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Encyclopedia > For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Cover to the first edition
First edition cover
Author Ernest Hemingway
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) War novel
Publisher Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication date 1940
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 978-0-684-83048-3 (Scribner's reprint)

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a 1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway. It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is given an assignment to blow up a bridge to accompany a simultaneous attack on the city of Segovia. The title is drawn from "Meditation XVII" of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, a metaphysical poem by John Donne. Image File history File links Emblem-important. ... For Whom the Bell Tolls is a is a 1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway, taking its title from a meditation by John Donne. ... Image File history File links ErnestHemmingway_ForWhomTheBellTolls. ... Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. ... For other uses, see Country (disambiguation). ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... A war novel is a novel in which the primary action takes place in a field of armed combat, or in a domestic setting (or home front) where the characters are preoccupied with the preparations for, or recovery from, war. ... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... Charles Scribners Sons is a publisher that was founded in 1846 at the Brick Church Chapel on New Yorks Park Row. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... “ISBN” redirects here. ... Charles Scribners Sons is a publisher that was founded in 1846 at the Brick Church Chapel on New Yorks Park Row. ... Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The three-pointed red star, symbol of the International Brigades The International Brigades were Republican military units in the Spanish Civil War, formed of many non-state sponsored volunteers of different countries who traveled to Spain, to fight for the republic in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. ... Guerrilla (also called a partisan) is a term borrowed from Spanish (from guerra meaning war) used to describe small combat groups. ... It has been suggested that Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War be merged into this article or section. ... The factual accuracy of part of this article is disputed. ... The metaphysical poets were a loose group of British lyric poets of the 17th century, who shared an interest in metaphysical concerns and a common way of investigating them. ... For the Welsh courtier and diplomat, see Sir John Donne. ...


Plot summary

The novel is told primarily through the thoughts of Robert Jordan. Based on Hemingway's own experience, Jordan is an American who travelled to Spain to assist the struggle against the forces of the fascist Generalísimo Francisco Franco. A generalissimo is a commissioned officer of the highest rank; the word is often translated as Supreme Commander or Commander in Chief. It is an Italian superlative substantive, which grammatically would actually be disallowed in Italian (superlatives can be made with adjectives only). ... “Franco” redirects here. ...

Behind enemy lines with a guerrilla band, led by a disillusioned Republican called Pablo; Jordan meets María - a young Spanish native whose life has been shattered by the outbreak of the war. Jordan's strong sense of duty clashes with both Pablo's unwillingness to commit to a covert operation and his own newfound love of life caused by the presence of María.

The novel describes events which demonstrate the incredible brutality of civil war.

Characters in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

  • Robert Jordan – American professor of Spanish language and a specialist in demolitions and explosives.
  • Anselmo – elderly member of Pablo's band.
  • Pablo – guerrilla leader.
  • Rafael – Gitano member of Pablo's band.
  • María – love of Robert Jordan.
  • Pilar – Pablo's Gitana wife.
  • Agustín – member of Pablo's band.
  • El Sordo – hearing-impaired leader of a near-by band of guerrilleros.
  • Fernando – middle-aged member of Pablo's band.
  • Andrés – member of Pablo's band, brother of Eladio.
  • Eladio – member of Pablo's band, brother of Andrés.
  • Primitivo – young member of Pablo's band.
  • Joaquin – enthusiastic teenaged communist, member of Sordo's band.

This page is a candidate to be moved to Wiktionary. ... Guerrilla (also called a partisan) is a term borrowed from Spanish (from guerra meaning war) used to describe small combat groups. ... This article is about communism as a form of society and as a political movement. ...

Main themes

The main topic of the novel is death. When Robert Jordan is given the mission to blow up the bridge, he knows that he will not survive it. Pablo, upon hearing of the mission, also knows immediately that it will lead to their deaths. Sordo sees that inevitability also. Almost all of the main characters in the book contemplate their own deaths, and it is their reaction to the prospect of death, and what meaning they attach to death, especially in relation to the cause of the Republic, that defines them. Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ...

A related theme is intense comradeship in the prospect of death, the giving up of the own self for the sake of the cause, for the sake of the People. Robert Jordan, Anselmo and the others are ready to do it "as all good men should", the often repeated gesture of embracing or patting on one another's shoulder reinforces the impression of close companionship. One of the best examples is Joaquín. After having been told about the execution of his family, the others are embracing him and comfort him by saying they were his family now. Surrounding this love for the comrades, there is the love for the Spanish soil, and surrounding this a love of place and the senses, of life itself, represented by the pine needle forest floor both at the beginning and the end of the novel. Most poignantly, at the book's end, Robert Jordan awaits his death feeling "his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest."

