Academic journal article Notes on Contemporary Literature

The Sun Also Rises: Is Romero Really a Hero Figure?

Academic journal article Notes on Contemporary Literature

The Sun Also Rises: Is Romero Really a Hero Figure?

Article excerpt

In a classic essay in Hemingway studies, "The Death of Love in The Sun Also Rises" (1962), Mark Spilka says that this novel is a parable wherein Jake and his friends demonstrate the death of love in the post-war waste land. By contrast, the nineteen-year-old Pedro Romero is the sole image of "independent manhood" and "integrity"; a young man "whose code gives meaning to a world where love and religion are defunct"; and in this sense he is the "real hero" of the story (Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: A Case Book, ed. Linda Wagner-Martin [New York: Oxford UP, 2002], 44). But this may be taking an overly romantic view of Romero. And of course that Romero is some kind of ideal or hero-figure has continued to be one of the settled opinions of Hemingway criticism. Yet if we look closely we may agree that outside of the bullring Pedro Romero is much less Spilka's man of "integrity" and less the hero-figure that the standard critical opinion takes him to be. A few examples can support this contention.

We first meet Romero when Montoya takes Jake and Bill to his "monastic" room shortly before the fiesta's opening bullfight. Here the boy comes across as serious, poised, and "dignified" (The Sun Also Rises, Scribner [NY: 1970], 163). But by Friday night in Montoya's underground dining room we see a less admirable figure. For instance, this boy smokes a cigar as part of his "system of authority," looks forward at "a thousand duros" a bull to being a "millionaire," and brags that no bull would ever get him ("I'm never going to die"). Also, the young bullfighter mimics an older bullfighter (Nacional), who is sitting at another table (185-86). Next day we learn that apparently he had ignored or defied his "very angry" handlers by getting involved with Brett (207). And presumably he defies them further by going off with her to Madrid. No one tells this teenage bullfight-hero what to do.

His going off with her may be the first step in what Montoya had called the "Grand Hotel business," which in one year would finish the easily flattered-by-foreigners Pedro Romero, the hoped-for savior of bullfighting, now is a period of decline (172). …

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