For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Portrayal of Masculinity in For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Everyone the Bell Tolls
In his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway promotes his well-known philosophy about masculinity. He believes that humans should be brave and strong enough to cope with adversities, and that they should never allow weakness to reign their minds. To support his argument, he creates Robert Jordan, the perfect protagonist of the novel with much of intelligence and resolution. Jordan achieves his goal that is successfully blowing the bridge even though he loses part of his explosives. Because Hemingway constructs a compelling plot that justifies Jordan’s actions, the death and success of Jordan are noble and heroic. Jordan exhibits a strong belief in the cause. He sacrifices his love and friendships for the cause. Moreover, he manages to be graceful under pressure. Likewise, he maintains his practicality throughout the novel.
Robert Jordan strongly believes in the cause which is to build a better Spain. He leaves behind his country and his teaching Spanish and comes to Spain to fight for the Communists. As a foreigner, he must feel excluded sometimes because the band keeps calling “Inglés,” not Comrade but “Inglés.” However, he still is willing to fight for the Republic because he loves Spain and feels the need to build a better Spain. The Communists appeal to him because they offer “the best discipline and the soundest and sanest for the prosecution of the war” and “the only party whose program and whose discipline he [can] respect” (163). He looks at this fighting as his duty, and he is only “instruments to do [his] duty” (43). Jordan idealizes his duty and puts himself under it: “He himself [is] nothing, and he [knows] death [is] nothing” (393). Winning the war is the only goal he wishes to achieve because he believes in the cause. He recognizes that his work brings “added danger and bad luck to people” who shelter him and work with him, and he resents it (162) though they volunteer to help him. However, he realizes these sacrifices will contribute to the success of the war. Once they win, there will be “no more danger”, and “the country should be a good place to live in” (162). Therefore, he still believes in the cause.
Robert Jordan dedicates himself to the war without knowing the result, which gives the death of Jordan nobility even though his work is futile. People who know the outcomes of the war may think Jordan’s putting the band and himself at risk is pointless because the Republic is going to lose. However, Jordan does not know the outcomes, and he acts as if “that bridge can be the point on which the future of the human race can turn” (43). He puts “many things in abeyance to win a war,” such as love and friendships (305). He disregards his own happiness for the better future of people in Spain. All of his strength is devoted to winning the war. Even when he knows the mission will fail, and they are likely to die because the attack is not a surprise any more, he still executes the mission:
Maybe it is only a holding attack. Maybe they want to draw those troops from somewhere else. Perhaps they make it to draw those planes from the North. Maybe that is what it is about. Perhaps it is not expected to succeed. (333)
He believes even the failure of his mission could contribute to the overall success of the war. Because Jordan sacrifices himself for the cause without knowing the outcomes of the war, he deserves to be praised and glorified as a hero.
Friendships and love are important to Robert Jordant, but he is willing to sacrifice them for the cause. The death of Anselmo causes his despair. He feels “lonely, detached and unrelated” (447). The old man is with him from the beginning of the mission and always supports him. Anselmo is honest and courageous and abhors killing human beings. He tells Jordan what he thinks deep down in his heart: “Such a barbarity is unthinkable” (40). To lose a friend like Anselmo, Jordan is sad and resents this misfortune. However, he still blows the bridge because for him, the cause is more important than his personal feelings. Moreover, he not only sacrifices friendships but also love. Jordan has never fallen in love until he meets Maria. His love for her does not affect his resolution, but he prefers “not to die;” because of her, he can “abandon a hero’s or a martyr’s end gladly,” and “he would like to spend a long, long time with her” (164). In his moments of trepidation before the attack, he even feels blessed with her love as if he were to die tomorrow (304). Maria now is a crucial part of his life: “In the last few days he [learns] that he himself, with another person, [can] be everything” (393). During the last minutes before he leaves her, he does not forget to ask Agustín to take care of her and to reassure her that as “long as there is one of [them] there is both of [them]” (304). He could have escaped with her. They could have run away and lived happily together in America. Nevertheless, he chooses his duty over love, and he blows the bridge although he knows they will likely die or be separated from each other. To Jordan, duty is regarded as more important than personal relationships.
Although the mission causes Robert Jordan anxiety and puts pressure on him, he is graceful. The freak snow is one of the troubles that Jordan overcomes. He did not expect there would be snow. Snowing makes the mission harder for him to execute. He proclaims to himself: “That’s too bloody much” (181). A battle of thoughts takes place in his mind, and finally self-abnegation wins. He tells himself: “You just have to take it and fight out of it and now stop prima-donnaing and accept the fact that it is snowing . . . Cut it out and take it” (181). He quickly composes himself and adjusts his plan. Self-abnegation is “the greatest gift that he [has], the talent that [fits] him for war [, and the] ability not to ignore but to despise whatever bad ending there [can] be”(393). Self-abnegation helps him stay graceful under pressure, and “what there is to do now is [his] work” (393). In the end, he is “shaking . . . like a Goddamn woman” (437), but he successfully blows the bridge with the grenades not with his explosives that Pablo throws into the river. He tells himself: “Come on Jordan, pull yourself together” (438). Jordan is pressured in executing his mission, but he still is graceful and manages to do it successfully.
