For Whom the Bell Tolls Analysis
Table of Contents
In Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan, a supporter of the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, joins a squad of guerrillas and sets off on a mission to destroy a bridge critical to the fascists’ supply lines. Jordan and his guide, Anselmo, embark on an excursion in the highlands near the bridge to look for probable bomb hiding places. Jordan and Anselmo assemble a guerrilla force whose symbolic blind dedication to the Republican cause serves as a metaphor for the number of individuals required to convey the bomb. Jordan’s growing infatuation with Maria, the village chief’s daughter, becomes more connected with psychological comfort from the horrors of war in the reader’s imagination. By fleeing with Maria and spending the rest of his life in peace, Jordan rallies the guerrillas for the mission. When conflict breaks out, it threatens the survival of a whole civilization, so the protagonists make the ultimate sacrifice so that future generations might live in peace.
Themes of Loss
One way or another, the conflict takes something away from everyone of For Whom the Bell Tolls’ protagonists. For example, the loss of parents forces Joaquin to grow up rapidly, while Maria is raped by a gang of fascist troops, both of which are authentic experiences for the characters. But, aside from these obvious material losses, the conflict has also exacted a heavy emotional toll. At first, Robert Jordan traveled to Spain wholeheartedly believing that he was joining the “good side” because he believed in the Republican cause (Mugair et al., 2019). But, unfortunately, Robert Jordan’s experience in the battle has left him tired and less than romantic about the cause.
Furthermore, those on both sides of the conflict lose their innocence due to the violence they commit. After taking part in the slaughter of the local fascists, the roughnecks in Pablo’s hamlet must confront their inherent violence. Anselmo and Lieutenant Berrendo had to overcome their objections to murdering people and dismembering them.
Many innocent individuals suffer collateral damage from the war, even if they never participate in it. According to Karjagdiu and Mrasori (2022), reporters, authors, and readers of books about war, like For Whom the Bell Tolls, have to let go of the naive notion that clear moral lines are separating us from the enemy on the battlefield. Hemingway uses the book to demonstrate that morality is relative and contextual and that good and evil are seldom black and white. For Whom the Bell Tolls lacks a traditional feeling of heroic victory in combat, triumph, or joy at the ultimate triumph of good over evil since there are no clear right and wrong sides.
Hemingway reminded us that the hardest thing to strive to sense awareness and know themselves and the nature of relationships is to reach a balance between nature and man, man and woman, and global harmony among people. The destiny of coexistence depends on how well you know yourself and others around you. To develop “the emotion of love,” it is necessary for people to shatter their selfish sense of self-importance. To be loved by nature, humans need to reintegrate with the natural world and experience its enchantment.
According to Guill (2020), throughout the work, Hemingway used metaphors to demonstrate how the guerrillas failed to comprehend the reality of war and its consequences. During the guerillas’ attempt to demolish the bridge in Spain, a snowfall hits, which Jordan characterizes as “the exhilaration of war, except it was clean” (Hemingway, 2019). By comparing the fury and adrenaline of combat to a blizzard, Hemingway presents an image of conflict as chaotic, bewildering, and ultimately lethal for its participants. Because the snowfall hastens the rebels’ downfall, as does the conflict, the metaphor emphasizes the guerrillas’ lack of foresight into the consequences of their hurried, impulsive attempts to prevail. Furthermore, as the rebels make their final effort to blow their explosives beneath the bridge, Jordan flashes back to his previous career as a matador, recognizing that “the battle he is currently waging is yet another bullfight” (Hemingway, 2019). Hemingway compares a bullfight to indicate that the pleasure of violence and the value of honorable death in Spanish culture may explain the peasant’s unshakeable dedication to the Republican cause (Ruef, 2004). Hemingway utilizes the analogies of a blizzard and a bullfight to argue that the Spanish Civil War was a foolish and wasteful battle that took far too many lives.
Hemingway used metaphor and imagery to demonstrate the disparity between conflict and nature. Jordan sees “the glistening trout serenely swimming in the river” and “the sunshine gleaming upon the rustling green foliage of the mountainside” (Hemingway, 2019). At the same time, he prepares the explosives with wire and pliers. According to Guill (2020), in portraying Jordan’s scenery, Hemingway contrasts the tranquillity and beauty of pristine nature with the dangerous, manufactured death traps that quickly murder adjacent prey. Hemingway utilizes this juxtaposition to demonstrate how the death and devastation of war and the life and beauty of nature compete for control of the Spanish landscape. As an aside, Hemingway begins the book’s opening and conclusion with Jordan’s “chest against the brown, coarse, pine needles and brittle leaves” (Hemingway, 2019).
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The descriptions of the ground’s hues and textures stand out from the rest of the story and do more than merely build a more vivid image of the environment that acts as the narrative’s location (Hemingway, 2019). Even in the middle of a cruel and brutal war, Jordan’s love for Spain is reinforced by the use of modifiers to describe the lush, pine-needled woodland floor, despite Hemingway’s normally simple sentence structure of simple nouns and verbs. In general, Hemingway used symbolism to show nature as the source of life and serenity, as opposed to his portrayal of war as the source of devastation, callousness, and struggle.
The novel’s anti-war message is bolstered by Hemingway’s use of metaphor, imagery, and repetition to depict the Spanish Civil War as a reckless, stupid battle and to show the tragic results of violence in terms of loss of life and property. While most of the novel relies on simple sentence structure devoid of modifiers and unsophisticated diction, there are a few instances where rhetorical strategies are employed to highlight ideas like the author’s disappointment in patriotism, the reviving power of love, and the hopelessness of war. Some critics even contend that Hemingway included these rhetorical tactics into the plot at random, which calls into question the importance of the novel’s language style in conveying the novel’s more profound meaning.
- Guill, S. (2020). The Red and White Terrors: Civil War and Political Savagery in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Hemingway Review, 40(1), 29-52.
- Hemingway, E. (2019). For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Hemingway Library Edition. Simon and Schuster.
- Karjagdiu, L., & Mrasori, N. (2022). Influences of Ernest Hemingway’s Novel” For Whom the Bell Tolls” on Petro Marko’s Novel” Hasta la Vista”. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 12(2), 175-175.
- Mugair, S. K., Khadum, B. A. J., & Khalaf, H. M. A. (2019). A Stylistic Analysis of for whom the Bell Tolls. Opción: Revista de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, (35), 28.
- Ruef, M. (2004). For whom the bell tolls: Ecological perspectives on industrial decline and resurgence. Industrial and Corporate Change, 13(1), 61-89.