The image of love and death in ehemingways for whom the bell tolls
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The image of love and death in ehemingways for whom the bell tolls



1. Biographical facts: Hemingway and Spanish Civil War 6

2. Love and death of “code hero”Jordan 7

2.1 Maria’s and Jordan’s love 9

2.2 Emphasis on the running out time 11

3. Killing as a part of guerrillas’ life 13

4. Symbols of life and death 17




E. Hemingway (1899-1961) is a renowned American author of the Twentieth century who centres his novels on personal experiences and affections. He is a representative of the „The Lost Generation.“ His novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) deals with three days in the life of the Hemingway hero, named Robert Jordan, who is fighting as an American volunteer in the Spanish civil war. He is sent to join a guerrilla band in the mountains to blow up a strategic bridge. He spends three days and nights in the guerrillas’ cave where he falls in love with Maria. He successfully destroys the bridge, however, is wounded in the retreat and is left to die. On the other hand, “he has come to see the wisdom of a sacrifice, and the book ends without bitterness” (Unger, 1972, 254)

The critics state that “for one thing the love story, if not sentimental, is at any rate idealised and very romantic” in this novel and “none of his books had evoked more richly the life of the senses, had shown a surer sense of plotting, or provided more fully living secondary characters, or liverier dialogue.” (Lee, 1983, 78).

Malcolm Cowley’s introduction to The Portable Hemingway was among the first essays to describe Hemingway’s romantic tendencies. “The publication of The Old Man and the Sea left little doubts of Hemingway’s romanticism, and there is a general agreement among critics that the romantic impetus had always been Hemingway’s fiction.” (Wylder, 1969, 132)

The critic Rovit calls the novel as a “fable” (ibid, 131) where “Robert Jordan as the protagonist follows the mythical journey of the hero in a modern setting (ibid, 129)

Hemingway’s biographical facts are closely connected with what he describes in his novel. Spanish civil war has left a great trace in his mind and soul as well as the suicide of his father. All these features can be found in the novel and are introduced in the first part Biographical facts: Hemingway and Spanish Civil War of the essay and are illustrated with quotations in later parts.

Love and death of “code hero” Jordan is the part of the essay which dwells on the Hemingway’s code hero Jordan and his love to Spanish people along with love to Maria as well as his looming death throughout the novel. Here the hero is a lover, a soldier as well as a martyr of the cause. This part is divided into two subparts Maria and Jordan’s love and Emphasis on the running out time to emphasise the most important points concerning Jordan. They deal with Jordon’s love to Maria and the influence of the lack of time on their love.

The third part Killing as a part of guerrillas’ life has to do with the inevitable necessity to kill in the war, which is revealed through the characters of Jordan, Anselmo and Pablo. Killing as well as the war comes from the corruption of human morality, and not all the characters in the novel can justify killing for the cause.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a book about people struggling for their lives and doing their best to not to die themselves but kill as much of their enemies as possible. Here life is very fragile and end does not come unexpectedly while death symbols prevail throughout the novel. This is what the last part Symbols of life and death deals with.

Conclusions sum up the essential points of the essay. They are followed by the Summary in Lithuanian.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a remarkable novel not only for its historical significance, but also because it so pertains to the current problems the world is facing in the contemporary world.


While growing up Hemingway was very close to his father Dr. Clarence Edmonds (Ed) who taught his son to shoot, fish, and camp when he was a boy. Ed was also a strict father, with harsh discipline and often argued with his wife, Grace. In 1928 Ed killed himself with his father’s revolver from the Civil War.

In 1918 Ernest Hemningway was called to the war to drive an ambulance for the American Red Cross in Italy. There he was severely wounded in both legs, but saved another man’s life, and was awarded a medal of honour from the Italian army. This experience rid him of any romantic notions of war for he became restless and often thought of death.

Hemingway had spent extensive time in Spain during the 1920, and was especially interested in the annual festival of San Fermin in Pamplona in mid-summer, where the running of the bulls took place. It is here that he was introduced to the Spanish tradition of bullfighting. He was absorbed in the people and the culture and especially obsessed with bullfighting about which he wrote in Death in the Afternoon (1932) and used some images in For Whom the Bell Tolls. In 1937, Hemingway was sent to Spain to write about the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. The war had broken out in 1936, as large landowners, military, the church, and monarchists, supported by German and Italian fascist forces, revolted to defeat the Republican, pro-democratic government which had replaced the monarchy in 1931. Hemingway sided with
the Republicans, and his sympathy for them is obvious in For Whom The Bell Tolls, in which he glorifies three intense and often tragic days in the life of a group of Republican guerrilla fighters. (

For Whom the Bell Tolls opens with an epigraph, a short quotation that introduces the novel, sets the mood, and presents the theme. This epigraph is from a short essay by the seventeenth -century British poet John Donne. Donne writes that no person stands alone—“No man is an island, entire of itself”—because everyone belongs to a community. As a result, the death of any human diminishes Donne himself because he is a part of mankind. Donne warns us not to ask who has died when we hear a funeral bell toll, for it tolls for everyone in the human race.