Besides self-abnegation, another prominent character of Robert Jordan is practicality. He maintains it throughout the novel. In the beginning, he chooses to not kill Pablo after Pablo objects to and criticizes Jordan’s mission not because of morality but because of practicality. In his rationale, for “a stranger [like him] to kill where he must work with the people afterwards is very bad,” and it “would be ideal if [Pilar] would kill [Pablo]” (63). He supports killing Pablo but does not do it because he thinks it will cause him more difficulties. Similarly, during the attack of the Fascists on El Sordo’s band, Jordan does not permit his band to run over to aid El Sordo. All the bombing on El Sordo’s hill hurts Jordan, but he needs his band to stay because it “is impossible to divide what force [they] have” (296). He is practical because if they went there, they would die there, and the mission would fail. Therefore, he tells everyone to stay even though they are abandoning his comrades. In the end, because he feels the need to give the band more time to run, he tries to live though the injury so severely hurts him that he cannot “wait any longer now”. The hemorrhage afflicts him while he strives to think of the band riding far away:
Think about them being away, he said. Think about them going through the timber. Think about them crossing a creek. Think about them riding through the heather. Think about them going up the slope. Think about them O.K. tonight. Think about them travelling, all night. Think about them hiding up tomorrow. Think about them. God damn it, think about them. ‘That’s just as far as I can think about them’, he said. (470)
Thinking of them escaping safely gives him strength to hold on to life and somehow calms him down: “Now, finally and at last, there [is] no problem” (466). Jordan is practical until the last minutes of his life. He is hero who always cares for his people.
The death and success of Jordan are noble and heroic. His strong belief in the cause and his sacrifices give noble air to his actions even though they are futile. Jordan is an exemplar of Hemingway’s philosophy advocating masculinity and practicality. He is a human being that cherishes love and friendships, but he is willing to put his duty above his personal feelings. He executes his mission even though difficulties suddenly appear, and he acknowledges his mission will fail. However, he is in hopes that the failure will contribute to the overall success of the Republic. Therefore, he is willing to sacrifice his life for the cause.
For Whom the Bell Tolls: Interpretive Analysis
For Whom The Bell Tolls Essay
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway is a classic piece of literature, leaving out the 400 pages in between is like cutting out the substance of the novel. The characters, the plot, the climax, all the vital features that make up a novel will be undeveloped. Not to mention the reader will never experience the magic of the story like one gets to do with every well-written novel. The suspense when you know something tragic is about to happen, the warm feeling one gets when their favorite characters fall in love, the weariness when something unfortunate is about to happen, etc.. will all be missing as the true essence of reading for pleasure is dismantled. The length of this novel shows that Hemingway knew what he was talking about, he wanted to show the readers the harsh reality of the kinds of things that were occurring in the Spanish Civil War at that time, writing about how we as a human species react when faced with times of war.
If you left out all the content, the ‘heart and soul’ of the novel, you may interpret the novel to be just a story about war, but just as in any novel, there is much more than just the beginning lets one know. While reading For Whom The Bell Tolls, one finds alternate meanings. Something the critics who disregard the 400 pages in between would find odd. But they do not realize that the novel in its entirety is the novel, everything is in those 471 pages. The beginnings of stories except for quality are in no way the basis for evaluation of an entire novel. After reading the novel, I feel among other things, For Whom The Bell Tolls is a coming of age story, but of course Robert Jordan is already of age, so in that sense an internal coming of age story. I base my opinion on the fact that we do not know much about Robert Jordan’s past so he is presented to us as a ‘young’ man, ready to perform his mission, being only focused on the war and his duty. But Robert Jordan unwillingly falls for Maria, as young boys are prone to do. “You were gone when you first saw her. When she opened her mouth and spoke to you it was there already and you know it.” He also meets many characters through the process of ‘his life’ and tackles with his mind about the many situations he must deal with. Finally, at the end, laying there on the forest floor he make his courageous and mature decision to stay behind, say goodbye to Maria, and helps give the others more time to get away, as he makes his descent into ‘adulthood.’ Which is just an example of opinion and content in the novel which would otherwise be missed and not explored.
The diction, the syntax, and the vivid descriptions that lead to vivid imagery employed by Hemingway added with his skill in writing all lead to a good novel. Which may not be liked by all audiences but can still be appreciated. Reading all the content located in the novel is important if one were to create their own opinion on the work, only then will one be able to form a sensible judgment. If someone stopped reading at the mere beginning and concluded that they do not like it, then they would be being narrow-minded. One may not like the beginning but find they enjoy the rest which they will never know if they let the beginning act as a hindrance to continue reading further. Thus to form an accurate opinion on an author and their work, one must have a sound premise on which they are basing it on.
In this novel, there are many events that may seem fairly insignificant when reading them, but they impact the novel significantly. The fact that Pilar wanted Maria and Robert Jordan to be together was because she knew that since Maria had been raped she would not be able to marry in Spain and knew Robert Jordan would take her with him which would be her only hope for a better life. Another event is when Raphael left his post to pursue two hares, thinking it a good idea because they needed something to eat. This led to the Calvary man entering and ultimately to Anselmo being killed by resorting to ignite the dynamite for the mission with a grenade rather than with the detonator. These kinds of events throughout the story show the readers that events escalate, just as they do in real life.
