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Philippine Normal University

Taft Avenue, Manila

College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature
Department of Linguistics, Bilingual Education and Literature

For Whom the Bell Tolls

(Historical and Formalistic Approach)

Submitted to:
Dr. Ma. Antoinette Montealegre

Submitted by:
CAPIRAL, Ma. Alyanna Mae L.
III-8 AB/BSE Literature

This paper tries to unlock the concepts relevant with explaining and analyzing the
The following concepts are the following:
1. Fascism
2. Communism
3. Spanish Civil War
4. The Lost Generation
5. Hemingway code hero
6. Meditation XVII

This paper also attempts to answer the following questions:

1. Why the novel is entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls”?
2. What is the background of the novel?
3. What are the trivia about the novel?
4. What are the themes of the novel?
5. Who are the characters in the novel?
6. Where is the setting of the novel?
7. What is the plot of the novel?
8. What are the references to actual events in Spanish Civil War?
9. What is the narrative style used by Hemingway?
10. Are there any situations in the novel parallel to the author’s experiences? What are
those experiences?


Modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and
cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or
ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and
often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of
democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies
have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is
strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence.

A theory and system of social and political organization that was a major force in
world politics for much of the 20th century. As a political movement, communism sought
to overthrow capitalism through a workers’ revolution and establish a system in which
property is owned by the community as a whole rather than by individuals. In theory,
communism would create a classless society of abundance and freedom, in which all
people enjoy equal social and economic status. In practice, communist regimes have
taken the form of coercive, authoritarian governments that cared little for the plight of
the working class and sought above all else to preserve their own hold on power. The
idea of a society based on common ownership of property and wealth stretches far back
in Western thought.

Spanish Civil War

Civil war broke out in Spain in 1936, but the underlying causes can be traced
back several years prior to that date. In the 1930s Spain experienced continuous
political upheavals. In 1931, after years of civil conflict in the country, King Alfonso XIII
voluntarily placed himself in exile, and on April 13 of that year, a new republic emerged.
The Leftist government, however, faced similar civil unrest, and by 1933, the
conservatives regained control. By 1936 the people voted the leftists back in.

After the assassination of Jose Calvas Otelo, an influential Monarchist, the army
led a revolt against the government and sponsored the return of General Francisco
Franco, who had been exiled because of his politics.
As a result, civil war broke out across the country between the Loyalist-leftists
and the Monarchist-rightists. Russia backed the leftists while Germany and Italy
supported the rightists.
The war continued until 1939 with each side committing atrocities: the leftists
slaughtered religious and political figures while the rightists bombed civilian targets. At
the beginning of 1936, the Loyalists were suffering from an effective blockade as
Franco's troops gained control. On March 28, the war ended as the rightists took the city
of Madrid.

The Lost Generation

This term became associated with a group of American writers in the 1920s who
felt a growing sense of disillusionment after World War I. As a result, many left America
for Europe, Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway traveled to Paris, which appeared to offer
them a much freer society than America or England did. During this period, Paris
became a mecca for these expatriates, who congregated in literary salons, restaurants,
and bars to discuss their work in the context of the new age. The novel, like For Whom
the Bell Tolls of Hemingway and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, presents a penetrating
portrait of this Lost Generation.
The characters in works by these authors reflected the authors' growing sense of
disillusionment along with the new ideas in psychology, anthropology, and philosophy
that had become popular in the early part of the century. Hemingway’s men and women
faced a meaningless world with courage and dignity, exhibiting "grace under pressure”.
This age of confusion, redefinition, and experimentation produced one of the most
fruitful periods in American letters. The authors of the Lost Generation challenged the
assumptions as they expanded the genre's traditional form to accommodate their
characters' questions about the individual's place in the world.

Hemingway Code Hero

The Hemingway hero is a man whose concepts are shaped by his view of death, that in
the face of death a man must perform certain acts and these acts often involve
enjoying or taking the most he can from life.
- He will not talk about his concepts.
- He is a man of intense loyalty to a small group because he can’t accept abstract
- He does not talk too much. He expresses himself not in words, but in actions.
The Hemingway man is not a thinker; he is a man of action. But his actions are
based upon a concept of life.

A basis for all of the actions of all Hemingway code heroes is the concept of
death. Consequently, the Hemingway man exists in a large part for the gratification of
his sensual desires (eating, drinking, and sex), he will devote himself to all types of
physical pleasures because these are the reward of this life.

