Summary: Chapter 28
Cohn leaves Pamplona. Brett meets everyone else at a café. She reports that Romero looks quite bad after his beating but that he plans to bullfight anyway. Mike sullenly remarks, “Brett’s got a bullfighter. She had a Jew named Cohn, but he turned out badly.” Brett draws Jake away from the café as Mike overturns the table, dumping beer and food all over the floor.
Brett suggests that they go into a church because she wants to pray for Romero, but she becomes nervous and wants to leave not long after they enter. They return to the hotel. Montoya bows to Jake and Brett but does not smile. Brett retires to Romero’s room, and Jake checks on Mike. Mike is languishing on his bed in a drunken stupor, his room a mess. Bill and Jake eat lunch before they meet Brett for the last bullfight.
Romero sends his cape to Brett for her to hold during the fights. Belmonte, one of the three bullfighters, has come out of retirement to fight. His reputation for working dangerously close to the bull is legendary. The crowd thus expects more from him than he could ever achieve, even at the height of his career. The crowd jeers at him and insults him. However, they love Romero’s calm, smooth style and natural talent. Romero faces the bull that killed the man running in the street that morning. He leads the bull with a grace that appeals to the crowd. After he kills the bull, its notched ear is cut off. He gives it to Brett. Jake and Bill drink in a café afterward. Jake is depressed, so Bill urges him to drink three absinthes in a row. He finds Mike sitting in his hotel room in the process of getting drunk. Brett has left Pamplona on a train with Romero.
Summary: Chapter 29
“Oh, Jake . . . we could have had such a damned good time together.”See Important Quotations Explained
The next day, Mike, Bill, and Jake share a car to Bayonne. They get drunk and drive to Saint Jean de Luz to drop Mike off. Jake says goodbye to Bill at the train station in Bayonne. Jake spends time making friends in Bayonne by tipping people generously. He takes a morning train to San Sebastian for a few days of relaxation. Not long after his arrival, however, he receives two telegrams, one forwarded from Paris and one forwarded from Pamplona. Both are from Brett. She wants him to come to the Hotel Montana in Madrid because she is “in trouble.” He immediately makes arrangements to leave San Sebastian and meet her.
When Jake arrives in Madrid, Brett greets him with a kiss. She has sent Romero away. She sent for Jake because she was not sure if she could make Romero leave, and she did not have money to get away. Romero offered her money, but she would not take it. He was ashamed of her at first and wanted her to grow her hair so she would look more like a woman. He wanted to marry her so that she would never leave him. But she forced Romero to leave because she did not want to ruin him. She adds that she wants to go back to Mike. She and Jake go to a bar and have three martinis each before having lunch in a nice restaurant, where Jake drinks three bottles of wine. He then orders two more bottles of wine and downs a couple of glasses. Brett asks Jake not to get drunk and assures him that he will be “all right.” They get a taxi to drive around town. Jake puts his arm around her, and Brett says, “Oh, Jake . . . we could have had such a damned good time together.” Jake replies, “Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so?”
Analysis: Chapters 28 & 29
Belmonte the bullfighter is a symbol of the entire Lost Generation. He has no purpose in his current time and place, and his important accomplishments are behind him. He achieved great fame in his younger days, and many consider him among the greatest bullfighters. When he retired, the legends about his prowess and bravery grew. When he comes out of retirement, however, the same legends work against him. He can never live up to the image that has sprung up around him. Thus, the crowd turns on him, and he becomes bitter and indifferent in the ring. His plight shares many similarities with that of Jake and his circle of friends, people who all seem to be passing time until the ends of their lives rather than living with any sense of purpose. The Lost Generation feels a similar kind of bitterness and indifference for much the same reason—the same cultures and nations its members served in the World War I have now abandoned them.
Brett portrays her split with Romero as a selfless act, stating that their living together was bad for him and his career. Though she asserts that “I’m not going to be one of these bitches that ruins children,” there is probably more to their breakup than self-sacrificing benevolence. Brett quickly realizes that Romero wants her to change into a more traditionally feminine woman, growing her hair to be more “womanly.” Brett’s refusal to consider such conventional changes makes their relationship untenable. She would rather split with Romero than compromise the person she wants to be. Moreover, a central feature of Brett’s personality is her inability to settle. Like the lives of all of Jake’s friends, Brett’s life is characterized by a compulsion to wander aimlessly. It is unlikely that her love for Romero, even if it were genuine, could make her settle down.
Brett and Jake, on the other hand, have a relatively stable relationship. It seems that his impotence makes this stability possible. As a sexual relationship between them is impossible, her sexuality cannot destroy him the way it does other men. Perhaps his love for her is different from the love that other men feel for her by virtue of the impossibility of its consummation. Mike and Cohn’s obsession with Brett has very little to do with love for her. Rather, it represents a need to satisfy their lust and to solidify their masculinity through their dominance and ownership of her.
Despite her decision to leave Romero before she corrupts him, Brett seems less changed than Jake does. She still idealizes the relationship they “would have had,” stating that they would have had a “wonderful time” together. Jake, on the other hand, expresses doubt, encapsulated in the novel’s final line: it is “pretty to think” that they would have had a grand affair if he had been sexually functional, but it is possible that their relationship would have ended as badly as Brett’s other sexual relationships. Jake has not stopped suffering because he cannot have Brett, but he seems to have reached a more realistic appreciation of their situation as well as his own.