Additionally, the length of this novel is correlated with the life of the protagonist, Robert Jordan. Midway through the novel he comes to terms with the fact that the days he has left before the bridge operation may be his final days, and he must live his whole life in that time span, “There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you life a life in two days.” Showing that for some people in the Spanish Civil War this was a reality, never being able to return home or satisfying all their hopes and dreams just as Robert Jordan could not leave Spain with Maria. The rest of Robert Jordan’s life occurs throughout the novel and without those pages in between one would essentially leave out his whole life, missing the point that is so vital in understanding the reality of the theme; that these events are significant and occur not just in stories.
In conclusion, if one were to say that For Whom The Bell Tolls is a war story that would be valid, but incomplete. For Whom the Bell Tolls is much more than that, it is a story of courage, love, triumph, betraying, consequences, and everything in between. Leaving out content from the novel is like not reading the novel at all. One does not get to experience what goes into reading a good novel, one does not understand the events in between and how they have an impact on the entire novel as a whole. Most importantly they will not have their own opinion on the novel, they will not know the entire story or be able to feel what the characters have felt.
Watching The Society Changing: The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, and For Whom the Bell Tolls
Evolution and Darwinism are the products of what we now know as the human race. Due to our basic survival instincts, we know how to fulfill our desires to survive by obtaining necessities like food, water, and shelter. Society’s development over time has made it easier for the human race to “co-exist” with nature in the modern world, and thence forth has created more wants to achieve. Now, instead of simplistic necessities, humans crave wealth, education, and most importantly entertainment. For this reason, there was an emergence of literature, where famous writers, like Homer, Shakespeare, and Hemingway, have artistically posed their thoughts and opinions, presenting society with classics, like The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, storytelling is used to show characterization, character development, and different aspects of Greek culture.
Being an epic poem, it contains certain traits like the abundant list of characters and settings, the use of epic similes and other similar literary elements, and specifically the work’s poetic narrative attribute. Even the characters within The Odyssey use stories and myths to relate and draw conclusions about other personages. In this way, characters like Athena (Pallas) and Odysseus are indirectly and directly characterized. For example, in book one we receive background information on Odysseus’ sudden disappearance. Thinking he is dead, Athena mourns for Odysseus saying how ill his fate appears to be, “Must he, whose altars on the Phrygian shore, with frequent rites, and pure, avow’d thy power, be doom’d the worst of human ills to prove, unbless’d, abandon’d to the wrath of Jove?” (43). In this quote, she provides indirect and direct characterization. Athena’s diction and tone allows the reader to assume she is fond of Odysseus which is direct characterization. Although her thoughts are opinionated, because the quote is stated very early on, we can begin to form an image of Odysseus’ heroic-like personality.
The ability to retell these stories and interconnect them with the situation a hand shows a character’s level of knowledge. Seeing as Telemachus is the only one who specifically lacks rhetoric, the reader can also assume that his journey to find Odysseus, his father, is not only physical, but mental and even spiritual as well. This development of character is primarily from the internal conflict which Telemachus has presented himself with – will he ever live up to or surpass his fathers image? The Greek goddess Athena goes so far as to question his ability with her quote, “Few sons attain the praise of their great sires, and most their sires disgrace” (149). From the information we have received thus far, it appears that Telemachus is more prone to follow than lead unlike his father. His inability to speak and act also show what little individuality he possesses, showing he is still somewhat naïve. Therefore, one of the underlying goals in his odyssey is to define himself. The spiritual aspect is evidently demonstrated through the gods and goddesses throughout the book. They seem to test different characters by using disguises and trickery, and also through dreams. Within these visions of gods and/or goddesses, characters are often relayed a message or warning about their fate. If Telemachus truly trusts the gods, then he will blindly follow their every command, but if he is skeptical, then his actions could result in consequence and the discovery of his belief system.
The heavy emphasis that is held on certain elements in the The Odyssey, like spirituality, storytelling, and hosting, are key factors in discerning basic Greek culture. Gods and goddesses in Greek mythology portray religion with the belief in higher powers, and in many cases, they also explain their understanding of the world. People would create myths to justify the cause of natural disasters when in reality they were unknown (such as Zeus’ lightning bolt and severe thunderstorms, or a bad harvest because of Demeter). At this period, the only way to spread stories was through storytelling, because no one could have recorded what they had heard yet. This gave stories more variety, which is why there are often different versions of Greek myths. The rules of being a good host are more directed towards the suitors. We are given examples of good hosting through characters like King Alcinous who willingly accommodates Odysseus with food, drink, and shelter. The irony in the suitors is related to their behavior and manners. Unlike most guests, they invite themselves and over stay their welcome, causing tension and conflict. The implement of this literary device is an example of the importance of being a good host in Greek culture.
The written form of artistic expression of ideologies became known as literature after the evolution of society due to easy access of our fundamental means of survival. The Odyssey, being one of the classics to come from the emergence of literature, shows the impact of literary devices like storytelling on characterization, character development, and Greek culture thought the book. Many main characters employ this device to both help understand the situation at hand and relate it to their lives in general. The explanation specifically is more commonly used to display a basic comprehension of the mysterious ways of the world and a basis of Greek culture.
