begs his forgiveness and says he was crazy. He says he has not been able to stand it. Brett has treated him as a stranger and now has gone off with Romero. Robert vows to leave in the morning.

Jake leaves Robert’s room and goes to take a bath. Then he sleeps. After Jake awakens, he goes out to watch the bulls running into the ring. The crowd is so thick, Jake is pushed against the wall. Some people are unable to get into the ring before the bulls, and Jake witnesses one man getting gored. Later the same bull is killed by Romero, who gives its ear to Brett. Jake can only hear by the crowd’s reaction how many other people have been hit or had close calls to the bulls.

When Jake goes back to his room, Mike and Bill come in and comment on his wounds from Robert. They tell Jake what happened inside the ring. They say after Robert hit them, he found Brett in Romero’s room and nearly killed him. Even though Robert had kept knocking him down, Romero had refused to stay down. After Brett lambasted him, Robert broke out crying and apologized. When Robert tried to shake Romero’s hand, Romero refused. Robert told Romero he would not hit him again, so Romero hit Robert as hard as he could.

Mike says part of the problem is because Brett chooses the wrong type of man. Then he relates how unhappily Brett had been married to Lord Ashley. Mike rings for the maid to bring him more beer before he goes to his room. Bill and Jake are going to nap too.

Chapter 17 focuses on Robert’s reaction to Brett’s affair. Brett has used Robert, and now she hurts him by insulting him. Robert had hoped his affair with Brett would fill the void in his unfulfilled life. Robert’s affair was supposed to be his elusive love and excitement for him. Instead, it takes its toll. He has lost Jake, his only friend, and he has lost any hope for love from Brett.

Jake has perceived Robert as enjoying Mike’s abuse because it calls attention to his trophy of having had Brett. Instead of being the consummate relationship, now Robert says, “Everything’s gone. Everything.” He is able to beat his competitors with his fists, but Romero really wins because he does not give up. Even in victory, Brett would never be his; she is repulsed by him. Robert has been terribly abused by Brett, Mike, and Jake, but instead of knowing he is justified by his indignation, he apologizes to them.

Throughout preceding chapters, whenever Robert wants to present a threat, he stands and makes fists. He has power but only follows through when Brett is at stake. When he does, Romero breaks what little spirit Robert has by refusing to quit. When Robert will not defend himself, Romero hits him. In essence, Romero “ruined Cohn…Cohn will [never] want to knock people about again.” He not only annihilated...

(The entire section contains 1134 words.)

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