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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
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;
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
Ace your assignments with our guide to For Whom The Bell Tolls!