Critical Essays Hemingway's Ideology


No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe: every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were, any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

The above quotation from John Donne appears facing the first page of the text of For Whom the Bell Tolls. It is a dramatic, concise statement of the major theme of the novel — the dual importance of man as an individual and as an integral part of "Mankinde."

The question of the importance of the individual is, of course, one of the more serious points in the argument between the liberal and conservative philosophies. And it is a question with which Hemingway has dealt before. Many of the heroes of his early stories and novels were go-it-alone individualists, and he had been claimed by the conservatives as their spokesman. But when, at the end of To Have and Have Not, the dying protagonist, Harry Morgan, said, "A man alone ain't got no bloody chance," the liberals rejoiced. They claimed that a new period of social consciousness had developed in Hemingway's writing, and they quickly adopted him as the spokesman for their cause.

When For Whom the Bell Tolls appeared, liberals and conservatives alike declared that Hemingway had deserted them. In the early pages of the book, the hero, Robert Jordan, states unequivocally that he is not a communist, but simply an anti-fascist. As the novel develops, so does Jordan's realization of man's dual importance as individual as well as social being, and it is because of this realization that he insists on being left to die at the end of the book.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is, as are all great novels, somewhat like a symphony in that it has a number of themes which appear, disappear, and then reappear as the story progresses. The major, overall theme of irony, the theme of mysticism, and the love theme — are treated in the commentaries at the end of the appropriate chapters.