The Faithful Bull

The Faithful Bull

A Labovian Analysis of Ernest Hemingway’s The Faithful Bull


Ernest Hemingway and his love of bullfighting require no formal introduction, however his short story, The Faithful Bull, is less well known. It is essentially a fable having been written for the child of a friend and published in 1951. Twenty-one years later, the famous linguist, William Labov laid out a framework outlining the progression of oral narratives in a six-part structure. The advantage of this Labovian method of analysis is that it can also be applied to literary narratives in general, not just to oral versions of personal experience. Using Hemingway’s 700-word fable, written in his inexorable, economic style and applying Labov’s six-part model (abstract, orientation, complicating action, evaluation, result, coda), I intend to confirm the suitability of this form of analysis for the short story.
        The abstract of the narrative announces the initiation of a narrative and can, in effect, report the entire sequence of events, outlining the story. An abstract is not however an essential part of a narrative and can be omitted. A true explanatory abstract has no place in The Faithful Bull, it being a short story, but it does have a title. This three-word title does actually tell us very briefly what the story is about; a specific bull who is faithful and in this way, the title fulfils the norms of an abstract, albeit in a very transient way. It stimulates the addressees’ curiosity and focuses their attention on the narration.
        The orientation gives information about the time, the place of events, the participants’ identities and their initial behaviour, effectively answering the questions: when, where, who and what? The orientation starts at the beginning of the story and stretches from: “One time there was a Bull” until “He was very noble and he loved to fight.”. This positioning fits in very well with Labov’s thoughts that orientation material generally “comes in a block prior...

View Full Essay