There is a lot of symbolism in the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Ernest Hemmingway characterizes the inner struggle that exists in men who engage in war. The motivations and passion begin to erode, leaving desperate men in a struggle about which they no longer feel strongly. As the novel progresses, the characters of Robert Jordan and Maria grow with the love they have for each other and the progression of their ideas about war. This growth carries them through the novel and eventually through very different paths. The character of Robert Jordan is brought to new depths of character when he meets Maria.
Jordan liked to remain by himself, and he had no concern about dying on the battlefield. Additionally, the character Maria is at first a meek, traumatized victim of abuse in a prison camp. When Jordan and Maria meet, they change dramatically. Jordan’s love for Maria heals her from the wounds she suffered at the hands of men back in the prison. At the same time, Jordan comes to value his life more when he has new feelings evoked by his unity with Maria. Together they make plans to make a life with one another back in the United States, and that becomes the inspiration that carries Jordan through the war.
Hemmingway’s genius for metaphorical depictions is further described by the a emotionless Robert Jordan, who has entered the war after leaving his professorship back in the United States. He takes up the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, and his genius working with explosives earns him a higher position. At the start of his service in the war, he believes in the cause very strongly, but at the novel’s beginning, he has become worn down and disillusioned with the cause. The distinction between the Republican cause and the Fascist cause have blurred and he begins to wonder if both sides aren’t actually the same.
His continued service in the war is almost robotic, he is no longer impassioned to the cause on either side. At the novel’s conclusion, Robert Jordan faces death, the denouement of his internal conflict being resolved as he finally is able to identify himself – not as a man of whose function lies only in his ruminations but rather, a man who acts on his instincts. He has been involved this war for too long despite becoming disillusioned long ago. He is tormented by the things he has done, but he ultimately realizes he needs to forget the past to refrain from making mistakes in the present.
He focuses on his love for Maria and at the moment before his death, he is at peace and finally feels a connection with the world around him. The first metaphor was the snowstorm that occurred in May and hampered the progress of guerillas as they set out to detonate explosives on the bridge. The character Robert Jordan watches the snow whipping around him and describes the scene: “it was like the excitement of battle except it was clean” (Hemmingway, p186). He enjoys the fact that the snow and weather in general is beyond his control – unlike the war he is currently enduring.
He is also glad that the hindrance of the snow can completely disable man’s technological innovations and stratagems for taking lives. The snowstorm is a foreshadowing element used in reference to the upcoming deaths of El Sordo and his band. It is the snow that leads the fascist soldiers on their trail and eventually leads to their demise, destroying any reinforcements for Jordan’s troops. The wildness of the snowstorm is mirrors the chaotic ending in which the soldiers run around aimlessly. Another metaphor in this novel is the bullfight.
Bullfighting is referenced in the novel as a direct parallel to the senseless violence in war. The bull represents the powerful force and the matadors represent the bravery of men. In these fights, death may result but it is a minor risk for the ultimate reward of honor. Joaquin long dreamed of becoming a bullfighter, and when he tells this to his fellow guerillas, he suffers much ridicule for being too afraid to go through with his dream. This condemnation is indicative of the valor that men must have, putting their fears behind them and face death without flinching.
Finito was described as cowardly – a matador who was terrified, but inside the ring, he had the courage of a “lion”, looking the bull in the face and confronting it (Hemmingway, p185). For Whom the Bell Tolls is a story about the hardships of war. As Robert continues through the war, he undergoes many changes and has his entire perception of the world changed through the lens of war’s devastation. At the end, a gentle peace takes hold of him as the character matures to his height of spiritual connectedness, and this is quickly followed by his death, the ultimate p
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