Jake finds Bill, Mike and Bill's friend Edna hanging around outside a bar that they were thrown out of because they nearly started a brawl among the English and American tourists.
As in the war, people form alliances on nationalist grounds in order to feel powerful.
They go to another café, where Cohn finds them. He demands to know where Brett is. Jake claims not to know, but Cohn doesn't believe him. Mike says that Brett has gone off with the bullfighter. Cohn, now really angry, asks Jake for the truth but Jake says only that Cohn should go to hell. Cohn calls Jake a pimp, and Jake responds by taking a swing at him. A brawl erupts in which Cohn knocks down Mike and knocks Jake out cold.
Cohn continues to act like a noble lover out of old stories, defending his own and Brett's honor. Jake, in contrast, sacrifices his own love for Brett and lies to protect her. But Cohn's silly nobility makes Jake uncomfortable and he lashes out. Cohn, meanwhile, who has always refused to take boxing out of the ring now breaks this moral rule and, pushed by the passion of love, punches the man he considers to be his best friend.
When Jake comes to, he is surrounded by people tugging at him, like a boxer on the ropes. He listens as Mike and Edna talk, then decides to return to the hotel. As he walks across the square, everything seems to look different somehow. It all reminds him of a time when he was a boy and he came home from a football game.
After the fight, the world looks different because Jake senses that something has changed. And he is thrown back in his memories to his youth, back to when football mattered to him (just as it still matters to Cohn), back before the war.
When Jake gets in to the hotel, Bill tells him that Cohn wants to see him. Jake doesn't want to, but finally gives in when Bill insists. He finds Cohn lying face down in his bed, in the dark, crying. Cohn apologizes and begs to be forgiven. He says he can't stand being like this about Brett. Jake is resistant, but after Cohn says that Jake is the only friend he has, Jake does forgive him and shakes his hand. He says he'll see Cohn in the morning but Cohn tells him he's leaving. Jake goes to bed.
Cohn is crushed—he has broken the moral rules he lived by, he has betrayed himself, he has attacked Jake, for love, and he can't stand it. Rather than stand it, Cohn decides to leave. Jake, meanwhile, is resistant to accepting Cohn's apology, but ultimately does give in, as he almost always does. And Jake does nothing so dramatic as break the repetitive cycle of his life, such as Cohn does in leaving.
The next morning, Jake learns from a waiter at a café that Mike and Bill have already gone to the stadium to await the bullfighting. Soon the bulls are released to run through the streets to the stadium, the crowd running in front of them. The bulls gore one man, who dies. The crowd just runs around the body on their way to the stadium. Jake returns to the café and discusses what just happened with the upset waiter, who says that bullfighting is senseless and that a man just died, "All for sport. All for pleasure."
Jake idealizes the bullfights because it is like war with rules. It has all the intensity with none of the messiness. But just as violence has exploded among his friends to "gore" Cohn, now the violence of the bullfight escapes the arena and kills a man. And as the shopkeeper notes, compared to a man's life, sport is meaningless.
Back in the hotel, as Jake tries and fails to sleep, he curses Cohn for believing in true love. Then Mike and Bill knock on the door. They tell him about what happened with Cohn after Jake left the night before. Cohn found Romero and Brett together. He professed his love once more to Brett, and hit Romero over and over, but Romero would not back down and wanted to keep on fighting. Finally, he refused to hit Romero any more, at which Romero hit Cohn with all his strength before himself collapsing to the floor. Brett then lit into Cohn, who, weeping, tried to shake Romero's hand. Romero just punched him again. The pattern continued, Cohn crying, Brett scolding, Romero trying to fight. Now, in the morning, Brett is still caring for Romero. Mike says that he would like to just stay drunk, and admits that the whole thing is not very pleasant for him.
The men of the Lost Generation all follow the same pattern of unending conflict and avoiding that conflict through drink or distraction, without any resolution. The pattern is only broken by the following of morning after night, not by a winner or loser. But Cohn and Romero distinguish themselves as different from the Lost Generation: Romero by honorable standing up for himself, by refusing to give in to anything, even Cohn's superior strength, and Cohn by believing in true love as something worth fighting for and then by leaving when he realizes what he has turned himself into.
Later that day, Mike berates Brett for having affairs with "Jews and bullfighters." She responds that the British aristocracy is no better. Her ex-husband, Lord Ashley, used to regularly threaten to kill her and slept with a loaded gun that she would secretly unload every night. Mike says it's a shame that she's had an unhappy life because she "enjoys things so."
Brett's determination to be free, to do as she wants, now has its source: her terrified existence under the thumb of her former husband whom, it seems clear, was badly psychologically damaged by the war.
Mike heads off to bed, and Bill soon follows. As Bill is leaving, Jake asks if Bill has heard about the man who was gored outside the bullring He hasn't.
That Jake is still focused on the dead man suggests that something has changed for him, that the remembrance of the man may be more important to him than the ideal of bullfighting. But that Bill hadn't heard about the man's death suggests that the world will continue to prize the ideal and mythic power of sport over the life of a man.