For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernes Hemmingway The novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is based on Ernest Hemmingway’s own experiences in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s. This novel depicts how irony and love get in the way of a war and how devastating these affects can be. Ernest Hemmingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, and the second of six children. Clarence Hemmingway, his father, was a physician and his mother was a religious woman with a talent for music. When he was young he got the nickname “champ” which he felt it showed his rowdy outdoor sense of adventure.
His father loved to hunt so in that he took on that love for hunting and did it often in upper Michigan. When he was in High School he edited the school newspaper, loved playing football and boxing, two things that he was very good at, and ran away from home twice. After graduation he went to Kansas City to try to get into the army for World War I. the only problem was that the army rejected every attempt he made because of permanent eye damage from his years of boxing. Finally giving in to the army’s rejections, he added a year to his age and applied for a job as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. While working at the star, he kept trying to participate in the war, finally succeeding when he joined a volunteer Red Cross ambulance unit as a driver. In 1918 he was seriously injured at Fossalta on the Piave River.
He had to get twelve operations and an aluminum kneecap; in return he was awarded two Italian Decorations. After a long time of recuperation in Milan, He once again joined the Italian infantry to fight another round. The experiences Hemmingway had here gave a base for his lifelong fascination with war. Surviving World War I, he later fought in the Greek-Turkish war as well in 1920. What we might not expect is that he also went through World War II and the Spanish Civil War in 1937, the setting for For Whom the Bell Tolls. In 1928, Hemmingway’s dad committed suicide for now apparent reason.
He did not reflect on this event in his writing until the thoughts of Robert Jordan, the main character in For Whom The Bell Tolls, in 1940. The Spanish Civil War followed the failure of a military to overthrow Spain’s democratically elected government. The war divided Spain both geographically and ideologically and it brought to power General Francisco Franco who ruled Spain from the end of the war until his death in 1975. After the Spanish American War, Spain lost the remainder of its once great nation. This defeat increased dissatisfaction and the demands for change grew. People disagreed on the changes needed, and Spanish politics became grew stronger. In 1936 the Republic was in power of Spain.
A rebellion led by Francisco Franco and the Second Republic began and they received lots of support for the people of Spain. They were known as the rebels. Robert Jordan fights on the side of the Loyalists in this novel, as did many Americans and other foreign volunteers, known as the International Brigades. As well as support from the people, the Second Republic had support from Germany and Italy. In the end these forces proved too much to handle for the Loyalists, and the war was lost to the Second Republic.
The novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is the story of Robert Jordan, an American college Spanish professor fighting for the cause with the loyalists as an expert in demolition. The book starts with a flashback of a conversation between Robert Jordan and General Golz, a Russian officer who is directing the forthcoming attack. Jordan is carrying explosives and his mission is to blow up a bridge. Golz is interested in the offensive mainly as a military maneuver and he needs Jordan to blow up a bridge to hinder rebel reinforcements. He knows that Jordan will have to get the help of an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains and he is cynical because he feels that the Spaniards will only get in the way.
Next Jordan arrives at the guerilla’s hideout in the mountains. Pablo, the guerilla leader, resents the fact that a foreigner has come to fun the show for a little while. It puts Pablo in an inferior position where he is no longer the spokesman of the group. Irony is a major theme in this novel and is illustrated frequently in the thoughts and actions of its characters. Pablo is interested only in the safety of himself and his band and Jordan’s military plans are of little importance to him.
Anselmo is also introduced in the first chapter. Anslemo is an important character in that he is one of the few people that Robert Jordan trusts. He is an elderly man, but totally committed to the cause. He in turn places his trust in Jordan. Robert Jordan has here to fore been shown as an excellent soldier.
He is skilled in his work, dedicated, determined to carry out his orders, he is willing to sacrifice himself and others for the good of the cause. In chapter 3 there is resentment when he comes to terms with the fact that the manner in which his mission is to be carried out is very unorthodox and is so highly dangerous. He begins to feel that perhaps a cause isn’t worth sacrificing people for but he brushes the idea aside, not wanting to “think such thoughts”.(p.41 Robert Jordan) In Chapter 4, there is a confrontation between Jordan and Pablo and in it, Pablo announces that he doesn’t want to blow up the bridge. Pilar, Pablo’s wife and one of the only other people that Jordan feels he can trust, sides with Jordan. And with that the rest of the band sides with her, feeling that Pablo has “gone bad” (p …