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For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway




_____ 1. Robert Jordan became involved in the Spanish Civil War because of his

    A. inborn sense of adventure
    B. philosophical and political views
    C. need to find meaning in a superficial lifestyle
_____ 2. One of the powerful themes of For Whom the Bell Tolls is
    A. the importance of the individual
    B. the triumph of fascism
    C. readiness is all
_____ 3. In Robert Jordan's opinion, the most trustworthy of Pablo's band was
    A. Rafael
    B. Primitivo
    C. Anselmo
_____ 4. Robert Jordan's growth and character change stem from
    A. his interaction with people
    B. different philosophical viewpoints he encounters
    C. disappointment with his previous life
_____ 5. Robert Jordan feels
    A. admiration for the Spanish people
    B. disgust for the Spanish people
    C. at different times, each of the above
_____ 6. The reactions of Joaquin, Anselmo, and Maria, when confronted with the strong possibility of death, show that
    A. they are superficial, hypocritical people
    B. the atheism of the Republicans has not really destroyed their faith
    C. they believe that sincere religion will win the war for the Republic
_____ 7. At the beginning of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan sees blowing up the bridge as
    A. simply another operation to be accomplished
    B. the crowning glory of his career with the Republicans
    C. an omen of bad things to come
_____ 8. Which of the following relationships began with distrust but ended with mutual confidence?
    A. Jordan and General Golz
    B. Jordan and Maria
    C. Jordan and Pablo

9. How is Robert Jordan's relationship with Maria different from the relationships he has had with other women?

10. Sketch the change in Robert Jordan's views about the Republicans and fighting for them.

11. Is Pablos a villain or hero in For Whom the Bell Tolls?


_____ 1. The attempt of Andres to deliver Jordan's letter to Golz brings out the

    A. dedication of the Loyalist peasants
    B. unfeeling cruelty of both sides in the war
    C. incompetence of the Republican military
_____ 2. The character associated with mysticism and fatalism is
    A. Pilar
    B. Maria
    C. Pablo
_____ 3. Which of the following is a key moral issue in For Whom the Bell Tolls?
    A. How can something be necessary and evil at the same time?
    B. Is it possible to love one's enemies?
    C. Should love of a single person be stronger than love of all people?
_____ 4. The Republican attempt to take Segovia fails mainly because
    A. Jordan's bridge demolition was badly timed
    B. key supplies did not reach the forces in time
    C. Nationalist forces had learned of the planned attack
_____ 5. El Sordo and his band were killed
    A. because they tried to take the bridge demolition into their own hands
    B. in an attempt to help Jordan and Pablo's band
    C. through the deceit and treachery of Pablo
_____ 6. At one point, Pablo's band decide he should be killed because
    A. they could not tolerate his cruel dictatorship
    B. his current emotional state was dangerous to the band's operations
    C. it was obvious he was about to sell out to the enemy
_____ 7. Jordan tries to reconcile Maria to their final parting by
    A. promising to meet her in Madrid
    B. deliberately being cold and unfeeling so she will resent rather than miss him
    C. telling her that he will live on in her and her life
_____ 8. At the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan is
    A. bitter about the way his life is about to end
    B. relatively content with how things have turned out
    C. so confused he does not know what to think

9. Is For Whom the Bell Tolls an antiwar novel?

10. Cite instances of irony in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

11. Explain the significance of the novel's title.


  1. B
  2. A
  3. C
  4. A
  5. C
  6. B
  7. A
  8. C

9. It's obvious that Robert Jordan's relationship with Maria is more meaningful to him than relationships he's had with other women. But this extends beyond his enjoyment of sex or even small talk. We're given only a shallow description- just a line or two- of his previous relationships. Perhaps that indicates they were insignificant.

Maria, however, is very special. She makes him think; she helps him grow. Maria causes him to see people, not just ideas, politics, and ideology. We get the impression that previous women in his life were more like objects that he didn't always have time for in spite of their attractiveness. But he appreciates Maria as a person, not merely as an object. Consequently, he is able to see himself as a person- not merely as a warrior on behalf of a political idea.

