My Impressions Having Read “For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway

Authors have always been writing about war. Ernest Hemingway, an American writer of the twentieth century, was one of them. That is to say, his novel “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is held by critics nearly the greatest masterpiece on this topic. Its object is the fatal changes in people’s lives during four days of the Spanish Civil War.

War is as a circumstance under which the personalities of the characters, i.e. Robert Jordan, Anzelmo, Pablo, Pilar and Maria, who all live in the same war camp, are laid bare. To begin, the main character, Robert Jordan, is a young American exploder who is ordered to blow up a bridge in the Spanish mountains. In fact, he used to work in an American university but, as Spain has already become his second motherland, Robert has joined the revolution against the fascists willingly. As follows, in the mountains he gets acquainted to an old man named Anzelmo who is to accompany Jordan to the camp. As he realizes later, although Anzelmo is quite strong physically, he cannot fight as successfully as the young; nevertheless he is respected by everyone for his life experience and his useful pieces of advice. The first man Robert meets in the camp is Pablo, the leader of the camp. He belongs to the “lost generation”, i.e. men who have survived during the First World War but have been mentally disturbed. As a result, Pablo is an alcohol addict. That is why, the actual boss in that camp is Pilar, his wife, as mentally she is a very strong woman, who is afraid neither to argue with any man, even Pablo, nor to be thought of as a cruel woman. Actually, she is not a brutal person at all. To cite an example, Pilar treats Maria (a young girl who has got to the camp after her escape from the fascists’ prison) as her own beloved daughter. Besides, Maria is very pretty even though her hair has been cropped in jail and she has always been afraid of men but when she sees Robert she does not get scared. Moreover, she even falls in love with him at first sight. On the whole, all the people in the camp live like a family and Jordan becomes its newest member.

The story begins with the point where Anzelmo accompanies Robert to the war camp mastered by Pablo, who meets the newcomer in a rather unfriendly way – holding a carbine in his arms. Fortunately, soon the formal boss of the camp gets more amicable towards Jordan. In addition to this, the exploder is introduced to the rest of the people living there. To illustrate this, Robert gets acquainted to Pilar, Maria, the old gypsy Rafael and the guard Agustin. Apart from this, right after the sunset the young man goes up to the bridge he is to blow up and examines it: makes some necessary calculations and drawings. When he comes back to the camp everybody is having supper, so Robert joins them too. During the meal Jordan starts quarrelling with Pablo who is then forced to leave the cave, as the tension in the atmosphere becomes unbearable. No doubt, after this incident the young soldier gets nervous – he has been nearly ready to kill Pablo, and no one could blame him for that, – that is why he takes a bottle of cognac (he calls it “medicine”) out of his bag and drinks some of it. Therefore he calms down and starts talking to Maria and Pilar; he tells them about his father who has been shot for being a republican, later listens to Maria’s story. The truth is, that Maria and Robert like each other very much, Pilar notices that but she cannot do anything except warn the young man not to do any harm to the girl. However, the youths spend that night together as well as the other two nights in the camp; they start behaving as if they were a real family.

The following morning makes Maria, Jordan and the other people of the camp return to reality: they are woken up by the noise of the war crafts flying over the mountains. As follows, Anzelmo is sent to watch the road and Robert decides to visit the neighbouring camp of El Sordo together with Maria. Certainly, the soldiers of El Sordo promise to support Pablo’s group escape after the explosion. So, the following day is spent preparing for the explosion. In the morning of the fourth day, it starts snowing, which means that the whole operation can get spoiled. Luckily, the storm is soon over, but bad news comes to the camp: El Sordo has been attacked by the fascists, and the whole camp has been destroyed. But Robert keeps presence of mind, prepares the explosives and blows up the bridge. Unluckily, the old man Anzelmo perishes from the bomb but the others manage to escape. On their way down the mountains, the company are forced to run away from the fascists chasing after them; Robert Jordan falls off his horse and gets badly injured. Indeed, Maria wants to stay with him, she refuses to leave him dying. In the end the young man persuades the girl that although he dies, he is to stay alive inside her as a part of herself. Maria escapes together with the associates, whereas Robert Jordan dies feeling happy.

As I have already mentioned, the action in the novel takes place during four days of the Spanish War but, in fact, time has got no particular meaning there. In other words, the characters seem to be trapped in time. Nearly the same could be said about the space: it does not change a lot. To cite an example, the whole action of the story takes place in the same place, i.e. war camp in the Spanish mountains. On the other hand, the space could be divided into the real (present events) and unreal (memories). Apart from this, although the atmosphere is impregnated with tension and the end of the story is tragic, the reader can feel a hope in the narrator’s voice: Robert Jordan dies alone but he remains in Maria’s heart.