From Robert Cohn the boxer to Pedro Romero the bullfighter, the characters of The Sun Also Rises compete and combat in various sporting events for honor and to impress the insatiable Brett. Whenever a trip is proposed, there is usually some sporting reason—Jake and Bill Gorton travel to Spain to fish, and the whole crowd is drawn to the bullfighting at the fiesta. Sport provides an escape for Jake and his friends from what they see as the meaninglessness of the rest of their lives. Sports have rules, and those rules define winners and losers, define beauty and skill.
And yet, like World War I erupting from the carefully balanced tensions of Europe in the 1910s, for the characters of The Sun Also Rises, the matches spill over from the arenas onto the streets of Pamplona, into the bars and cafes. Violence that should be controlled becomes threatening. A man is killed by a bull outside Pedro Romero's bullfight. And the male characters' competition over the careless, rule-breaking Brett turns them into sportsmen of sorts, competitors for her love. Rules, tactics, and victories in the form of insults or emotional injuries become "moves" in the game of social power. When Robert Cohn boxes at Princeton, he refuses to fight anyone outside of the ring. He follows the rules of sport and honor. But as Robert becomes unhinged by his obsession with Brett, he starts a brawl.
Sport Quotes in The Sun Also Rises
"Nobody ever lives life all the way up except bull-fighters"
– Cohn and Jake
"Yes," I said; "something doing all the time."
"You wouldn't believe it. It's like a wonderful nightmare."
"Sure," I said. "I'd believe anything. Including nightmares."
– Bill and Jake