Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls": War's Affect on Man and Importance of Time


At first glance Hemingway's novel For Whom The Bell Tolls appears to be
an action packed war novel. But underneath all the action there are underlying
ideas that reveal much about how war changes a man and causes him to realize the
importance of time.
Hemingway reveals these ideas about war through the narrator's thoughts
and through the interaction between the major characters. Hemingway shows that
war brings about a personal change, that reveals much about man's individuality
and that time is limited.
Hemingway reveals much about the individuality of men through the
relationship of Robert Jordan and Maria. When Jordan is dying at the end of the
novel he says to Maria "Thou wilt go now, rabbit. But I go for thee. As long
as there is one of us there is both of us. Do you understand?"(p460) We begin
to understand how we as people are never truly alone but instead are always
surrounded by the memories and thoughts of those we love. When two people truly
fall in love they become as one. Where one goes, both go. Robert finally says
to her " The me in thee. Now you go for us both. Truly. We both go in thee
now. This I have promised thee. Stand up. Thou art me now. Thou art all
there will be of me. Stand up." (Pg.462) By saying this Jordan reveals how man
is never an individual but instead is made up of all the influences, experiences,
and memories that we have shared with others.
Furthermore This change came upon Jordan as a consequence of joining the
war. Before the war had started he had no idea what it meant to be an
individual, or to truly fall in love. Jordan says to Maria "I have never loved
someone as thee. Before our cause I never new what it was like to truly live.
Or to love, as I do thee" (P160). This shows how being in the war allowed him to
understand what it really meant to be a man. Before the war he never lived as
full a life as he does during the war. It is the essence of war which causes
these changes in him.
The simple character Anselmo is also changed by the war. But instead of
the changes being negative as they are with many of the other characters (except
Jordan), they bring upon a positive change on him. When discussing the horrors
of war with Robert Jordan Anselmo mentions "The men who come to enjoy the
killing, they are the ones who are changed. I always hatted killing a man, and
I still have trouble doing it."(p358). Anselmo gains more of a respect of
humans after he has been forced to kill some" Hemingway contrasts Anselmo's
philosophy of life with the more hardened, cruel men in the play. By doing this
we see the change the war has brought upon the other characters. When Anselmo
is watching the fascist camp he thinks "We will kill them. It is a strange
thing and I do not like to think of it. I have watched them all day and they
are the same men we are. They are poor men as we are. We should not be
fighting each other, but we are."(p192) Anselmo comes to the discovery that all
men ar e equal regardless of politics, but it is war that causes are hatred.
The war he is fighting is what causes this change of viewpoint.
On the other hand, Pablo is a character who has been changed negatively
by the war. When mentioning how he and his people slaughtered a town, he says
"I liked it. All of it, expect for the killing of the priest. I was
disillusioned by him. I expected a better death. He died with very little
dignity."(P127). Pablo is a character who now is a drunkard. It takes killing
to get him to do something. After the death of a Fascist brigade Pablo mentions
that "I feel like my old self again. I am back. I wish we could have killed
some more". When contrasting the ways of Pablo and Anselmo we come to see how
much we can be changed by the horrors of war. Whereas Anselmo did not let the
changes negatively affect him, Pablo did. By this contrast we can compare what
change can be brought upon us by the effects of war.
Throughout the