It is the duty of the Hemingway hero to avoid death at almost all cost. Life must
continue. Life is valuable and enjoyable. Life is everything. Death is nothing. With this
view in mind it might seem strange then to the casual or superficial reader that the
Hemingway code hero will often be placed in an encounter with death, or that the
Hemingway hero will often choose to confront death. From this we derive the idea of
grace (or courage) under pressure. This concept is one according to which the
character must act in a way that is acceptable when he is faced with the fact of death.
The Hemingway man must have fear of death, but he must not be afraid to die. By fear
we mean that he must have the intellectual realization that death is the end of all things
and as such must be constantly avoided in one way or another. A man can never act in
a cowardly way. He must not show that he is afraid or trembling or frightened in the
presence of death.

If man wishes to live, he lives most intensely sometimes when he is in the direct
presence of death. The man has not yet been tested; we don’t know whether he will
withstand the pressures, whether he will prove to be a true Hemingway man. In the
presence of death, then, man can discover his own sense of being, his own potentiality.

Hemingway defined the Code Hero as "a man who lives correctly, following the
ideals of honor, courage and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often
stressful, and always painful."

The Code Hero measures himself by how well they handle the difficult situations
that life throws at him.

The Code Hero is typically an individualist and free-willed. Although he believes

in the ideals of courage and honor he has his own set of morals and principles based on
his beliefs in honor, courage and endurance.

Meditation XVII

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions is a 1624 prose work by the English writer
John Donne. It was written as Donne recovered from a serious illness, believed to be
either typhus or relapsing fever. (Donne does not clearly identify the disease in his text.)
The work consists of twenty-three parts corresponding to each stage of the illness. Each
part is further divided into a Meditation, an Expostulation, and a Prayer.

The seventeenth meditation is perhaps the best-known part of the work. It contains the
following passage:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the
main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a
promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's
death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to
know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Background of the Novel
The chief political catalyst in Hemingway's life was the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 he
had returned to Spain as a newspaper reporter and participated in raising funds for the
Spanish Republic until the war's end in 1939. Seventeen months after that war ended,
Hemingway completed For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Hemingway's reputation as one
of America's most important writers was already well established after the publication of
the book. The novel received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and the
public alike, with many insisting that it was Hemingway's best novel to date. It quickly
became a bestseller, as the first printing's 210,000 copies immediately sold out. In less
than six months, that figure jumped to over 491,000.
The novel starts with Meditation XVII of John Donne’s poems.
The novel takes place in June, 1937 the second year of the Spanish Civil War. The
setting takes place in Spain probably in one of the provinces in Spain.

A number of actual figures that played a role in the Spanish Civil War are also
referenced in the book, including:

• Andres Nin, one of the founders of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification the
party mocked by Karkov in Chapter 18.
• Prieto, one of the leaders of the Republicans, is also mentioned in Chapter 18.
• General Jose Miaja, in charge of the defense of Madrid in October 1936, and
General Vicente Rojo, together with Prieto, are mentioned in Chapter 35
• Dolores Ibárruri, better known as La Pasionaria, is extensively described in
Chapter 32.
• Robert Hale Merriman, leader of the American Volunteers in the International
Brigades, and his wife Marion.
• Andre Marty, a political officer in the International Brigades, was known as a
vicious paranoid.

The title "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is drawn from Meditation XVII of Devotions Upon
Emergent Occasions by John Donne discussed in the earlier part of this paper.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is also a song by Metallica on their 1984 album Ride the
Lightning. It is about war and the human spirit.
There is a movie adaptation of the novel directed by Sam Wood in 1943, and was
nominated for 9 Academy Awards.
The verb “tolls” is exclusive for bells only.
In 1941 the novel was nominated by the Pulitzer committee in letters for that
year's prize. The Pulitzer board in turn rejected the award on a matter of a taste. No
award was given that year.
The following are the themes of the novel:

 The Loss of Innocence in War

As I read the novel, I slowly understand the brutalities of war. That it seems cannot
be realistic whenever I am watching war movies but because of Hemingway’s powerful
narrative, I really felt every action and emotions as if I was the one experiencing it. As
the characters, for Maria, she experienced cruelties from the Fascists. Her innocence is
taken from her, as every victim of war, experienced they lost their innate nature of being
innocent. As for the case of Anselmo, he has to bear the decisions that he make and
continue living. . Hemingway shows in the novel that morality is subjective and
conditional, and that the sides of right and wrong. You really cannot distinguish which
side is victorious because both sides in war lost lives, and suffer emotional, physical,
and psychological turmoil.

