Well, Hemingway was actually watching the bullfights in spain when he decided that that would make an interesting basis for a novel, so in a way the setting was the springboard which originated the novel. Also, setting the story around a bullfight allows him to compare the characters to bulls and steers as a way of exploring their femininity/masculinity and their attitudes.
I hope this helps. I'm not a professor or anything, I'm just a student writing an essay on a book by a masochist that I hate. But a quick google search should probably verify the above information - as well as the internet verifies anything... as well as give you some ideas regarding the bull/steer/character comparisons.