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Summary of the Novel The novel opens with an introduction to Robert Cohn, an insecure Jewish man whose relationships with women have lead to disastrous affairs. After his divorce, he meets Frances, who convinces him to travel to Europe. After three years with her, Cohn has written a novel, goes to America, and gets it accepted by a publisher. While he is there, attention from other women raises his confidence and makes him lose interest in Frances.
After he returns to Europe, his dissatisfaction with his life grows when he becomes smitten with Brett, a woman with whom Jake is also in love. She and Jake can never move beyond a platonic relationship, though, because of a war injury that left Jake impotent.
Robert changes when he falls in love with Brett. He no longer cares about tennis, sends Frances away, and has conflicts with people. Brett and Robert have an affair in San Sebastian, and Jake begins to despise Robert.
The group decides to go to Spain to fish. Bill, Robert, and Jake go ahead to get equipment and rooms and plan for Brett and Mike to join them later in Pamplona. Robert nervously awaits Brett's arrival. He goes to the station in case she shows up. When she does not, he does not go fishing in case Brett went to San Sebastian to meet him. Robert disgusts Bill and Jake. They go to Burguete and fish for five days before returning.
When they go to Pamplona, they stay at the Hotel Montoya, which is owned by Juanito Montoya. He respects Jake because of his passion, or aficion, for bullfighting. The hotel is the meeting place for aficionados and has pictures of only aficionado  bullfighters on the wall.
In Pamplona, Robert follows Brett constantly. The first day of the fiesta, streets become crowded with people drinking and partying. Releasing the bulls signals the beginning of the bullfights.
The next day the bullfights begin. Montoya introduces Bill and Jake to Romero, the newcomer. They are impressed with him as an aficionado . At the bullfight, spectators are impressed with his skills, but Brett with his attractiveness.
The next day Romero steals the show. Montoya shows his protectiveness for Romero when the American ambassador wants Romero to join him for coffee. Montoya expresses concern that this attention may spoil Romero. Jake agrees and suggests Montoya lose the message. However, when Brett insists on being introduced and confides to Jake she has fallen in love with Romero, Jake violates his aficion  and arranges their affair.
When Jake returns to the group without Brett, Robert panics. When Robert finds Brett is with Romero, Robert calls Jake a "pimp" as he hits him. Robert finds Brett in Romero's room and nearly kills him, but Romero does not quit. After Brett lambasts him, Robert begins crying and apologizes to Romero and later to Jake. He leaves Pamplona in the morning.
The next morning is the final day of the fiesta. As bulls are running the streets into the ring, one man gets gored. The president's attendance brings pomp and circumstance. Brett, radiantly in love with Romero, sits with Jake and Bill at the bullring. She shows adoration and concern for Romero although she says his people disapprove of her. Romero hands his gold-brocade cape to his sword-handler to give to Brett.
Belmonte, the first fighter, kills his bull without much drama. Romero fights next. He works perfectly, though he is still injured from Robert's beating. The bull does not see well, and the crowd wants another bull. Marcial fights next, and the crowd responds ecstatically.
Romero's last bull is the one that had killed the man. He works smoothly and efficiently at both killing the bull and pleasing the crowd. He gives the ear to Brett.
After the bullfight, the fiesta winds down. Brett leaves with Romero, and everyone else goes his own way. Jake stays one night in Bayonne before leaving for San Sebastian. After three days he receives cables from Brett that she is in Madrid and needs help.
When Jake arrives, Brett cries and tells him she sent Romero away because she knew she