When Nick sees Ad for the first time they look very alike. Both have bruised faces, both fell down (Nick from the train, Ad from his life as a famous boxer), and now both are sitting by the fire. Nick admires Ad for his toughness and the success he once had. But what he does not see at first sight, is the fundament on which this life was based on and where it lead to. Ad achieved everything with brutality, his toughness and his physical power was all he needed to be on top of the world. But especially when you reach all your success by being brutal, it will not last forever. Ad could fight the strongest men, but he was not able to handle feelings like loneliness or sadness. So he could not comprehend the loss of his wife and went mad. Finally he fell so deep that he ended in jail and now lives the life of a poor man. He is not able to control himself anymore and he needs Bugs to take care of him. Although he probably knows about that, he is too proud to admit it even after all that time. Instead he tells Nick that his friend is crazy, too. At the example of Ad Nick can see, where brutality and false pride can lead to. At the beginning he admires Ad for exactly those characteristics, but maybe afterwards he has learned that this is not the path to happiness.
During this encounter Nick also faces death, since a man who snaps in and out of reality like Ad could easily have killed him. But Nick remains calm without any cowardice; slowly backing up while trying to talk Ad out of the fight. Even though he is young, he shows mature behaviour and behaves the way Hemingway would want a real man to behave.
There are two possible explanations for this. A first interpretation could be made on the grounds of Bugs´s very contradictory character; on the one hand he is very polite, gentle and nice - really caring for Ad – on the other hand he is brutal, being a former convict who was in jail for "cuttin‘ a man" as he says. He has to hit Ad to get Nick out of danger, but even while hitting he is careful not to hurt. Hemingway`s calling him negro as well as nigger could emphasise Bugs´s brutality.
Another possibility could be that Hemingway wanted to point out the racial discrimination which was prevailing in the USA at Hemingway’s time. A strong argument for this interpretation is that Bugs is such a friendly character through his hospitality, but is still abusively called nigger. Whatever he does, however he behaves, the nigger prejudice will follow him throughout his entire life.
Bugs can be seen as a counterpart to Ad: he is nice, patient and calm. Ad on the other hand can snap in and out of reality at any moment, he is dangerous for society and has to be kept away from it. Bugs´s role is to keep him away, to protect him from himself. Bugs reminds the reader of a caring mother or a nurse: he protects Ad and Nick, feeds them, settles an argument and punishes.
Maybe Nick did not learn explicit lessons, but it can be said that he made some crucial experiences which might have influenced his further development. He must have found out that brutality does not really help you in life, that the gentle way is the better one. Another thing he experienced is how to face senseless aggression without cowardice. Finally the horrifying story about Ad’s sister might have influenced Nick´s attitude towards women, since he could have interpreted it this way: Do not depend too much on a single person, do not fall in love to hard – a woman can always leave you and harm you by this. Do not become vulnerable, you can be as strong as you want to your environment, but a woman can still hurt you. And with reference to this story there is also the virtue not to project one´s aggressions on the environment as Ad did.
This story does not only refer to Ad’s struggle in the ring as a fighter, but also refers to Ad’s battle of life. It shows that life is an endless battle, and how a person can become if this battle is lost.