Skip over navigation

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title ·  For Whom the Bell Tolls

author · Ernest Hemingway

type of work · Novel

genre · Tragedy; historical novel; war novel; love story

language · English sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases. Many sections, especially dialogue and interior monologue, are written as though they have been translated word-for-word from Spanish to English and retain the structure and cadence of the Spanish language.

time and place written · March 1939–August 1940; Cuba, Key West, Wyoming, and Idaho

date of first publication · October 21, 1940

publisher · Scribner’s

narrator · Anonymous third-person

point of view · The narrative is written in a detached, journalistic style that focuses on what the characters can see, hear, or smell. This description is often restricted to what Robert Jordan can see or hear. On a few occasions, most notably when introducing Pablo confiding to his horse and introducing Karkov’s rescue of Andrés and Gomez in prison, the narrator comments on the unfolding action.

tone · The tone is detached, solemn, and world-weary, especially when the narrative focuses on the perspective of Robert Jordan. There are recurring elements of dramatic irony (resulting from a discrepancy between what the characters know and what we as readers know) as characters fighting for the Republican side express optimism about the outcome of the war.

tense · Immediate past

setting (time) · Three days during the last week of May 1937, from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday midday; along with lengthy flashbacks to earlier episodes in the lives of different characters

setting (place) · The Guadarrama mountain range in Spain; several flashbacks are set in a variety of places in Montana and throughout Spain

protagonist · Robert Jordan

major conflict · As Robert Jordan and a small band of guerrilla fighters prepare to blow up a bridge with their limited resources and manpower, Robert Jordan and Pablo struggle for authority over the small band of guerrillas. Meanwhile, Robert Jordan and Maria cope with the pitfalls of falling in love during wartime.

rising action · Robert Jordan arrives at Pablo’s camp, convinces the band members to help him fulfill his mission, and falls in love with Maria. He enlists the aid of nearby guerrilla leader El Sordo and clashes with Pablo. Snow falls. A band of Fascists attacks and slaughters El Sordo’s men. Robert Jordan sends a dispatch to General Golz recommending that the Republican offensive be canceled. Pablo leaves the group and steals some of Robert Jordan’s explosives.

climax  · Pablo returns. Andrés delivers the dispatch too late, and the Republican offensive is not canceled. Robert Jordan and the guerrilla band blow up the bridge.

falling action · Four people, including Robert Jordan, die or are fatally wounded. Pablo leads the others away, presumably to safety into the mountains.

themes · The loss of innocence in war; the value of human life; romantic love as salvation

motifs · Rabbits and hares; the forest floor; signs and omens; suicide

symbols · Planes, tanks, and mortars; absinthe

foreshadowing · Robert Jordan’s intuition that Pablo will be a danger to the bridge operation; Pilar’s consternation at what she reads in Robert Jordan’s palm; Agustín’s warning to Robert Jordan to pay attention to his packs; Pilar’s sense of foreboding as she watches Pablo after the men swear allegiance to her; Robert Jordan’s worry about the tracks that El Sordo may have left when the snowstorm stops at night; Pilar’s lengthy description of the smell of death

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us