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. (Hemingway, 1981, 1)2. LOVE AND DEATH OF “CODE HERO” JORDAN

No analysis of Hemingway’s work may be completed without a portrait of his „code hero,“ common to almost all of his novels. “Hemingway is known to focus his novels around code heroes who struggle with the mixture of their tragic faults and the surrounding environment. Traits of a typical Hemingway Code Hero are a love of good times, stimulating surroundings, and strict moral rules, including honesty. The Code Hero always exhibits some form of a physical wound that serves as his tragic flaw and the weakness of his character” (Brenner, 1983, 129). Hemingway defined the Code Hero as „a man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honour, courage and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful.“ (ibid, 129)

Indeed, Robert Jordan fulfills the standards with his role, manly with his skills, obedience to orders and willingness to sacrifice for a cause. Therefore Hemingway’s code hero Jordan lives life through action and sensual pleasure as well as accepts the risk of death. The character of Jordan is often seen following these traditional standards.

Robert Jordan is an American Spanish professor who has volunteered to fight for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. He is a demolition expert, and the plot revolves around his mission to destroy a bridge in Fascist territory.

Jordan’s watchword: „the bridge can be the point on which the future of the human race can turn“ (Wylder, 1969, 129) is important for two reasons. Firstly, it reaffirms the central theme of For Whom the Bell Tolls: the necessity for a republican soldier to believe that the cause for which he kills and risks his live will do good to his beloved people and country. Secondly, the affirmation that each action that one man makes – such as blowing the bridge – will have help greatly to fulfilll the mission of „code hero.“ However, it is very possible that the mission may fail and may cause more harm to the spirit of the republican band. It is possible that the risk and loss of life will be for nothing.

Jordan seems to use his love to justify dying. After spending two days with Maria his views and cogitation has changed. Moreover, his faith which he began to question in order to justify his actions has also altered. Yet it must be noted that even love does not distract Jordan’s thoughts from the duty of the code hero. He merely found a new reason what to die for in Spain – he comes to the conclusion that he was brought there to find love. On the other hand, he takes a very sentimental view of love, which he says is „the most important thing that can happen to a human being.“

So far he had not affected his resolution but he would much prefer not to die. He would abandon a hero’s or a martyr’s end gladly. (Hemingway, 1981, 196)

Not only did love come to into his life but also death signs seem to be haunting Jordan throughout the novel:

It was three o’clock. Then he heard the far-off, distant throbbing and, looking up, he saw the planes. (ibid, 330)

The planes are „throbbing,“ just almost like living. This may be explained as an ironic view that they are like machines of death. Furthermore, it indicates that Jordan is trying to prepare himself to his possible death as more and more interior monologues appear in the novel where he tries to calm himself and concentrate on his mission. What’s more, an important symbol in this episode is the time – three o’clock. “It has a mystical connection with an approaching death as three o’clock is a religious symbol – the hour at which Christ died on the cross, and thus implies approaching martyrdom” (Wylder, 1969, 147).

Jordan’s condemnation of his father’s suicide foreshadows a decision that he will have to make at the end of the novel. The theme of suicide was first introduced with the character of Kashkin, the one who worked with the band before Jordan and with whom the band first drew parallels to Jordan. At first, death only sometimes dominated Jordan’s thoughts. Later any act of thinking sees coming death. This way a threatening mood of awaiting doom is created all through the novel.

Superstition appears in chapter 31, as even the realist Jordan is
now reading signs. He feels that making love to Maria is „not good luck for the last night.“ Maria herself seems to believe that they are going to die when she says they should „get everything said before it is too late.“ Again, the image of time slipping away prevails. The characters feel a necessity to hurry up their relationship “before it is too late”.

In the situation described in chapter 33 when Jordan finds out that Pablo stole dynamite and other supplies for blowing the bridge from Jordan. Jordan tells off Pilar for letting Pablo escape, but then calms her by saying that he will still be able to blow the bridge. Pilar is ashamed because she was responsible for guarding these supplies and tells Jordan, „I have failed thee and I have failed the Republic.“ This episode reveals the complications of Jordan and Pilar’s relationship. They depend on each other’s help and loyalty in order to do the duty. The character of Pilar can be described as a very strong personality that is an actual leader of the guerrillas’ band and that takes care of each member of it as a mother. Jordan also respects Pilar for her wisdom and war experience. It is Pilar who took care of Maria, healed her from rape trauma and even encouraged the development of love of Maria and Jordon.

The threat of death accompanies the band all the time and they can never get used to it. For example, in chapter 33 the ominous tone of doom foreshadows disaster:

There is a hollow empty feeling that a man can have when he is waked too early in the morning that is almost like the feeling of disaster and he had this multiplied a thousand times. (Hemingway, 1981, 391)

Jordan’s death is the rather ironic in the novel. His mission is accomplished, yet he must “fulfill the omens which have followed him during his life in three days” (Lee, 1983, 53). In all the novel death signs indicated an inevitable death of the main hero. However, the suddenness of Jordan’s death comes with a great surprise as the hero was almost on his way to safety. “The bright flash from the heavy, squat, mud-coloured tank there on the road“ is his death sentence. Hemingway describes Jordan’s pain very vividly and the reader can almost feel his “broken leg with the sharp bone and where it pressed against the skin” (Wylder, 1969, 153).

Jordan’s goodbye to Maria repeats the theme of them being one person: “Thou art all there will be of me.“ (Hemingway, 1981, 497) Jordan’s own acceptance of his death lets the reader to consider that, perhaps, he did not die in vain, for he has experienced a greater understanding that he has gained from his three days of life (Wylder, 1969, 161).

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