The imagery of bulls and steers pervades Hemmingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises. Bullfighting is a major plot concern and is very important to the characters. The narrator physically resembles a steer due to the nature of his injury. Mike identifies Cohn as a steer in conversation because of his inability to control Brett sexually. Brett falls for a bullfighter, who is a symbol of virility and passion. However, there is a deeper level to the bull-steer dichotomy than their respective sexual traits. The imagery associated with bulls and steers is more illustrative than their possession or lack of testicles. In their roles and in the images associated with them, bulls are glorious, exciting and dangerous. Steers are humble, impotent and safe. Hemmingway's treatment of these associations favors an ethic of weakness prevailing over strength. Despite the seeming advantages to being a bull and the explicit statements in their favor, steers are the true heroes in Hemmingway's novel.
The imagery associated with bulls and steers is confusing, since it is clearly supportive of bulls over steers. Bulls are associated with passion. Those who identify with bulls through their enthusiasm for bullfighting are called "aficionado" from the Spanish word for passion (131). Those who lack aficion are valueless while a true aficionado is a "buen hombre" (132). The bulls are "beautiful," muscular, aggressive and "dangerous" (139, 141). Because of their physical prowess and their sexual potency, bulls are capable of ascending to the heights of glory. They arouse passions in the crowds who gather to watch them run and fight. In sharp contrast, the steers are weak and emasculate. ...
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...dencies. Without the bulls, the steers would stagnate. Without the steers, the bulls would self-destruct. The novel is a story about passion and how it must be pacified by the pedantic voice of normalcy. The way of the steer rescues the way of the bull from its conclusion in self-annihilation. In turn, the aficion of the bulls gives meaning and purpose to the life of the steer.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Bloom, Harold. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1993.
Kerouac, Jack. On The Road. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 1976.
Svoboda, Frederic J. Hemingway and The Sun Also Rises: The Crafting of a Style. Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 1983.
Young, Philip. "Ernest Hemingway." Encyclopedia International. v. 8, p.388-389. 1982 ed.
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