For Whom the Bell Tolls: Essay Q&A

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Essay Q&A

 

1. Hemingway is recognized for his depiction of male protagonists who are alienated, hyper-masculine, obedient, dedicated and willing to sacrifice themselves. How does his protagonist Robert Jordan fit this description?
Before he meets Maria, Jordan is alienated as a human being. He travels alone, exhibits no family ties and retains only one or two friends whom he admits he doesn't know very well. Maria is the catalyst that connects him with the human race and brings about in him a renewed sense of spirituality. No one can doubt Jordan's hyper-masculine attributes. Consider his job: he blows up bridges. Indeed, Pilar calls him "lord and master," and it is by attacking his masculinity that Pablo attempts to antagonize him. Pablo asks why men in his country wears skirts, laughingly pretending he is from Scotland and then remarks that he is not a true professor because he doesn't grow a beard, another jab at his masculinity. As a final attack on his masculinity, a very drunk Pablo says that Jordan doesn't have the cajones to kill him.
A demolitions expert, Jordan is obedient and self-sacrificing to a fault, blowing up trains or bridges for the Republican Cause, even when he starts, as a result of his relationship with Maria, to question its very legitimacy. His dedication is beyond reproach and although he has thoughts that the Cause might not be worth sacrificing himself and the others, especially Maria, he easily disregards his thoughts of a happy future with her and over and over again convinces himself that his purpose is sound. Even at the end, he thinks how proud he would have made his grandfather. Indeed, even when he realizes that destroying the bridge could be carried out in a manner less detrimental to human life than originally planned by the Russian General Golz, he never changes the script, so to speak, and proceeds with his commanders' orders.
Thus, Jordan in this manner meets the criteria and can be categorized as a typical Hemingway hero.
2. All of the action in For Whom the Bell Tolls takes place in only three days. Discuss how Hemingway handles time in the novel.
The importance of time is a theme in the novel. Lack of time allows the characters to behave in ways they normally wouldn't and intensifies the tension throughout the novel. Simply put, as Jordan remarks: "we must live all our life in this time," the time being a mere three days. Because war has curtailed, or shortened available time, much of the action has to occur quickly yet retain aspects of verisimilitude to keep the reader engaged. For instance, by illustrating how the Republican revolution has changed social behavior, Maria can "get away" with behaving in a sexual manner that just would not be condoned in more normal times when respectable Spanish girls would have to be courted for months before a man could even be alone with her, without a chaperone. Because time is short, however, so too is the courtship process which must occur in a period of just three days.
Pilar realizes that Jordan is going to die and that he must mate quickly with Maria if there is to be even the remotest chance to reproduce. In this instance, the lack of time highlights the primacy of life and the inevitability of death. As the fascist airplanes signifying death roar overheard, Pilar pushes Jordan and Maria together. She encourages Jordan to spend time alone with Maria, so they can have as much sex as possible-eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die! Life must be continued at all costs, especially when time is short, even during war, or perhaps especially during war.
In addition, the lack of time intensifies the tone and mood of the novel. Things happen rapidly when all the action is limited to three days and the threat of death looms large. All the characters know they might die in a day or two and they react in wildly dramatic, erratic ways. Pablo is gone; then he's back. Pilar is the voice of reason; then she's raging. And the reader easily accepts this behavior because time is running out.
3. In addition to Maria and Jordan, the novel's primary couple, Hemingway characterizes another very different couple, Pablo and Pilar. What do they contribute to the novel as a whole?
Pilar and Pablo act as opposing characters. Pilar blindly supports the rebel Cause with almost religious fervor while Pablo acts only in his own best interest. Pablo started out as leader of the guerilla band doing whatever it took for the group to be successful. Pilar from the beginning looked up to him and acted as his "woman," his support system. In time, however, the very intelligent Pablo came to see the flaws in the Cause, realized ultimate success was not possible, and thus began to think only of his own future. And, as he came to own five valuable horses, he started to desire the end of the conflict so he could return home and live out his life in peace. The rest of the guerilla band, however, view his actions as cowardly, and come to hate him. Pablo finds refuge in increased drinking.
