During a bullfight, the first matador is speared in his sword hand by the horn of a bull. The bull gores the next matador in the stomach. Then, the third matador has to kill all five bulls because in a bullfight, only three matadors are allowed to try to beat the bulls. This matador gets four. Then, the last one gives him trouble because his arm is so tired. Eventually he gets the bull. When he finishes, he sits down and throws up. Someone covers him as people throw things into the ring.
Much of Hemingway's writing features bullfighting. For Hemingway, this game seems to be one of the manliest sports around. The bulls are extremely masculine and the matadors must be even more so to kill them. This story, then, reintroduces the notion of manliness. Because the war is over, men must prove their masculinity in some other way.
Sparknotes' commentary for On the Quai at Smyrna seems to have quite a few historical errors. The commentary states that the narrator is likely talking about the Greek evacuation of Thrace, but the title is On the Quai at Smyrna. Smyrna is a city in modern-day Turkey (now called Izmir). The Christian (mainly Greek and Armenian) part of Smyrna was burned in 1922 after the Turks recaptured the city from the Greeks. Hemingway was actually in Turkey just after the Great Fire to cover the Greco-Turkish War as a correspondent for the Toronto Star.... Read more→
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I think it is difficult to talk about this short story without acknowledging the use of literary minimalism. Several pieces of information are left out of the text but most readers come to the conclusion that Mrs. Elliot is a lesbian. Her marriage to Hubert is one of convenience, and her desire to have a baby is, arguably, to prove that she is not Lesbian (or just so that she can live in the current society without being judged).