Summary of For Whom the Bell Tolls

In the field of Universal Literature, the name For Whom the Bell Tolls is one of the most famous novels of the American writer Ernest Hemingway, which was first published in 1940, thanks to the work of the publishing house Charles Sribner´s Sons.


Among several aspects of Hemingway’s work that have been the subject of debate or observation is its title, which directly refers to Meditation XVII of the seventeenth-century English metaphysical poet John Donne, which reads as follows:

No one is an island, complete in itself; every man is a piece of continent, a part of the earth; if the sea takes a portion of land, all of Europe is diminished, as if it were a promontory, or the home of one of your friends, or your own. The death of any man diminishes me because I am bound to humanity; therefore never make me ask for whom the bells ring: they ring for you.

Likewise, specialists in literary studies warn that the choice of this title is a warning from its author on the subject that runs through the whole plot of this book: humanity seen as a collective, united by an immense network that converts the other into one’s own self, and vice versa.

Similarly, as scholars of this Hemingway text point out, the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls also has death as its central theme, as destiny and as an act that is courageously assumed for the well-being of that collective to which one belongs by the mere fact of being human.

Summary of For Whom the Bell Tolls

As for the specific content of this novel, it can basically be said that Hemingway draws on his experience as an American correspondent during the Spanish Civil War, to create the story of Robert Jordan, an American man, professor of literature, native of Montana, who has been commissioned by the Republican side, to come into contact with some guerrillas, and between them fly a bridge with dynamite, as part of a plan that will bring great losses to the opposing side.

In this way, and in order to fulfill his mission, Jordan follows the orders of General Golz, and moves to the area, located behind the enemy lines, and where he will meet those who will become his allies when carrying out this action that will be part of Segovia’s offensive. That’s how he meets Pablo, a drunkard and coward, who makes Jordan rethink the relevance of continuing with the plan.

However, Jordan also meets Pablo’s wife, Pilar, who is described as a coarse and ugly woman, but with great courage, who immediately establishes a close friendship with Jordan. In this trip, this American master will also meet Maria, a young woman who will steal her heart, and with whom he will live a torrid romance, which will be enlivened many times by Pilar, who will sometimes act as the celestine of lovers.

However, the day of the mission arrives at last, not without Jordan and the other characters have stopped living moments of deep friendship, camaraderie, and above all acceptance that his destiny can be clearly death. In fact, Jordan himself discovers in the days that are approaching the decisive moment that his hopes of returning with Maria to Madrid will probably not be fulfilled, since most likely he will die in the line of duty.

After having managed to fly the bridge, there is a confrontation in which Jordan is injured in a leg by enemy troops. He convinces his companions and comrades to continue with their escape, because to take him would be to delay the escape, and to commit the whole group. In this way, Jordan is wounded, and waiting for the enemies, knowing that the time has come to face his own destiny.

The author knows perfectly the role played by the virtue of solidarity in the existence of an individual, as well as help and trust, which are two crucial bases on which the ethics that characterize their heroes are based. Hemingway points out the enormous relevance of focusing on noble superior emotions such as love, serenity, calm, eliminating dark feelings such as hate, destruction and death.

 

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Summary of For Whom the Bell Tolls
Source: Education  
October 29, 2019


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