Ernest Hemingway

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

 

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961):

   Born in a wealthy conservative Chicago suburb

     Worked as reporter for Kansas City Star in 1917

     In 1918, he served in the war as ambulance driver in Italy. Soon injured, he became involved with a nurse.

     Worked as journalist in Paris with other expatriates (Fitzgerald, Stein, James Joyce, Picasso)

     Traveled to Spain and was interested in Spanish culture

     Novel critiques Republican leadership and laments Fascists destruction of Spanish life.

     Suffered from depression in late 1950s which lead to his death of self-inflicted gun-shot.

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940):

     1937, at the height of Spanish war, Robert Jordan, an American, joins the Republican side in the Spanish War.

     Works behind enemy lines with guerrilla fighters, given the task of blowing up a bridge.

     Meets guerilla leader Pablo who is hostile to Robert as he doesn’t approve of the bridge operation. Also meets Pilar, Pablo’s woman, who seems to be the real leader of the camp.

     Develops a relationship with Maria, raped by the Fascists and sheltered by the Guerillas.

     Back from a meeting with another group of Guerilla fighters (El Sordo’s), Robert and Maria make love in the forest, an experience that leaves them feeling the earth moved.

     Fights develop in the camp and Robert, among others, considers killing Pablo fearing he might betray them.

     The Fascists attach El Sordo’s camp and Robert and others from his camp think it better to cancel the bridge operation as the Fascists are on to them.

     The operation follows through, however, and Robert is injured after blowing up the bridge. He stays behind to keep off the Fascists till his last breath.

 

Themes:

     Loss of innocence and idealism as a result of war. Novel poses an essential question: Does an idealistic view of the world justify violence?

     Romantic love as a way of dealing with the negative resulting from war. Romantic love guides Robert away from the idealistic and abstract theories and into intuition and action.

 

More:

     Code Hero: Tragic character. Hero is mortal and realizes he will eventually lose the struggle, so lives within the code that would help him put up with life’s stress. Appreciates physical pleasures of the world without obsessing in them.

     Spanish Civil War: 1931 tension rising in Spain as left-wing Republicans overthrew monarchy. Republicans introduced religious reform, thus angering right-wing Fascists (supported by army and church). 1936 elections. Communist party gained many votes. Fascist army commander Franco tried to overthrow Republican government. Madrid & Barcelona were loyal to the Republic government, leading to Civil War between right-wing Fascists (Nationalists) and let-wing Republicans (Loyalists). 1939 war ended in favor of Fascists.