 The Value of Human Life

This is evident in the view of Anselmo that he does not enjoy killing people even he
enjoys hunting. He wishes not to kill anybody but when the situation calls for it that is
the only time he is willing to kill but if he would be given a choice he would rather not kill.

This separates people from animals, our innate feeling of guilt, and reason, although
there is just a thin border line than makes us different from animals from the perspective
of the “Survival of the Fittest” as the Nationalist/ Communist would suggest. This is
human nature to somehow value life of your fellow human being. Also when Robert
Jordan did not kill Pablo even the gypsies are provoking him to do so, when Pablo did
not agree to Jordan’s plan, because Pablo knows how dangerous the plan is, also he
did not trust a foreigner like Jordan. This shows the Hemingway code hero. That Jordan
remains clam under pressure, more over, he had shown that he is someone who is just,
and thinks before he acts.
 Death

Even Robert Jordan foresees that his life is in danger in his mission; he still
continues it for the sake of his belief, common cause and the good of the people also for
his ideology. Also the other characters such as Anselmo had shown that they had
accepted their fate, and if that is the only thing that would free them against the Fascist
hands they are willing to that sacrifice. A companion theme to that of death is that of
suicide. Many of the characters, including Robert Jordan, would prefer death over
capture, and are prepared to kill themselves, be killed, or kill to avoid it. As the book
ends, Robert Jordan, wounded and unable to travel with his companions, awaits a final
ambush that will end his life. He prepares himself against the cruel outcomes of suicide
to avoid capture, or inevitable torture for the extraction of information and death at the
hands of the enemy. Still, he hopes to avoid suicide partly because his father, whom he
views as a coward, committed suicide. Robert Jordan understands suicide but doesn't
approve of it, and thinks that "you have to be awfully occupied with yourself to do a thing
like that." Robert Jordan's opinions on suicide may be used to analyze Hemingway's
suicide 21 years later. This is the same experience with Hemingway’s life. His father
who is a doctor committed suicide by shooting himself with a Civil war pistol in 1928.
Also even in the novel Hemingway had shown the value of life, I believe somehow he

also exemplifies his ideas about “Existentialism” and as a result too he ended his life by
pulling a trigger in his head.

 Love / search for personal attachment

I quite did not get it the first time I thought the relationship of Maria and Robert
Jordan. I am puzzled as to how fast they fall in love and the reason why they were
attached to each other but upon thinking that they were in the midst of a war, and in
the mountain areas, every human being has the tendency to seek someone whom
they can built a relationship with. Again it is human nature to seek for love despite
and inspite of every thing.
 Divination
Pilar, "Pablo's woman", is a reader of palms and more. When Robert Jordan
questions her true abilities, she replies, "Because thou art a miracle of deafness....It
is not that thou art stupid. Thou art simply deaf. One who is deaf cannot hear music.
Neither can he hear the radio. So he might say, never having heard them, that such
things do not exist. At the earlier part of the novel Pilar look into the hands of Robert
Jordan but does not reveal what she saw.

The characters
Robert Jordan
The main protagonist of the novel, I noticed that he is the only one whose name
is stated in a complete manner, it only proves that he is the main character in the novel.
He left his job as a college instructor in the United States to volunteer for the
Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Initially, he believed in the Republican cause
with a near-religious faith and felt an “absolute brotherhood” with his comrades on the
Republican side. However, when the action of the novel starts, we see that Robert
Jordan has become disillusioned as many people in political movements experienced.
As the conflict drags on, he realizes that he does not really believe in the Republican
cause but joined their side simply because they fought against Fascism.

Because he fights for a side whose causes he does not necessarily support,
Robert Jordan experiences a great deal of internal conflict and begins to wonder
whether there is really any difference between the Fascist and Republican sides.
Robert Jordan's interior monologues and actions indicate these internal conflicts
that plague him. Although he is disillusioned with the Republican cause, he continues to
fight for that cause. In public he announces that he is anti-Fascist rather than a
Communist, but in private he thinks that he has no politics at all. He knows that his job
requires that he kill people but also knows that he should not believe in killing in the
abstract. Despite his newfound love for Maria, he feels that there cannot be a place for
her in his life while he also has his military work.
Robert Jordan resolves these tensions at the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls, in
his final moments as he faces death. He accepts himself as a man of action rather than
thought (Hemingway’s code hero) as a man who believes in practicality rather than
abstract theories. As communism thoughts as practice before theory.
He understands that the war requires him to do some things that he does not believe
in. Robert Jordan is able to make room in his mind for both his love for Maria and his
military mission. By the end of the novel, just before he dies, his internal conflicts and
tensions are resolved.