Pilar, on the other hand, remains true to the Cause, and thus the group, and in her patriotic fervor gains their trust and respect and they come to view her as their leader. While she certainly has personal desires, she sacrifices everything for the good of the people who surround her. For instance, she loves Maria and protects her from the men until Jordan arrives. But, Pilar sees in Jordan a means of permanently rescuing Maria. By marrying an American, Maria will be assured of a good life. So, Pilar more or less throws Maria at Jordan at great personal cost to herself. She sacrifices the love of Maria.
Pablo as a force, however, wins out over Pilar. Although he returns as a penitent with five men to help Jordan blow up the bridge, he kills the men afterwards so he can have enough horses to return to his village. Thus, Pablo's self-interest achieves the best results-for him. This result also precipitates the ultimate failure of the Republican cause in Spain and the rise of Franco and Fascism.
4. Anselmo has been seen by critics as the noblest character in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Agree, or disagree.
Anselmo is the character who best lives a good life. He is a guide, and others would be better off following his lead. At the beginning of the novel, Anselmo guides Jordan up the treacherous mountain, a path he has traversed his whole life. Anselmo befriends Jordan and in time Jordan comes to care deeply for the old man. He carries out Jordan's orders to the letter and performs his duty with great dedication. Even when he is stranded by the others in a snowstorm he never wavers in his purpose. Beyond doubt, he would have frozen to death, rather than desert his post. He is dedicated to the Cause for the right reasons-not to gain prestige and power but out of genuine concern for the poor peasant Spaniards who have over time become so disenfranchised.
However, although he is illiterate, Anselmo is intelligent enough to see beyond the surface. Indeed, he is the only one who realizes that the fascists are also just men. As he waits on the road for Jordan to return, he looks at the hut in which the fascist guards wait and he realizes that they are just poor men, like him, who are forced by others into bad situations. And, while he praises himself for the contributions he has over the years made to the revolution, he feels an agony of guilt over those he has killed. Instead of displaying false bravado, he worries about becoming afraid in battle, fearing that he will run. However, when the time arrives, he carries out his duties admirably and without hesitation. Although he is a hunter, he feels an agony of guilt over killing a man, unlike any of the other characters.
In short, in opposition to the extremely negative cowardly and selfish Pablo, Anselmo represents all that is noble about the Spanish people.
5. Hemingway the man was renowned in life for his prowess as a hunter and in For Whom the Bell Tolls, he compares hunting and war. Discuss these comparisons.
Overall, Hemingway glorifies hunting animals while he condemns war for encouraging men to hunt men. Early on, he compares military airplanes to birds of prey, like owls, hawks or eagles. For instance, while Jordan and Anselmo hide in the woods in chapter three, military aircraft fly above them and they are unable to tell whether the planes are friendly or enemy fascist aircraft. The two remain as hidden as mice or any small animal would when a hawk or eagle flies overhead. And while the planes could not descend and literally catch them, the men know full well they could at any moment be helplessly fired upon and die.
Immediately after this, Anselmo, an ardent hunter, suggests that Jordan should return to Spain after the war so the two men can hunt animals together. When Jordan, who at this time still acts like a machine blindly carrying out orders to kill people, informs him that he has little trouble killing men for the Cause, but that he doesn't care to kill animals, Anselmo explains that hunting throughout his life has brought him great joy: "In my house there were the tusks of boar, the hides of wolves...the horns of ibex.an eagle stuffed" (39). However, while Anselmo's love for hunting cannot be denied, he also strong stipulates that he does not "like to kill men" (39). In this regard, Hemingway legitimizes hunting animals in the reader's eyes through his depiction of Anselmo, who is characterized as the noblest character in the novel, never wavering in his duty, praying and suffering greatly over taking the life of the sentry. But Hemingway simultaneously condemns war through his autobiographical character Jordan, who changes from total acceptance of the necessity of war at the beginning of the novel to a deep understanding of the horrors of war and his own complicit actions at the end.
In this regard, Hemingway illustrates the struggle of men at war and how they are dehumanized by becoming both hunter and hunted. He insists that in war men are prey. As Anselmo states: "I think that after the war there will have to be some great penance done for the killing" (196).

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