Pine Imagery: A Constant in a World of Change
In the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, published in 1940, an array of concepts and ideas is introduced. Hemingway places images of nature within the text to contrast the destruction that is war, and to create a visible contradiction. Pine imagery, specifically, plays an integral role in the novel, functioning as a steadfast symbol in a world that spins with many changes in a span of just a few days. It becomes a control variable, the base that all in the text relies on. Furthermore, pine trees are objects that Hemingway utilizes to exhibit the role of mother nature. Within the work, pine serves as a constant shelter, base of relationship, and stimulant of Jordan becoming one with nature in a perpetual environment that is brought by discontinuity throughout the text.
Throughout Robert Jordan’s journey, pine imagery is used as a form of shelter from the war. This arises when Anselmo, a peaceful character, looks out over the road counting enemy vehicles. Anselmo “did not start up the hillside but stayed leaning against the sheltered side of the pine tree” (192). This passage explicitly states that the pine is giving shelter. By Anselmo standing under this pine tree, he is removed from the war therefore safe from fighting. However, Pilar, a more violently driven character, is intent on stepping out from under the pine and retaliating. She exclaims, “Then calm yourself. There is much time. What a day it is and how I am contented not to be in pine trees. You cannot imagine how one can tire of pine trees” (96). Pilar validates anxiety to leave and fight for the republic. She feels that by waiting under the shadow of the pine, they are not aiding the cause as they should be. The theory of pines giving shelter is also reinforced. Furthermore, Pilar states, “I like the pines, but we have been too long in these pines” (97). To Pilar, the pines have restrained her from contributing in a valuable way to the rebellion. The shelter can be seen from two different perspectives, that of its refuge, and of its restriction, however, it continues in its constance. Although these examples contrast, they continue to give further evidence that proves pine to serve as shelter from war. Directly before Jordan’s death invoking injury, he was “out in the open” (460). After riding out from the pine, Jordan enters battle and suddenly becomes a target after having stepped from his zone of safety. Despite the pine only being a physical object, it is a representation mother nature watching over them while they are under her arm(the pines); and not in the war. In these actions, the loss of pine leads to the immediate demise of Jordan. Not only does pine give sanctuary, but it also serves as the footing of the characters relationships.
Pine is used as a way to form and become the base of relationships between characters, namely Jordan and Maria. Jordan, in an attempt to build a bed for Maria and him, builds a bed out of spruce (a type of pine), “earlier in the evening he had taken the ax and gone outside of the cave and walked through the new snow to the edge of the clearing and cut down a small spruce tree” (258). This demonstrates how pine is used to structure the relationship. Jordan and Maria are only as strong as the pine, and if the pine splits, their relationship falls out from under them. At the point where Jordan must depart from Maria to blow the bridge, he says and thinks, ‘“Thou canst talk with me of Madrid,’ he said and thought: I’ll keep any oversupply of that for tomorrow. I’ll need all of that there is tomorrow. There are no pine needles that need that now as I will need it tomorrow” (342). Jordan believes that as long as pine is present, his relationship with Maria will be. He puts off the notion of Madrid as he feels that it will preoccupy him, and he believes that being a thinker in war will lead to his death. Also, this reveals Jordan’s transformation from a soldier to a lover. His mission is to live and return to a new life was formed and all of it was carried out under the pine trees and on the pine needles. Confirming how pine becomes a catalyst in Jordan’s change and stems his desire. Overall, while the pine remains, Jordan is able to live on without the threat of death and continue his conversion. While pine is groundwork, it has another purpose in keeping as a constant force throughout the novel.
The pines also stay constant as Jordan becomes one with nature, surrounded by the changing environment he is in. Throughout the text, Jordan experiences a slow shift to being connected to nature. As the work progresses, detail of the earth becomes far more detailed and takes a leading role. This change reveals how Jordan slowly becomes closer to earth, and to become one with earth completely, Jordan will experience death to go full circle. Jordan thinks, “How little we know of what there is to know… I have learned much about life in these four days: more, I think, than in all other time” (380). This acknowledges that Jordan was in theory born in at the beginning of the novel, and he has come to live fully in the past four days. In this time he has made a full resolution, and become one with nature. However, to complete this journey, death must ensue, as otherwise, he cannot fully become at one with mother nature. Furthermore, The very first words in the novel, Jordan, “lay flat on the brown, pineneedled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees.” (1). On the other hand, Jordan is flat on the ground, stomach down, with his heart resting on the pine needles, however, the final lines of the work are, “He was waiting until the officer reached the sunlit place where the first trees of the pine forest joined the green slope of the meadow. He could feel his heart beating against the pine-needled floor of the forest” (471). At first glance, there is little difference between the two passages, however, when looking in greater depth, there are a few key differences. In the second quote, Jordan’s heart is beating against the earth despite his proximity to death. An idea reinforced by the concept of living the most when closest to death. This is backed up by Hemingway’s use of detail in nature increasing as the text moves on. This exemplifies how his transformation is completed, and how he has come full circle. Throughout his final days he experiences true love and happiness, giving him a fulfilled life, during all of this emotion, pine remains the same, unchanging and lifeless. Despite having a fatal injury outside of the pine, when he was dragged back in, injured and close to death, Jordan became more alive than ever. He had stated that he lived more in his few days in the cave than when he had in his whole life. It is because of this that the pine represents how a constant that is unchanging. The pine keeps steady while all around it the world changes. The consistency of pine throughout the text serves as a counterweight and reference point to Jordan’s unity with nature.
