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For Whom the Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, is ironic in its theme of dissolution and premonition in that the author himself had committed suicide, as did his grandfather, his father, his brother and later his granddaughter, Margaux Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls For Whom the Bell Tolls research papers show how Hemingway also expresses a strong sense of romanticism for dissolution in his novel. In biographic-like manner, For Whom the Bell Tolls research papers allow the reader see into the inner conflict of the book’s hero, Robert Jordan, thus permitting the reader a glimpse at his premonitions of death. What is first indicated in the nature of For Whom the Bell Tolls' ominous title, is soon confirmed in the opening chapter and then carried through to the book’s conclusion: this story is a study of fate and death and makes a great topic for your research paper.

For Whom the Bell Tolls and Mortality

As one of Hemingway’s most critically-acclaimed novels and like many of Hemingway's stories, For Whom the Bell Tolls presents man’s sense of mortality when faced with a challenge that seems so much greater than himself. Set in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, this novel focuses on the experiences of an American, Robert Jordan, and his task to blow up a bridge. There, he meets a young woman who experienced great atrocities at the hands of the enemy; the brutality Jordan is repeatedly exposed to forces him to contemplate his own inevitable death, just as so many other young men in the novel were forced to do. The title of the novel illuminates this sense of mortality: the reference to a tolling bell is evocative of the bell sounds that accompany a church service or a funeral. Hemingway’s use of language and imagery throughout this novel demonstrate not only his literary superiority but also his ability to discuss themes that touch all readers, even if these themes are disguised in the narrative of a war story.

In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway’s view of war is obviously romantic. It does not overtly endorse war whole-heartedly in the way that de Born did, and it does not concentrate solely on war’s horrors in the way that Owen did. But it is also not a view that finds only a necessary evil in war. Rather, war is seen as the “great test” of a man’s character and the passing of that test is seen as something imbued with existential supremacy, courage standing at the pinnacle of Hemingway’s hierarchy of values.

Hemingway and War

For Whom the Bell TollsHemingway clearly believes that courage is something that transcends outcomes. Hemingway may say—speaking through Jordan’s interior monologue—“The first thing was to win the war. If we did not win the war, everything was lost”, by he does not really seem to believe this. The case that he does not is easy to make. Later in the same paragraph we find mention of a value that is more important than winning the war, the value of a soldier’s duty, “He was serving in a war and he gave absolute loyalty and as complete performance as he could give while he was serving”. Readers of 19th century depictions of war will be familiar with this type of rhetoric of duty. And the notion that there is something higher in struggling than success or failure litters the pages of almost everything Hemingway wrote. It is, indeed, perhaps the most important theme of his work taken as a whole. This notion of duty, of respect for a code of behavior over and above the pragmatic consequences of behavior, is a romantic notion. And, when applied to war, it turns war into something more than it is—a dirty, disgusting, degrading chore that is sometimes necessary for good to push back evil—and into something that has value in and of itself, something in which those who fight find an opportunity to affirm something that is more sublime than victory. This romantic view of war glorifies war.

Hemingway’s romanticism of war includes:

  • A glorification of courage within the story

  • Physical Prowess is also romanticized

  • Symbolic notions of manliness include bull-fighting, hunting etc.

  • Danger is romanticized

Hemingway was originally going to name his novel The Undiscovered Country, which is part of Hamlet’s soliloquy addressing the For Whom the Bell Tolls of suicide and death in Shakespeare’s play. However, the author opted to call it For Whom the Bell Tolls. The chosen title for this research paper not only implies the strange realm of death (as the phrase from Hamlet suggest), but also implies the element of fate and perhaps supernaturalism. The question of supernaturalism and fate come into play in the novel from the opening chapter.