For Whom The Bell Tolls

by: Ernest Hemingway

Important Quotations Explained

1
For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere . . .

This quotation from Chapter Thirteen describes Maria and Robert Jordan’s lovemaking on their way back from visiting El Sordo. Hemingway’s language in this passage strives to imitate the sexual act and re-create the structure of the experience for the reader. We can identify the repetitive rhythm of sexual intercourse: “[I]t was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere . . .” The passage goes on to describe the climax: “up, up, up . . .” and the ejaculation: “and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly . . . .” Finally, with “all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them,” the jumble of words reorganizes itself back into grammatical clauses, mimicking the post-climactic regaining of the senses. This last phrase returns to the physical description that is typical of Robert Jordan’s point of view throughout the novel. Here as often elsewhere throughout the novel, Hemingway’s writing style mirrors Robert Jordan’s psychological state. Just as, most of the time, the controlled, direct prose embodies Robert Jordan’s clear, logical thinking, the confusion and loss of control over language in this passage reflects Robert Jordan’s loss of physical and psychological control during sex.


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