Another important theme is suicide. The characters, including Robert, would each prefer death over capture and are prepared to kill themselves, have someone else kill them, or to fulfill the request of a companion. As the book ends, Robert, wounded (but not mortally), and unable to travel with his companions awaits a final sniping opportunity. He is mentally prepared to commit suicide to avoid capture and the inevitable torture for the extraction of information and final death at the hands of the enemy. Still, he hopes to avoid suicide partly because his father, whom he views as a coward, himself committed suicide. Robert 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".[1] Robert's view of suicide as a selfish act is ironic, given that Hemingway took his own life twenty-one years later. For other uses, see Suicide (disambiguation). ...

There are also the themes of political ideology and bigotry. After noticing how he himself so easily employed the convenient catch-phrase "enemy of the people", Robert Jordan moves swiftly into the subjects and opines, "To be bigoted you have to be absolutely sure that you are right and nothing makes that surety and righteousness like continence. Continence is the foe of heresy."[2] Later in the book, Robert Jordan explains the threat of Fascism in his own country. "Robert Jordan, wiping out the stew bowl with bread, explained how the income tax and inheritance tax worked. 'But the big estates remain. Also, there are taxes on the land,' he said. 'But surely the big proprietors and the rich will make a revolution against such taxes. Such taxes appear to me to be revolutionary. They will revolt against the government when they see that they are threatened, exactly as the fascists have done here,' Primitivo said. 'It is possible.' 'Then you will have to fight in your country as we fight here.' 'Yes, we will have to fight.' 'But are there not many fascists in your country?' 'There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.'"[3] This last line could be tied to fellow writers' Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound's fascist stances during the Spanish Civil War. Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was an American writer who was a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. ... Ezra Pound in 1913. ... It has been suggested that Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War be merged into this article or section. ...

Divination is another theme that arises in the book. Pilar, the gypsy 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."[4]


Hemingway frequently used images to produce the dense atmosphere of violence and death his books are renowned for; the main image of For Whom the Bell Tolls is the machine image. The fear of modern armament destroys, as it already did in "A Farewell to Arms", the conceptions of the ancient art of war: combat, sportsmanlike competition and the aspect of hunting. Heroism becomes butchery: the most powerful picture employed here is the shooting of María's parents against the wall of a slaughterhouse. Glory exists in the official dispatches only; here, the "disillusionment" theme of A Farewell to Arms is adapted.

The fascist planes are especially dreaded, and when they approach, all hope is lost. The efforts of the partisans seem to vanish, their commitment and their abilities become meaningless. "They move like mechanized doom",[5] and the aircraft's bombs wreak havoc with El Sordo and his band — the ideological slogans Joaquín employs "as though they were talismans"[6] have no effect; he resorts to praying, but not even that can save him. Every time the planes appear they indicate certain and pointless death. The same holds true for the automatic weapons ("Never in my life have I seen such a thing, with the troops running from the train and the máquina speaking into them and the men falling"[7] and the artillery, especially the trench mortars that already wounded Lt. Henry ("he knew that they would die as soon as a mortar came up".[8] No longer would the best soldier win, but the one with the biggest gun. The soldiers using those weapons are simple brutes, they lack "all conception of dignity"[9] as Fernando remarked. Anselmo insisted, "We must teach them. We must take away their planes, their automatic weapons, their tanks, their artillery and teach them dignity".[10]

Apart from these physical threats, much of the violence is executed on a metaphysical level. Plato (Left) and Aristotle (right), by Raphael (Stanza della Segnatura, Rome) Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of reality, being, and the world. ...

Literary significance & Critical Reaction


Since its publication, the prose style and dialogue in Hemingway's novel has been the source of controversy and fairly negative critical reaction. Edmund Wilson, in a tepid review, noted the encumbrance of "a strange atmosphere of literary medievalism" in the relationship between Jordan and Maria, for example.[11] Hemingway makes extensive use of archaisms, implied transliterations and false cognates to convey the foreign (Spanish) tongue spoken by his characters. Thus, Hemingway uses the archaic "thou" (particularly in its oblique and possessive form) to parallel the Spanish pronominal "tu" (familiar) and "Usted" (formal) forms. Additionally, much of the dialogue in the novel is an implied direct translation from Spanish, producing an often strained English equivalent. For example, Hemingway uses the construction "what passes that" [12], which is an implied transliteration of the Spanish construction que pasa. This transliteration extends to the use of false cognates, such as "rare" (from raro) and "molest" (from molestar), instead of "strange" and "bother".[13] In language, an archaism is the deliberate use of an older form that has fallen out of current use. ... Transliteration is the practice of transcribing a word or text written in one writing system into another writing system. ... False cognates are a pair of words in the same or different languages that are similar in form and meaning but have different roots. ... For other uses, see Thou (disambiguation). ... An oblique case (Latin: ) in linguistics is a noun case of analytic languages that is used generally when a noun is the predicate of a sentence or a preposition. ... Possessive case is a case that exists in some languages used for possession. ...

