When reading an Ernest Hemingway novel, one must try very hard to focus on the joy and encouragement found in the work. For Whom the Bell Tolls is full of love and beauty, but is so greatly overshadowed by this lingering feeling of doom--a feeling that does not let you enjoy reading, for you are always waiting for the let down, a chance for human nature to go horribly awry. This feeling is broken up into three specific areas. In Ernest Hemingway's novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, humanity is exploited through brutal violence, unnecessary courage, and hopeless futility.
Hemingway has the uncanny gift of imagery, and he possesses a brilliant mastery of the English language. He is adept at manipulating words and weaving complex sentences; furthermore, "Meticulous description takes its place
description is definition." (Tanner 228) All of this genius can show the ultimate beauty and grace of existence, but the flipside to that is the same devices used to show all of the wonder and greatness in life can also be used to show to many hardships and painful truths we must endure, such as violence and gory injustices:
"Then some one hit the drunkard a great blow alongside the head with a flail and he fell back, and lying on the ground, he looked up at the man who had hit him and then shut his eyes and crossed his hands on his chest, and lay there beside Don Anastasio as though he were asleep. The man did not hit him again and he lay there and he was still there when they picked up Don Anastasio and put him with the others in the cart that hauled them all over to the cliff where they were thrown over that evening with the others after there had been a cleaning up in the Ayuntamiento." (Hemingway 126).
The mob-violence that is portrayed in that passage is one inspired by ignorance, weak wills, and alcohol. All through Pilar and Robert Jordan's flashbacks, one cannot help but be overwhelmed with feelings of disgust towards humankind. These stories are not uncommon, either. Most of the people fighting against the fascists in this novel have similar stories. It is absolutely horrid to hear these anecdotes in which people tell in great detail how they saw their parents, siblings, cousins, and so on, die is extremely heart wrenching ways. One little girls family was murdered in a particularly gruesome manner. The story goes that the socialists took control of her town and broke into the little girl's house. The fascists then rounded up all of her family and shot them one by one in the back of the head, letting her live just to tell the tale to whoever tried to stop them. This forces you to try and remember that this is just a fictional story and that things like this don't really happen in ordinary life, but the unfortunate reality is that these things happen all the time, especially while peoples are at war. To snuff this horrendous use of violence is much easier, but, sadly, is far from a realistic notion.
Why is there all this violence going on? Sometimes one thinks that had the hero in this story not been so brazenly courageous, maybe the sadness and disgusting malice may not have occurred, for if you don't start a fight you cannot get beaten up, and also, if one hides instead of shouting, he can usually get away. Regardless, Robert Jordan must do both of the following two acts in order to cope inside this story: build up his life to apex at one final showdown, and to trap himself in a never-ending tunnel of beatings and ultimately destruction (Frohock 167). Robert Jordan must make a final stand in For Whom the Bell Tolls if for no other reason, to save his manhood. John Wain explains:
To make a last standfor if defeat is accepted in Hemingway's world, humiliation and rout are not. His fictions present moments of violence, crisis and death, yet these become occasions for a stubborn, quixotic resistance through which the human capacity for satisfying its self-defined obligations is both...
Cited: Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Charles Scribner 's Sons,
Howe, Irving. A World More Attractive: A View of Modern Literature and Politics.
New York: Horizon Press, 1963
Tanner, Stephen L. "Hemingway 's Islands." Southwest Review. Winster: Southern
Methodist University Press, 1976
Press, 1965. 228-57.
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