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For Whom the Bell Tolls Paperback – July 1, 1995
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"I am tired of being hunted. Here we are all right. Now if you blow a bridge here, we will be hunted. If they know we are here and hunt for us with planes, they will find us. If they send Moors to hunt us out, they will find us and we must go. I am tired of all this. You hear?" He turned to Robert Jordan. "What right have you, a foreigner, to come to me and tell me what I must do?"In one short chapter Hemingway lays out the blueprint for what is to come: Jordan's sense of duty versus Pablo's dangerous self-interest and weariness with the war. Complicating matters even more are two members of the guerrilla leader's small band: his "woman" Pilar, and Maria, a young woman whom Pablo rescued from a Republican prison train. Unlike her man, Pilar is still fiercely devoted to the cause and as Pablo's loyalty wanes, she becomes the moral center of the group. Soon Jordan finds himself caught between the two, even as his own resolve is tested by his growing feelings for Maria.
For Whom the Bell Tolls combines two of the author's recurring obsessions: war and personal honor. The pivotal battle scene involving El Sordo's last stand is a showcase for Hemingway's narrative powers, but the quieter, ongoing conflict within Robert Jordan as he struggles to fulfill his mission perhaps at the cost of his own life is a testament to his creator's psychological acuity. By turns brutal and compassionate, it is arguably Hemingway's most mature work and one of the best war novels of the 20th century. --Alix Wilber
Top Customer Reviews
To my young eyes, it was a good action story: Robert Jordan, the passionate American teacher joins a band of armed gypsies in the Spanish Civil War. He believes one man can make a difference. The whole novel covers just 68 hours, during which Jordan must find a way to blow up a key bridge behind enemy lines. In that short time, Jordan also falls in love with Maria, a beautiful Spanish woman who has been raped by enemy soldiers. The whole spectrum of literature was refracted through the prism of my youth: Good guys and bad guys, sex and blood, life and death. For me, just a boy, the journey from abstraction to clarity was only just beginning.
Re-reading "For Whom the Bell Tolls" at 42 (roughly the age Hemingway was when he published it), I have lost my ability to see things clearly in black and white. My vision is blurred by irony, as I note that two enemies, the moral killer Anselmo and the sympathetic fascist Lieutenant Berrendo, utter the very same prayer. For the first time, I see that the book opens with Robert Jordan lying on the "pine-needled floor of the forest" and closes as he feels his heart pounding against the "pine needle floor of the forest"; Jordan ends as he begins, perhaps having never really moved. I certainly could never have seen at 16 how dying well might be more consequential than living well. And somehow the light has changed in the past 26 years, so that I now truly understand how the earth can move.Read more ›
The entire novel only covers a span of three days, so the reader truly gets a sense of the time passing. Because of this, it feels as if the events are actually occurring as one is reading. Each moment is important, and there are few discontinuities in the story. Also, the novel is written in an interesting format where the climax doesn't occur until the final pages-this adds quite a bit of suspense. What really makes this book so excellent is the delicate combination of action and lull, and love and hate, which Hemingway builds into the story. There is a very beautiful (if only slightly unrealistic) love story carefully interwoven with murder, conspiracy, and disaster.
It is impossible not to deeply care for each individual in the story because there are few characters, and they are all extremely well developed. The reader can find a piece of somebody that he/she knows in every character. Hemingway also deals effectively with emotion. It is always easy to understand exactly what each person is feeling. With Robert Jordan, specifically, Hemingway uses a unique series of monologue-type passages so that the reader really can "get inside" Jordan's head. Somehow, Hemingway manages to do this while keeping out that uneasiness one gets when reading a play monologue. The novel has an anti-war feel to it, but it still contains several enthralling battle scenes. If only the love story were a bit more believable, this book could be truly fantastic. "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is definitely a worthwhile read right from the opening quote by John Donne all the way to the very last page.
The story is of two of man's most cherished and hated traditions: Love and War. The tragedy is that we have had so much of the latter and so little of the former. We see much of both in "For Whom The Bell Tolls." It is a tender story of two young people who just want to live a "normal" life together during the Spainish civil war, but who are prevented from doing thus due to their being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It is incredulous to me that there were other reviewers who found this book "boring." I can only surmise that anyone who would find a novel such as this boring will not find anything "exciting" unless it has Arnold Scharzenegger swinging around a machine gun. But that, I believe, is the fault of the reader's lack of attention span and cannot be blamed on Hemingway.
The author writes that "The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it." I would agree. Anyone else who agrees, and anyone who has a passion and zest for life should read this book. One of the best examples of American literature in the 20th century.
This mesmerizing novel neither glorifies war, not does it vilify it. Hemmingway's detached prose is world weary, exposing both sides of the conflict, allowing us to see that war, inevitable and futile, is never simple. Characters on both sides of the conflict struggle with their own fears and regrets. Both sides commit, and are subjected to, the atrocities and horrors of war. As different as each side may think they are from the other, in the end, they are all human and are not as different as they think.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is riveting and powerful, easily one of the ten best novels of the 20th century. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I may have it in college. Or tried to. It's a good tale with salient history and philisophy. But it is too long in light years and the writing is below average. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Robert