The goring of horses

Only 10 pages in to “Death in the Afternoon,” I am in disagreement with Hemingway’s view of the most despicable act in bullfighting.  The goring of innocent horses.

Picadors riding on horses place lances in the bull’s neck during the Second Act of this “sport” the Spaniards call Tragedy.  They do this to weaken the neck muscles and force the bull to charge the matador, in the final Third Act, with head and lethal horns lowered.   A matador could not fight a bull otherwise without injury or death.

As the picadors place the lances, the bull gores the horses, disemboweling them.  The Spaniards have tried to prettify this by putting a quilt over the abdomen of the horse, so you often do not see the blood and guts pour out.  Not only that, but the horses that come into the arena for the other fights smell the blood and gore and are terrified.

“I believe,” writes Hemingway, “that the tragedy of the bullfight is so well ordered and so strongly disciplined by ritual that a person feeling the whole tragedy cannot separate the minor-comic tragedy of the horse so as to feel it emotionally.”

In other words, the end justifies the means.  In that case, you can justify all sorts of atrocities.

If in politics, say, you want a better America and the only means of achieving it is to torture and eliminate people who do not agree with the end result, then what do you have?  This moral issue is a difference of opinion I did not consider when reading “Death” as a young man,  So, in the first chapter, I’m already against bullfighting as a sport or a tragedy.

To read further, I must do my own pirouette.  I must say does reading the book as travelogue, the ends, justify putting myself through all the issues that lay ahead?  I am pushing ahead for now.



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