As a part of nature that speaks to the characters’ consciousnesses, pine is integral to For Whom The Bell Tolls. It serves as shelter, a basis of relationships, and a balance in all stages of the novel. Its influence on the text is unmeasurable and gives a point of reference. Hemingway achieves in using a natural element to represent the circle of life and it’s infinity through the pine. As well as that, pine becomes a physical portrayal of mother nature. The moral of this text is that although there are disruptions to the earth, it still spins, war makes nature stay still, but Hemingway succeeds in his objective to give us an accurate effigy of this concept through pine.
Carpe Diem: Life and Certitude in For Whom the Bell Tolls
The life expectancy in the United States is about seventy-eight years. Zambia’s life expectancy is roughly thirty-three years. Does this mean it is impossible for a person in Zambia to have a more fulfilling life than a person in the United States? In Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan conforms externally, but raises questions internally about the value of life, and discovers that it is possible to live a fulfilling life in any span of time if one lives life to its fullest.
In the beginning, Robert is sure of his causes and beliefs, and is willing to sacrifice his life to win the war. But by the end, Robert’s experiences and newfound acquaintances all work in synergy to persuade him otherwise. His companions change the value of human life for him. Anselmo, Pablo, and Robert are killers. They have all taken human life before, but have different views about doing so. For Anselmo, “it is a sin to kill. To take the life of another is…very grave” (Page 41). Religious and idealistic, Anselmo is the type of man Robert would like to look up to, but knows he can never be. No matter which path he takes, he can never parallel the peace-loving Anselmo—Robert has too much to fight for, too much to live for. On the other hand, Pablo is the most different from Robert, yet the most similar at the same time. For most of the novel Pablo is portrayed as a weakling, a man whose spirit has been broken, even though he was once a terrible killer. As Pilar has said, “Thou hast seen the ruin that now is Pablo, but you should have seen Pablo on that day” (Page 74). Unlike Anselmo or Robert, Pablo actually likes killing; he enjoys it, for the most part. But, he is broken before Robert arrives, and so Robert is not able to witness Pablo’s transformation from a ruthless killer to a drunken slob. Pablo underwent change, through a psychological transformation, much like the change Robert goes through. The only difference between the two is that Robert continues conforming outwardly to the needs of society despite his inward transformation, while Pablo chooses to forsake society, and chooses to fully display his inward transformation. True to his character, Robert becomes even more conflicted towards the end. He does not want to kill, and does not want to be killed, but he chooses to continue fighting for a cause he no longer completely believes in. These changes occur within Robert because of his newfound friendships, especially his bond with Maria.
Robert’s view on life changes as he journeys onward, especially after meeting Maria. Prior to meeting Maria, Robert fully believes that “There are necessary orders…and there is a bridge and that bridge can be the point on which the future of the human race can turn” (Page 43). At that point, he is full of conviction and ready to fight for the cause he fully believes in. With high hopes to change the future, he is even ready to die for his cause, although he is not fond of the prospect. His life is meaningless. Soon enough, Robert meets Maria, and she redefines the boundaries of his world. Life actually begins to mean something—Robert wants to live because of Maria. Yet, he sees the future, and sees time running out. This is the critical point, and he realizes that “There is only now and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion” (Page 167). For Robert, there is only one path. He cannot simply stop fighting—he can only change his reasons for fighting. Robert sees his fate, and grudgingly accepts it. Yet despite such acceptance, he does not abandon hope for life, and thus he learns to “seize the day.” By doing so, Robert lives an entire lifetime in merely two days and dies a fulfilled man. Instead of fighting the war to end the fascist regime, Robert changes his inward beliefs, and chooses to fight for Maria; he chooses to fight for life.
Robert outwardly accepts his fate as a soldier, but inwardly he continues to question the value of life and his own existence. In doing so, Robert distorts his reality into a anomalous relationship of life and death. Of the two paths, Robert chooses death, while Pablo, the counterpart of Robert, chooses the path of life. Pablo lives on, but he does not live a greater life—he is a drunken slob living in apathy. Even though Robert lives a much shorter life than Pablo, he still lives a much more fulfilling life than Pablo. Because of his love for Maria, Robert learns to “seize the day” and is thus able to live a much more gratifying life than Pablo’s in merely two days. He shows how a promising life can be lived in seventy-eight years—or, if one must, thirty-three.
Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls
Throughout Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan struggles to assign some value to human life – specifically, to his own life. This struggle reveals a weakness in Jordan’s cold, calculated nature, a weakness that Hemingway poignantly depicts through Jordan’s conflicted attitudes towards his father and grandfather. While Jordan clearly admires and aspires to be like his grandfather, a brave soldier in the Civil War and the Indian wars, he endeavors to rid himself of the image of his father’s cowardly suicide, for which he shows great disdain. This conflict is intensified by Jordan’s almost imminent death. The conclusion, at which point his conflict is resolved as he realizes the value of all life, provides insight into the changes that he endures to reach this stage. Through Jordan’s noble death, a clear repudiation of his father’s suicide, Hemingway is making a statement on the immense difference between willingness to die and desire to die. Jordan’s conflicted feelings towards his father and grandfather expose a discontinuity in his usually steadfast emotions, and eventually aid him in resolving his inner struggle concerning death and the value of life.Often throughout the novel, Hemingway returns to the motif of the significance of human life, which he mainly depicts through Robert Jordan’s self-conflicts. Amidst all the killing of the war, Jordan searches for meaning in the dead men’s lives. At times, his uncompassionate nature is strongest in this conflict, as in the passage in which Jordan relates the difference between him and Kashkin to Agustín: “‘I am alive and he is dead’, Robert Jordan said. Then: Is that all it means to you, now? It never meant much, he told himself truly. You tried to make it mean something, but it never did” (289). However, it is clear that Jordan has been emotionally affected by the killing he has done: “How many is it that you have killed? He asked himself. I don’t know. Do you think you have a right to kill anyone? No. But I have to” (303). His commiseration with the men he has killed is a sign of the break in his usually strict control over his emotions, a break that results in internal conflict: “Listen, he told himself. You better cut this out. This is very bad for you and for your work. Then himself said back to him, You listen, see? Because you are doing something very serious and I have to see you understand it all the time” (304). Although Jordan has not realized the value of life yet, this conflict is the first step in bringing about some change in his nature that will make him do just this.Robert Jordan’s feelings towards his father contrast sharply with those towards his grandfather, another conflict that causes him to lose strict control of his emotions. For his grandfather, from whom Jordan derives great pride, he has admiration similar to the feeling one would have towards a role model. While worrying about the mission, Jordan wishes he could “talk to [grandfather] now and get his advice,” illustrating his desire to be more like this man who he believes, as a model soldier, would know the significance of life and death (338). Jordan realizes, however, that “both he and his grandfather would be acutely embarrassed by the presence of his father” (338). His scorn for his father borders on the edge of derision and arrogance, as he thinks, “maybe the good juice only came through straight after passing through that one” (338). Jordan hardly even acknowledges their real relationship. Instead, he makes his father inferior to himself – “he had felt suddenly so much older than his father and sorry for him that he could hardly bear it” (406). Clearly, Jordan has trouble keeping his emotions under check when thinking about his father.When Jordan is injured and his death all but certain, he is forced to decide what importance his life still has, forced to choose the path of his father or his grandfather. In this last passage, Jordan’s inner conflict reaches its climax, and his true grit is being tested. Blinded by the intense pain from his broken leg, he nearly capitulates and decides to “do that business my father did” (469). Arguing with himself as to whether or not to commit suicide, Jordan finally comes to the realization that, although his life may not have any value to himself, it is very valuable to others, especially if he is able to slow the cavalry in pursuit of his guerrilla group. “I think it would be all right to do it now? Don’t you? No, it isn’t. Because there is something you can do yet. If you wait and hold them up even a little while or just get the officer that may make all the difference” (470). Jordan has figured out what his father never knew: that everybody’s life is worth something, that every man is a piece of the continent, and that the bell tolls for all. With Jordan enlightened with this newfound knowledge, Hemingway concludes the novel with a very sensual passage, emphasizing the pureness and simplicity of life by focusing on the heart, the simplest sign of animal life: “he could feel his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest” (471). On this note, glorifying every individual’s life and utterly rejecting his father’s suicide, the passage and the whole novel are concluded.Hemingway uses Robert Jordan’s conflict concerning his father and grandfather to make him realize the importance of life on a larger scale than suicide and the killing involved in a war. Through his reverence of his grandfather’s bravery and disgust at his father’s cowardice, Jordan discovers how his life and the lives of others are inter-related. His struggle to assign value to his life, aided by emotions brought out in him by the killing he has done, comes to an end with Jordan changed man, full of new resolution. Jordan’s decision not to kill himself is a hopeful message from Hemingway – one that exhorts emotion and the sacredness of life, a rejection of Jordan’s father’s suicide.
The Flight of Chivalry
In Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, the recurring images of the horse and the airplane illustrate one of the major themes of the novel. The novel’s predominant theme is the disintegration of the chivalric order of the Old Spanish World, as it is being replaced by the newer technology and ideology of the modern world. As a consummate artist, Hemingway, in a manner illustrating the gothic quality of his work, allows the bigger themes of For Whom the Bell Tolls to be echoed in the smaller units. He employs the tropes of the horse and the airplane to convey these larger themes, while at the same time using them to comment upon the complex relationship that exists between the Spaniards – Fascists and Communists, alike – and religion. Through a close reading, and through detailed references to the work, it is the purpose of this paper to examine the tropes of horses and planes, as they exist in For Whom the Bell Tolls, placing a special emphasis on religion.The frequent occurrence of the images of the horse and the airplane is not purely accidental, for Hemingway is using these tropes to support his bigger theme. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway uses the horse to represent the aristocratic hierarchy of the Old World dating back to the Middle Ages, while he uses the airplane to represent the invasion of Spain by modern technology and ideologies. The most powerful and moving illustration of the use of these images to symbolize this changing of orders occurs in Chapter 27, which proves the importance of the horse and plane images and what they represent. Hemingway uses the tropes of the horse and the airplane to symbolically portray the two contrasting views of the war held by the small bands of Spaniards and the Fascist powers. As the Spaniards, who stay medieval far longer than the rest of Europe, are closely tied to the ancient chivalric tradition, their first allegiance is to the town. They have abandoned religion, as they have become disillusioned by it, and, therefore, have no mechanism for atonement. Stemming from their close attachment to the chivalric ideal of equality in battles, the Spanish have absolutely no conception of modern warfare, until the planes begin invading their land. They view war as a match of equals, wherein a lone soldier can look his enemy in the eye as they battle, but, instead, they are forced to come to grips with the horrors of modern warfare.The planes are representative of the modern mechanical accomplishments that have emerged, which can replace the chivalric, soldier of the Old World. With the emergence of such technologies, and the influx of new ideologies, not only has the religion, once integral to chivalry, become obsolete, but the people, too, have become dispensable. Gone forever is the almost sacred element of one-on-one battles; the planes have eradicated these chivalric ideals, by replacing them with a brand of never before seen mass destruction. In effect, the new ideologies have become the new religion; they have replaced the Church, just as the new mechanisms, such as planes, and mass warfare have replaced the chivalric ideals of the medieval world.The meaning of the horse and airplane images can be illuminated through an exploration of Chapter 27, which conveys, without a doubt, their significance. One of the very first images the reader is presented with at the beginning of the chapter is El Sordo’s horse, which has been shot by the modern army. After shooting the horse to put it out of its misery, Sordo, at one point, hides behind the horse, using it for cover. Even in its death, the horse is still useful to the Spaniard. This image of an atheistic Communist soldier looking toward a dead horse for protection, is quite fascinating, especially in consideration of one of the turns of the novel this chapter marks: the reassertion of religion. Like the dead horse, Christianity, too, has died in the hearts of the disillusioned Spaniards, and, in this chapter, resurfaces as a form of protection from the inevitable death of modernized warfare. With the interspersed images of the horse and the plane, Hemingway is conflating the religion of the old order of Spain with the religion of communism. As the planes get nearer, Joaquin, the young Communist atheist, comments that, “Pasionaria,” a Communist, “says it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” (309). This radical idealist, who has put all his hope into a real, living Communist woman, now shifts into a Catholic prayer, invoking the Mother of all mothers: the Virgin Mary. The very fact that Joaquin segues into prayer in a moment of fear arises from his being a Spaniard. This critical moment illustrates how the old religion takes hold in a moment of crisis. Earlier in the novel, Anselmo asserts to himself that “there must be a penance of some kind for the cleansing of us all” (196). Feeling this need for penance, young Joaquin calls on the Blessed Mother, and prays for forgiveness, something forbidden according to the Communist religion. Later on, in the same chapter, seeing the brain dead Joaquin, Lieutenant Berrendo made the sign of the cross and then shot him in the back of the head, as quickly and as gently, if such an abrupt movement can be gentle, as Sordo had shot the wounded horse. . . . Then he made the sign of the cross again and as he walked down the hill he said five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys for the repose of the soul of the soul of his dead comrade. (322)Thus, Hemingway allows Communism and Fascism to meet under the auspices of the old religion. The very fact that Berrendo blesses his enemy illustrates the two ideologies falling away in the face of death, as the sign of the cross and the Virgin Mother become more important to both sides. The Hail Marys heard from the mouths of the Communist boy and the Fascist soldier owe entirely to the fact that they are both Spaniards.The horse and plane imagery existent in the pivotal Chapters of Eight and Nine not only foreshadow the death and destruction caused by the planes as well as the reassertion of the religion of the Old World, as seen by the prayer and the usefulness of the dead horse, but help support the significance of both the tropes in the novel. In Chapter Eight, the planes are described as “hammering the sky apart as they went over,” whereas later in Chapter 27, the planes not only hammer apart the sky, but the earth and people as well (75). In Chapter Eight, Pablo, who readily admits, “never have we seen planes like this” is eternally concerned about the safety of his horses (76). In Chapter Nine, Pablo is portrayed as making the same shift back to religion as Joaquin makes later on in Chapter 27, when he gets frightened. This shift back to the Old World represents Pablo’s loss of faith in politics, which can be seen symbolically in his close attachment to his horses, emblematic of the chivalric ideal. Thus, the atheism of the Communists and Socialists cannot help the Spaniards when they are facing death: the new ideologies cannot replace Christianity. As seen in Chapter Nine, the fear the Spaniards have for the planes is symbolic not only of the fear of their own death, but also of the death of the whole world. The Spaniards do not simply fear the death of the individual life, but the greater evil, that their cosmos will be obliterated. This different kind of fear propels Pilar to perceptively state, “The sight of those machines does things to one . . . . We are nothing against such machines” (89). Pilar is here voicing the destruction of the community that the planes represent; this kind of destruction is what moves Pablo closer to his horses, and even provokes him to kill his cohorts to get their horses. Religion and community are one and the same, however, with the invasion of the modern world, religion does not hold because there has been a breakdown of community. The reaction to the coming of the planes is indicative of the Old World mindset of the Spaniards. In Chapter Eleven, when Sordo relays the troop movement and the planes he saw in Segovia to Robert Jordan, he confidently questions, “We prepare something?” (143). When they see all the planes flying, the Spanish peasants immediately assume that their side may be preparing. They err in thinking, however, because the Fascists are not there because they heard that their opponent was mounting an equal offensive, but rather, to obliterate the small bands. Questioning whether their side is “preparing” shows the mindset of the Old World Spanish peasant. Sordo cannot conceive of not being in a battle with an equal opponent. This is the old chivalric code. The Fascists are modern, however. As we see on the hill of Sordo, they are here to wipe them out. Essentially, the horses are no match for the airplanes.When the images of the horse are first presented to the reader in Chapter One, Robert Jordan, somewhat of a cultural invader, remarks, “Thatis much horse” (13). Later, in Chapter 27, Sordo says to his dead horse, “Eras mucho caballo,” meaning, “Thou wert plenty of horse” (313). Clearly, death of the horse by the mechanized warfare of the modern world bespeaks the death of the Old World. By the novel’s end, the same Robert Jordan will become injured by a horse which falls on him, as he is overwhelmed by the Old World, symbolized through the horse. At the end of the novel, Robert Jordan, whose precise knowledge of planes and all aspects of modern warfare, has become crippled under the weight of the Old World. However, the horses accompany the peasants as they flee from the terrors of mechanized warfare, and thus, the community lives on.