Pablo, the exasperating leader of the guerrilla band, is a complex character and
an unpredictable force in the novel.
A man who is difficult to like but ultimately difficult to condemn or to view as a
villain in the novel. Pablo and Robert Jordan view each other with mutual suspicion and
dislike from the start but I think the men had some respect for each other.
Self-indulgence made Pablo a strong and courageous fighter when he was younger, it
now proves a liability, for it sows dissent within the guerrilla band and threats the
Pablo displays a clear sense of conscience and realizes when he has done
something wrong. He wishes he could bring back to life the Fascists he massacred in

his town. He fears death and is exhausted with the war. He simply wants the war to end
so that he may live a peaceful life in the country along with Pilar and his horses. He
loves his horses so much. He remained alive at the end of the novel.


For me, the most colorful and likable character in novel, Pilar embodies the
earthiness, strength, and wisdom of the Spanish peasantry. A large, part-gypsy woman,
Pilar exercises great influence over the band, we quickly become aware that Pablo
leads the band in name only. Pilar is not the stereotype kind of the woman. She breaks
the typical idea of a woman. A great leader and she is the only one seeks wine and food
for the band. She is very committed with the ideology of the nationalist. In the
conversation with Robert Jordan she asked him personal questions but then again as a
Hemingway Code hero, Robert Jordan is cold and distant and does not want to talk
about his ideas. She also asked how long Jordan is in the Nationalist’s side.
She pushes Robert Jordan and Maria's romance, she binds almost all the events
and characters in the story.
She relies on intuitive, mystical, gypsy folk wisdom. She claims a deep
connection to the primitive forces of fate. She claims to be able to smell death, and she
describes the smell in repulsively naturalistic detail. She reads palms and interprets
sexual experiences. In the end the only part that does not show Pilar’s wisdom is her
belief in the Republican side, she is blinded by her ideology as most people in a
communist group whom lost their reasons and thinking.


The young, gentle woman that catches Robert Jordan's eye from the moment he
meets her. Her beauty had shown eventough she had experienced a traumatic rape.
She is vulnerable and lays her emotions bare, she exhibits an inner strength,
determination, and resilience that enable her to bear her difficult circumstances. I think
Maria represents the land of Spain itself during that time, ravaged by the warring forces
beyond her comprehension, yet always enduring, beautiful, and loving. Indeed,

Hemingway frequently uses earth imagery to describe Maria, comparing her hair to the
“golden brown of a grain field” and her breasts to “small hills.” In this light, Robert
Jordan's closeness with Maria mirrors his closeness with Spain, his adopted country.

In his conversations with General Golz and with Maria early in the novel, Robert
Jordan reveals his belief that he does not have time for women during the war. By the
end of the novel, Robert Jordan thanks Maria for everything that she has taught him and
faces the day of his mission noting that he has integrated his commitments to work and
to love. Maria, determined to embrace their love fully, teaches Robert Jordan how to
resolve his tensions between love and work.
Some how for me as mentioned earlier in the theme Loss of in War, it is not that
realistic for Maria and Robert Jordan to have a relationship / attraction that easily. I think
that Maria is just a fulfillment of the man’s sexual wishes. More over, it is not quite
possible that their sexual intercourse healed the wounds in Maria’s personality.

For Robert Jordan, Anselmo represents all that is good about Spaniards. He is
the guide of Robert Jordan,an old, trustworthy guerrilla fighter
He lives close to the land, is loyal, follows directions, and stays where he is
told.Anselmo has stopped praying ever since the Communists banned organized
religion but admits that he misses it.

He mans the machine gun, curses frequently and is secretly in love with Maria, A
trustworthy and high-spirited guerrilla fighter

Despite his gray hair and broken nose, Primitivo has not learned the cynicism needed
for survival in the war, he is an elderly fighter of the band.

