I was very angry. Somehow they always made me angry. I know they are supposed to be amusing, and you should be tolerant, but I wanted to swing on one, any one, anything to shatter that superior, simpering composure.
Jake reacts to finding his companion, Georgette, dancing with a group of gay men in a restaurant. He and Georgette are dining in the restaurant when the love of his life, Lady Ashley, enters with an entourage of boisterous, effeminate young men who commandeer Georgette as well. The men’s success with the two women touches the nerve of Jake’s personal sense of male inadequacy. He reacts with a visceral rage expressed as a male urge to fight and destroy his competition.
I looked at myself in the mirror of the big armoire beside the bed . . . Of all the ways to be wounded. I suppose it was funny.
Back in his room after a night on the town with Brett, Jake muses about his war injury by trying to make light of his condition. This scene marks the most explicit moment in the novel about his injury, but Hemingway still leaves the details to the reader’s imagination. Like so many veterans of the Lost Generation, Jake has returned from the war a broken man, wounded in both body and soul. By using humor, Jake tries to overcome his deep insecurity and disappointment.
Then I thought of her walking up the street and stepping into the car, as I had last seen her, and of course in a little while I felt like hell again. It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.
Jake broods over Brett’s leaving his room to join the count in his big limousine, a symbol of intact and powerful masculinity. Jake admits to himself that loss of intimacy with Brett brings him sorrow. Stoic during his daily affairs, he feels his loneliness most keenly at nights when sleeping alone.
The steer who had been gored had gotten to his feet and stood against the stone wall. None of the bulls came near him, and he did not attempt to join the herd.
As the novel turns to a story about the bullfights, the bulls and steers accumulate figurative meaning as symbols of masculinity, both powerful and weak. Jake observes their herd behavior. This observation resonates with the camaraderie of the broken and insecure veterans, sticking together not only for mutual support but also to hone their masculinity through competition. The bulls closing ranks to ostracize the wounded steer ominously foreshadows survival of the fittest among the humans as well.
“Tell him bulls have no balls!” Mike shouted, very drunk, from the other end of the table.
Mike drunkenly picks a fight with the handsome bullfighter Romero by asking Jake to translate an insult into Spanish. Jake makes a pointed observation about Mike’s level of inebriation, indicating that Mike either drinks more than the others or does not hold his liquor well. Here, alcohol ignites Mike’s insecurity about Brett’s attraction to the young Romero into an angry attempt to diminish the bullfighter’s courage. His choice of metaphor emphasizes the bulls as symbols of masculinity.
“Badly cogido through the back,” he said. He put the pots on the table and sat down in the chair at the table. “A big horn wound. All for fun. Just for fun. What do you think of that?”
A waiter at a café speaks to Jake after the running of the bulls. After Jake describes the man’s wounds, the waiter notes the senselessness of the injury. Later, readers learn that the gored man died, leaving behind a young widow and children. The waiter turns his observation into a challenge to the dilletante Jake to rethink his love of the sport. The exchange reveals the waste of a human life, all in the name of fun, a theme that reflects the absurdity of the companions’ lives in both Paris and Spain, a vapidity born of male insecurities.