Bravery and Altruism: Coming to Terms with Mortality in For Whom The Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls is a narrative about a young combatant and expert dynamiter, Robert Jordan, fighting with the anti-fascists in Spain during the civil battles. The main leitmotif explored in For Whom the Bell Tolls is mortality. The story which revolves around the violence of war explores death in different angles, but the central subject is each key character faces or comes to terms with their own death or others. During his assignment to destroy the target site, Robert meets Anselmo who is the guide and intercessor between him and the guerrilla rebel soldiers. His quest, however, clashes with the reluctance and aggression of the rebel leader Pablo to take on a mission that will imperil his troop. Pilar, Pablo’s wife who does not agree with his husband stance on the operation, arrogates leadership and supports Robert’s mission. They gain more support from El Sordo, the leader of another rebel camp however they are later delimited and killed by fascist troops. The guerilla leaders all contemplate their own deaths individually, as their plan experiences obstacles and setbacks all through. Each of the key characters is faced with dilemmas and choices through the assignment, that either prompts bravery or self-sacrifice in the face of demise hence coming to terms with their own mortality or of others.
At the start, Robert Jordan is unmindful of mortality until he falls in love, and has to gain valor and altruism to contemplate his own death for the mission. Jordan as a soldier desensitized to the horrors of war but his newfound love with Maria transforms the meaning of death. As death no longer marks the conclusion of a mission but the end of a period adorned by love for Maria prompts a harder choice in altruism that may lead to his own demise. At the end of the book, Robert faces mortality by accepting his fate and sacrificing himself as he is waiting for the impending death (Hemingway 250). Jordan chooses his own mortality over being captured and prepare himself to be exterminated in order to avoid internment. Although as he prepares to sacrifice himself through suicide, he still hopes to avoid killing himself as his father did, who he considered a coward. As he contemplated before that “you have to be awfully occupied with yourself to do a thing like that” (Hemingway 182). Hence the choice of self-sacrifice and accepting his own demise is a complex decision for Jordan at this point. The story concludes as he bids farewell to Maria and the guerrillas as he hopes to strike back at the enemy with his last breath as the rest escaped.
Pablo, the rebel leader, is illustrated as afraid of his own death but through the course of the mission gains bravery and comes to terms with his own mortality. As Anselmo utters about Pablo “He is very flaccid. He is very much afraid to die” (Hemingway 15). Pablo’s fear to put his life and his soldiers in danger is illustrated as he also admits his fear of death to his wife Pilar. His fear of death is actually a symptom of more general despair caused by his guilt over the people he’s killed. Pablo still not committed to the operation steals bomb detonators and equipment dumping them to prevent fascist retaliation, however, he later returns to aid. He exhibits courage admitting his part in destroying the equipment; though still not accepting of the strategy, he overcomes his fear of mortality for his spouse Pilar. As everyone is willing to put their lives on the line, Pablo comes to terms with risking his own life as well in order to not lose Pilar.
Other characters Pilar, El Sordo and Anselmo also contemplate their own deaths and of others as they gather their bravery and altruism to undertake the risky mission. Aware of the early Republic attack, each of the characters anticipates risking their own lives, as surviving seems fairly impossible. El Sordo faces looming death after the attack, as he is dying the narrator states “…one’s death is difficult to accept. Sordo had accepted it…” (Hemingway 168). Illustrating the bravery that had to be gained to come to terms with one’s own demise. While Pablo is reluctant to take on the operation, Pilar makes a stance and takes on the responsibility to participate in the mission regardless of the risk. The highly superstitious Pilar also reads Jordan’s palms and sees his death. Despite her reluctance to admit it, Pilar anticipates Jordan’s death in the near future which she simultaneously contemplates with her own mortality. Moreover, Anselmo feels remorse of the killings in the war while contemplating on atoning for his sins through self-sacrifice. The story illustrates each character’s acceptance of mortality before, during or after the main operation.
The characters in their path during the operation face difficult choices that demand bravery and altruism in the face of adversity prompting contemplating and coming to terms with their own mortality or of others. Robert Jordan undergoes a character arc clearly illustrated by his lack of passion about anything to his heroic act for the greater good. He has to have a resolution regarding his mortality at the end of the mission, by sacrificing his happiness with his love Maria for the operation. On the other hand, Pablo overcomes his fear of death and gains bravery for his troops and his spouse Pilar. Furthermore, Pilar, El Sordo, and Anselmo face the same complex impasse that has to be overcome by true bravery and altruism in the face of demise. The John Donne’s quote that introduces the story interprets to that every man needs others and the brotherhood of society. The story illustrates the essence of the quote through the transition and arcs of a majority of the characters in the book from Robert Jordan to Pablo.