Narrative Style

The book is written in the third person limited omniscient narrative mode. The action and dialogue are punctuated by extensive thought sequences told from the viewpoint of Robert Jordan. The thought sequences are more extensive that in Hemingway's earlier fiction, notably A Farewell to Arms and are an important narrative device to explore the principal themes of the novel. This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... In literature and storytelling, a point of view is the related experience of the narrator — not that of the author. ...

In the last part of the novel, the plot is split into two parallel actions: the preparations for the attack and the course of Andrés, a guerillero 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. Some have argued that Hemingway was relenting to the demands of Hollywood directors who wanted books more easily turned into scripts [citation needed]

Although most of the book is told from the point of view of people on the Republican side in the war, which clearly reflects Hemingway's own position, a notable exception is made in a single page giving the point of view of two soldiers of Franco's troops, who are shown as ordinary and quite sympathetic people, without an overt Fascist ideology - a passage which ends with Jordan shooting and killing them.

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.[14]

Allusions/references to actual events

The novel takes place in June, 1937 the second year of the Spanish Civil War (see also: Spanish Civil War, 1937). [15] References made to Valladolid, Segovia, El Escorial and Madrid suggest the novel takes place within the build-up to the Republican attempt to relieve the siege of Madrid. Year 1937 (MCMXXXVII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... This article covers the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) during 1937. ... For the city in Mexico, see Valladolid, Yucatán. ... The factual accuracy of part of this article is disputed. ... // El Escorial, the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo El Real (also known as the Monasterio de El Escorial or simply El Escorial) is located about 45 kilometres (28 miles) northwest of the Spanish capital, Madrid. ... Motto: (Spanish for From Madrid to Heaven) Location Coordinates: , Country Spain Autonomous Community Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid Province Madrid Administrative Divisions 21 Neighborhoods 127 Founded 9th century Government  - Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón Jimémez (PP) Area  - Land 607 km² (234. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ...

The earlier battle of Guadalajara and the general chaos and disorder (and, more generally, the doomed cause of Republican Spain) serve as a backdrop to the novel: Jordan notes, for instance, that he follows the Communists because of their superior discipline, an allusion to the split and infighting between anarchist and communist factions on the Republican side. The Guadalajara Offensive (8 March – 23 March 1937) was an engagement in the Spanish Civil War. ...

The famous and pivotal scene described in Chapter 10, in which Pilar describes the execution of various Fascists figures in her village is drawn from events that took place in Ronda in 1936. Although Hemingway later claimed (in a 1954 letter to Bernard Berenson) to have completely fabricated the scene, he in fact drew upon the events at Ronda, embellishing the event by imagining an execution line leading up to the cliff face.[16] In Ronda, some 500 fascist sympathisers were thrown into the surrounding gorge by a partisan mob from a house that faced onto the cliffside. Ronda sits at the edge of a canyon Ronda city view Ronda is a city in the Spanish province of Málaga. ... 1936 (MCMXXXVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

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 (POUM), the party mocked by Karkov in Chapter 18.
  • Prieto, one of the leaders of the Republicans, is also mentioned in Chapter 18.
  • General José 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, were well known to Hemingway and served possibly as a model for Hemingway's own hero.[citation needed]

Andreu Nin, (Spanish: Andrés Nin) (February 4, 1892 - June 20, 1937) was a Catalan Spanish revolutionary. ... The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM, Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) was a Spanish political party around the time of the Spanish Civil War. ... Indalecio Prieto Tuero (April 30, 1883 - February 11, 1962) was a Spanish politician, one of the leading figures of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) in the years before and during the Second Spanish Republic. ... Image:SPmaija. ... Vicente Rojo Lluch (1894, Fuente la Higuera, in Valencia–June 15, 1966 Madrid) was a prominent Republican army officer during the Spanish Civil War. ... Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, also known as La Pasionaria (the passion flower) (November 12, 1895–December 9, 1989) was a Spanish political leader. ... Robert Hale Merriman (1908-1938) was an American professor of economics at the University of California who joined the Republican forces in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and led the American Volunteers with the International Brigades. ... The three-pointed red star, symbol of the International Brigades The International Brigades were Republican military units in the Spanish Civil War, formed of many non-state sponsored volunteers of different countries who traveled to Spain, to fight for the republic in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. ...


