Throughout the film, Jake says this phrase as a kind of signature explaining his masochistic, gruesome fighting style. Jake refuses to “go down” to the canvas (and thus avoiding more punches), as this would signify weakness and surrender to an opponent. Instead, he allows his opponent to inflict severe pain on him, not only to affirm his masculine control in the ring, but to receive the punishment he believes he deserves for his sins.
In addition to exhibiting Jake's masochistic pride, “I don’t go down for nobody” also encapsulates his entire outlook in life: Jake wants to do everything on his own terms, without considering the feelings of others. Jake avoids negotiating with Tommy and the mob to earn a shot at the title, because it would suggest that he cannot become a champion with his talent alone. After Jake becomes suspicious of Vickie’s infidelity, he refuses to sleep with her. When someone notifies Jake of Vickie’s presence outside “LaMotta’s,” he forces her to wait for him until dawn. Jake doesn’t “go down for nobody”—he never gives up; he never backs down; he never gives in.
“So gimme a stage
Where this bull here can rage.
And though I can fight,
I'd much rather recite
The film opens with the older, overweight Jake reciting this monologue for his act in small time nightclub. Here, Jake recalls his professional peak, but affirms his preference for performing on stage over boxing. The phrase “That’s entertainment” reduces all performances—boxing, live monologues, dramatic readings—to the same fundamental level of banality. While Jake softly utters the second “That’s entertainment,” Scorsese uses the soundbite to transition to a young Jake receiving two punches to the face, thereby evoking the more disturbing and popular conceptions of entertainment. By linking the violence of boxing with the notion of entertainment, Scorsese condemns the public’s admiration for a sport of immense, primal brutality.
"He ain't pretty no more."
Tommy makes this terse observation after Jake severely disfigures Janiro in the ring. Here, Tommy illuminates how boxing enables brutality that would otherwise be considered assault and battery. Boxing’s promotion of violence allows Jake to legitimize his inner demons, which explains why he transforms Janiro into a hideous, unrecognizable victim of his rage. Because Vickie identifies Janiro as good-looking, Jake views Janiro as a vicious male rival, a threat to his marriage with Vickie and his integrity. Tommy’s remark, therefore, invokes Jake’s willingness to physically destroy his opponent—so he can eradicate his own anxieties and internal struggles in turn.
"I’m not an animal! I’m not an animal!"
After being wrestled into his jail cell, Jake says these words. At this point in his life, he has experienced a divorce, an estrangement with Joey, a weight gain of 60 pounds, and an arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. To process his downward spiral and isolation, he slams his fists and head against the cinderblock wall and repeats, “I am not an animal!”—even though this action is, precisely, what makes him seem like an animal, caged in a cell. As noted in the Symbols, Allegories, and Motifs section, the motif of animals symbolizes Jake’s primal and rudimentary emotions. By repeating the phrase “I’m not an animal,” Jake tries painfully to restore his own humanity and assert that he’s not as barbaric as he seems.
“You never got me down, Ray.”
After Jake goads Sugar Ray Robinson into beating him to a pulp during their tumultuous final fifth fight, he walks over to Robinson and taunts him for not getting him down (“You never got me down, Ray.”) Irony pervades this quote: Jake may not have utterly surrendered to Robinson, but he’s mangled, bloody, and barely able to hold himself up. He appears more pathetic than he would if he choose to go down to the canvas. Jake believes that his preventing Robinson from knocking him out, and his ability to withstand so much violence, is evidence of his bravado, resilience, and hyper-masculinity, but it contrarily elicits pity from the audience. Jake undergoes this pain because he feels that he deserves to suffer, but he still wants to uphold some control over his superior opponent. However much Jake hurts others, he hurts himself more, and his only claim to victory is, “You never got me down, Ray.”
"I want you to hit me in the face."
After complaining about his “little girl’s” hands, Jake makes this absurd request to his brother Joey. This quote demonstrates Jake’s capacity for masochism: he associates his small hands with subordination and femininity, and he wants to punish himself for these features while asserting his hyper-masculine tolerance for pain. Thus, within the context of the film, this quote may seem abrupt or jarring, but it aptly encapsulates Jake’s tendencies to induce others into hurting him as soon as he recognizes his flaws and weaknesses. Joey initially refuses to hurt his brother, but Jake nonetheless bullies him into hitting him bare-fisted until his face cuts open. On some level, Jake enjoys his suffering, as suggested by his smirk at the conclusion of the scene.
"I've done a lot of bad things, Joey. Maybe it’s coming back to me. Who knows? I’m a jinx maybe…”
After Jake’s first onscreen loss to Robinson, a furious Joey violently breaks a chair backstage, while Jake pensively laments, “I’ve done a lot of bad things, Joey. Maybe it’s coming back to me. Who knows? I’m a jinx maybe…” This is an all too rare moment of introspection and self-reflection for Jake—throughout the film, he doesn’t use language to articulate and express his wrongdoings, much less imply that he deserves punishment for these sins. Before any sinner finds salvation, they must exhibit a self-awareness of their offenses, as Jake does here. Thus, this quote signifies Jake’s capacity for redemption.
“You’re nothing but a fat pig selfish fool…[Joey’s] cock’s bigger than yours too!”
After a paranoid Jake angrily demands Vickie to explain why she supposedly slept with Joey, she mock-confesses to sleeping with Tommy, Salvy, and Joey. As in many of her disputes with Jake, Vickie has little agency: either she confesses to having affairs and Jake beats her, or she denies the affair and Jake beats her anyway. Here, she sarcastically confirms Jake’s paranoia, exploits his male chauvinism, and by comparing his manhood to Joey’s, she also implies a sexual inadequacy in Jake.
"It was you, Charley. You was my brother. You should've looked out for me a little bit. You should've looked out for me just a little bit. You should've taken care of me just a little bit instead o' making me take them dives for the short-end money. You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let's face it. It was you, Charley. It was you, Charley.”
In the last scene of the film, Jake recites Terry Maloy (Marlon Brando)'s famous monologue. As Jake delivers Terry’s heartbreaking words in an offhanded, halfhearted way, we can’t help but detect some irony in Jake’s decision to recite On the Waterfront. Presumably, Jake connects to the tumultuous relationship between Terry and his brother Charley, seeing an analogy to his relationship to his brother Joey, also his manager. He also relates to Terry’s status as a victimized, tragic hero. In On The Waterfront, Terry never received a chance at success because of Charley’s selfishness. But Joey fostered many of Jake’s greatest triumphs, and it is Jake—not Joey—who singlehandedly destroys his own career. Jake and Terry are two opposed characters, and Jake’s attachment to Terry—and recitation of his words—only reveals his lack of self-awareness and inability to address his own reprehensible actions.
“Once I was blind and now I can see.”
Scorsese inserts this Bible quote into the film’s final title card. The quote implies that Jake has achieved new insight into his sins with a redemptive clarity; however, much debate surrounds the quote. Some commentators, like the film’s screenwriter Paul Schrader, believe the inclusion of “Once I was blind and now I can see” is baffling and ironic, as Jake does not undergo any real spiritual or moral journey in the film. Others argue that Jake’s willingness to participate in his pathetic staged performances—and humiliate himself and damage his reputation as a “raging bull” by extension—implies a profound acknowledgment and atonement of his sins. Thus, the inclusion of the quote is largely up to viewer interpretation.
Raging Bull Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Raging Bull is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.