July 12, 2012

For Whom The Bell Tolls

No sports on yesterday and today. There's enough coverage of this Penn State report that might two cents aren't worth it. So I'm going to instead review Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls for the hell of it.

A recurring theme in Hemingway's books and short stories is death and tragedy. Whether it's A Farewell To Arms, For Whom The Bell Tolls, or Hemingway's short story The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber death and tragedy are the main themes. Hemingway was consumed with a tragic ending and death to the point you wonder if he was a part of a Shakespeare fan club.

For Whom The Bell Tolls tells the story of Robert Jordan who is with the International Brigades that are fighting the fascists forces during the Spanish Civil War. Jordan is sent behind enemy lines to blow up a bridge with the help of antifascists guerrillas. While with the guerrillas forces Jordan falls in love with Maria and describes the horrors of civil war and the fear of the fascists airplanes.

Jordan eventually blows the bridge but he is maimed when his horse is shot out from underneath him from a tank. Knowing he would only slow down the guerrillas Jordan says goodbye to Maria and prepares an ambush on the fascists. The book ends with Jordan preparing to attack.

The language in this book caused me to stop reading it a couple of times. What I mean is that not only does Hemingway use Shakespeare themes, but also Shakespeare language to translate the Spanish in the book. There are a lot of sentences in the book that have "Thy" or "Thou" along with sentences in Spanish. This hosh-posh of language can make For Whom The Bell Tolls a hard read.

If you can get past the hard language I would recommend reading this book. Hemingway's portrayal of civil war and the fear of death to soldiers is beautiful. Hemingway's portrait of the hilly landscape and the harsh conditions the guerrillas lived in is wonderful.

My questions to you is what Hemingway books or short stories have you read? What are your favorites? And what did you like or hate Hemingway's work?


  1. Hemingway was the man, even if he had issues writing female characters. My favorite book of his was "A Farewell To Arms," but I also loved the posthumous "A Moveable Feast." Also check out his essays for Esquire from the 1930's. Go find the documentary "Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure." Avoid the recent HBO movie like the plague, though. I wish I could have those 3 hours back.

    1. I like the HBO movie. You see Kidman's boobs!

    2. Haha. That & David Straithorn as John Dos Passos were about the only things good about the movie. Hem was a tyrannical asshole, but Gellhorn was no saint either.

    3. Hemingway's sons talk glowingly of Gellhorn in their introduction to their father's short story collection. So they at least liked her.