A gypsy member of the guerrilla band. He asks Robert Jordan why not he killed
Pablo after their argument. I think of that part as a betrayal. Even they have been
together long before Robert Jordan came he wanted Pablo to be killed because he is a
hindrance to the plans of the group in blowing the bridge.
Rafael proves his worthlessness by leaving his lookout post at a crucial moment.
He is a foil for the trustworthy Anselmo, who does not leave his post on the previous
night despite the cold and the snow. Rafael has few loyalties and does not believe in
political causes.

He is one of the guerrilla fighters. He is in his late twenties. Andres comes into
conflict with the Republican leaders'.

Andres’ older brother and another of the guerrilla fighters

El Sordo (Santiago)
He is the leader of a guerrilla band that operates near Pablo's place. Short,
heavy, and gray-haired, El Sordo is a man of few words.

He is one of the members of El Sordo's band. Joaquín originally wanted to be
bullfighter but was too scared. He lost most of his family at the hands of the Fascists
and cries when he talks about them. Joaquín buys into the Republicans' propaganda
but turns back to religion at the moment of his death.

General Golz
The Russian general, allied with the Republicans, who assigns Robert Jordan the
bridge-blowing mission. Robert Jordan says that Golz is the best general he has served.

He is Russian guerrilla operative who once worked with Pablo's band to blow up
a train. Although Kashkin never appears in the novel.Unlike Robert Jordan, Kashkin was
openly nervous and was mentioned by Pilar and othe guerilla members as someone
who was with them in the mission in the train.

He is Jordan's friend in Madrid. Karkov, the most intelligent man Robert Jordan
knows, teaches Robert Jordan about the harsh realities of wartime politics. He is a
Russian journalist. Hemingway became a war correspondent too, he wanted to be in
the Army but he was not allowed because of his eye sight.

Captain Rogelio Gomez

He is a former barber and now commander of the battalion that Andres first
reaches after crossing the Republican lines.

Lieutenant-Colonel Miranda
He is a Republican staff office brigade commander.

Andre Marty

He is the French Commissar of the International Brigades, the troops of foreign

volunteers who serve on the Republican side in the war.

Lieutenant Paco Berrendo

He is a Fascist officer who orders the beheading of El Sordo's men.

Captain Moro
He is the overconfident Fascist commander in charge of taking El Sordo's hill.

Finito de Palencia
He is Pilar's former lover, a bullfighter who died from complications from wounds
received in a bullfight. Finito, who appears in the novel only in Pilar's flashbacks,
exemplifies the courage of Hemingway's code hero and Hemingway's deep respect for
the bullfighting profession.

The novel is told primarily through the thoughts and experiences of Robert
Jordan, a character inspired by Hemingway's own experiences in the Spanish Civil War.
Robert Jordan is an American who travels to Spain to oppose the fascist forces of
Generalísimo Francisco Franco. Robert Jordan has the mission to blow a bridge, and to
overthrow the fascist rule. The Republican commander has assigned Robert Jordan the
dangerous and difficult task of blowing up a Fascist-controlled bridge as part of a larger
Republican offensive.While behind enemy lines with a band of disillusioned Republican
guerrillas, Robert Jordan meets María, a young Spanish native whose life has been
shattered by the outbreak of the war.
Robert Jordan's strong sense of duty clashes with both Republican leader
Pablo's unwillingness to commit to a covert operation. Jordan experiences inner conflict
as to whether he will perform his duty or pursue personal happiness. In the end, Robert
Jordan contemplates suicide but resolves to stay alive to hold off the Fascists.
The novel is written in the third person limited omniscient narrative mode. It was
told from the view point of Robert Jordan. In the last part of the novel, the plot is split
into two parallel actions: the preparations for the attack and the course of Andres, who
must take a message across the lines to a Republican general. While not an unusual
narrative technique, it is a departure for Hemingway who, in his earlier works, preferred
to maintain sharp focus on his protagonist. The Hemingway code hero is greatly seen in
his characters specifically in Robert Jordan the protagonist in the novel.

In all, the novel is a good novel to read. A novel that would make you feel what is
beyond the lines that you are reading. A novel that at first talks about war, explosives,
war strategies, political stance but in the end it is a humanizing novel that makes you
realize the things that you have not realized before. It is also a good proof that in war
there is no winner or loser, it is just a matter of beliefs clashing and in the ends lives
were sacrificed and ruined. It is just a matter of whose side you are in but somehow you
share the same experiences and cruelties.

A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. Wilfred Guerin University
Press 4th edition