A film adaptation of Hemingway's novel, directed by Sam Wood, was released in 1943 starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman . It was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including best picture, best actor and best actress; however, only the Greek actor Katina Paxinou won an Oscar for her portrayal of Pilar. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a 1943 film based on the famous novel by Ernest Hemingway. ... Sam R Woods is by far the coolest person in the world :D(January 13, 1990, Grantown-on-SpeyHollywood) was a prolific Scotland samwoods999. ... Year 1943 (MCMXLIII) was a common year starting on Friday (the link will display full 1943 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Gary Cooper (born Frank James Cooper May 7, 1901 – May 13, 1961) was a two-time Academy Award-winning American film actor of English heritage. ...   (pronounced in Swedish, but usually in English, IPA notation) (August 29, 1915 – August 29, 1982) was a three-time Academy Award-winning and two-time Emmy Award-winning Swedish actress. ... Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are the most prominent and most watched film awards ceremony in the world. ... Katina Paxinou (17 December 1900 - 22 February 1973) was an Academy Award-winning Greek film and theatre actress. ... Although he never won an Oscar for any of his movie performances, the comedian Bob Hope received two honorary Oscars for his contributions to cinema. ...

References in popular culture

  • "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is a song by Metallica on their 1984 album Ride the Lightning. It is about war and the human spirit, and is a reference to a chapter where El Sordo, another guerilla leader, takes a position on a hill, surrounded on all sides, and he and his five comrades are killed by an airstrike. This is in the line "Men of five still alive through the raging glow, gone insane from the pain that they surely know."
  • The late James Oliver Rigney Jr. (better known as Robert Jordan), the author of the popular "Wheel of Time" saga, dirived his pen name from the main character of For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • The novel title is also referenced in the song "Losing It" by Canadian prog rock band Rush on their 1982 album Signals. The lyrics refer to works of Hemingway: "he stares out the kitchen door, where the sun will rise no more..." and "for you the blind who once could see, the bell tolls for thee...".
  • In the movie Se7en, Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) quotes a line from the novel: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'the world is a fine place and worth fighting for,' I agree with the second part."

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a song by Metallica, the third track from their second album Ride the Lightning. ... Metallica is a Grammy Award-winning American heavy metal/thrash metal band formed in 1981[1] and has become one of the most commercially successful musical acts of recent decades. ... This article is about the year. ... An album or record album is a collection of related audio or music tracks distributed to the public. ... Ride the Lightning is American thrash metal band Metallicas second album, released in August 1984 on Elektra Records. ... This article is about Opera, the art form. ... A short grand piano, with the top up. ... Richard Kelly - Wikipedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... “Moving picture” redirects here. ... For the fictional character, see Donald Darko. ... Sanctuary Records is a record label based in the United Kingdom and a subsidiary of Universal Records. ... Year 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Donnie Darko is the soundtrack to the film Donnie Darko (2001), whose score was composed by Michael Andrews. ... For other persons named Robert Jordan, see Robert Jordan (disambiguation). ... Wheel of time may refer to: The Wheel of time or history, a religious concept predominant in Buddhism and Hinduism The Wheel of Time, a fantasy book series by author Robert Jordan The Wheel of Time (computer game), an action first-person shooter based on the series The Timewheel, a... Rush is a Canadian rock band comprising bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart. ... For the singer, see Se7en (singer). ... Dawsons Creek director, see Morgan J. Freeman. ...


  1. ^ Hemingway, Ernest (1940). For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 338. 
  2. ^ For Whom (p. 164)
  3. ^ For Whom (pp. 207, 208)
  4. ^ For Whom (p. 251)
  5. ^ For Whom (p. 93)
  6. ^ For Whom (p. 328)
  7. ^ For Whom (p. 31)
  8. ^ For Whom (p. 330)
  9. ^ For Whom (p. 349)
  10. ^ For Whom (p. 349)
  11. ^ Edmund Wilson, " Return of Ernest Hemingway" (Review of For Whom the Bell Tolls) New Republic, CIII (Oct. 28, 1940)
  12. ^ E.g., For Whom (p. 83)
  13. ^ M.R. Gladstein, "Bilingual Wordplay: Variations on a Theme by Hemingway and Steinbeck," The Hemingway Review, 26:1, Fall 2006, 81-95
  14. ^ http://www.pulitzer.org/history.html#history
  15. ^ In Chapter 13, Jordan thinks "The time for getting back will not be until the fall of 37. I left in the summer of 36..." and makes allusion to the unusual June snowfall in the mountains.
  16. ^ Ramon Buckley, "Revolution in Ronda: The facts in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls", the Hemingway Review, Fall 1997

  Results from FactBites:
For Whom the Bell Tolls (508 words)
This phrase basically means 'for whom the bell rings' but generally in a church because the word 'toll' implies that the bell is large and making a louder sound than a smaller bell ringing.
It tolls for thee." And it was a meditation on death.
Manchester, U.K. Re: For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls - definition of For Whom the Bell Tolls in Encyclopedia (1704 words)
For Whom the Bell Tolls is a 1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway.
At the time the novel was published, it seemed as though he separated the narrator from the protagonist to become what he had always wanted to be: A big, omniscient and ubiquitous daddy who tells all the stories and who has got everything under control.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is a song by Metallica on their 1984 album Ride the Lightning.
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