10. It's possible to defend two different but not completely opposite positions on this matter. On the one hand, Jordan has admitted by his own words that he no longer completely believes in the theories that originally brought him to the war- and hasn't for some time. Toward the end he says that love is all that really counts. He seems to discredit what he previously knew in favor of what he's learned. Thus he seems to have done a complete turnaround.

But you may find some passages, even toward the end, which don't support the complete turnaround idea. For example, if he had truly abandoned his loyalty to the Republic in favor of loyalty to Maria, wouldn't he have found a safe way to leave and take her with him? Long after Maria and others have made an impression on him, he's concerned about being the kind of soldier that would make his grandfather proud. Thus it could be argued that he has changed his priorities intellectually, but in practice he's not ready to abandon everything he previously championed.

11. Pablo is perhaps the most complex character in For Whom the Bell Tolls, so you can make a case for either hero or villain. Perhaps your choice will depend upon how you see him at the end.

Certainly his brief desertion caused harm. Jordan says that Anselmo would still be alive if the makeshift exploders hadn't required him to be so close to the bridge. Throughout the operation, Pablo's instability is a constant source of tension and worry. He's frequently drunk or nearly so. Even before he "went bad," one of his glories was the engineering of an incredibly brutal mass execution.

Yet, Pablo did return after leaving with the detonator and the exploders. For many people, this would not have been easy. He worked out an escape plan and seems to be in charge again as the group leave Jordan on the hillside. Many readers feel that under Pablo's renewed leadership the band will make it to safety. (Of course, they have enough horses to do so because Pablo murdered his five newly recruited peasant volunteers.)


  1. C
  2. A
  3. A
  4. C
  5. B
  6. B
  7. C
  8. B

9. Beyond question, Hemingway presents one human tragedy after another in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Think of all the things that could be described as a waste. The loss of life, including Jordan's, is wasted in the sense that the deaths do nothing to advance the cause. Even the demolition of the bridge, the central event of the story, turns out to be wasted effort. The common people, on whose behalf the war is supposed to be waged, do not really want it and seem unlikely to benefit from it. You should have no trouble finding things that are wasted as a result of the war.

Yet these things concern a particular war, so you may find it questionable that the book is an attack on war in general. Furthermore, it could be argued that some good things do come from it. The war brings Jordan and Maria together. The war brings Jordan in contact with all the people who change his life and foster his growth as a person.

10. Skimming through the story should provide you with many instances of irony, which is a situation or an outcome of events opposite to what might logically be expected. It's ironic in a general sense that the "good guys" (the Loyalist forces) in the conflict are also often incompetent fools. Also, the most competent Loyalist leaders in this "civil" war are foreigners.

The prayers of Anselmo, Joaquin, and Maria are ironic against the background of the movement's official atheism. Anselmo and Lieutenant Berrendo's uttering of the very same prayer is a telling example. The horse that was Jordan's means of escape prevents his escape when it falls on him. And the war itself, which ultimately killed Robert Jordan, was also the occasion of his truly appreciating life and other people. -

11. The title is taken from John Donne's well-known poem, published in 1624, which begins, "No man is an Iland...." The poem itself makes the point that all human life is interconnected, and whatever happens to even one person affects all humanity. Thus with each individual's death, a little bit of every other person "dies." When you hear the tolling of the church bell, therefore, don't send to ask for whom the bell tolls- it tolls for thee.

You may or may not agree with this idea, but look for examples of it in the novel. Certainly Jordan's parting words to Maria- that he will live on in her- are a direct illustration. And certainly a part of her will die because of Jordan's death and their separation.

El Sordo refers to the Nationalist captain he kills as Comrade Voyager. Each will have caused the other's death, either directly or indirectly, and they are journeying to death together.

Still another example comes from Anselmo's reflections that the fascist soldiers they "have to" kill are individual men just like himself. A little bit of his own principles is destroyed each time he kills.

[For Whom the Bell Tolls Contents]


    1. Does Jordan's death- shortly after he's discovered so much to live for- make him a genuinely tragic figure? Has he in some way contributed to his own death?
    2. "Jordan's involvement in the war is due merely to his infatuation with an ideology." Tell why you agree or disagree with that statement.
    3. How is Robert Jordan a genuinely better person as a result of his rather brief experience with the resistance band?
    1. Pablo is sometimes called the most complex of the characters in the novel. What supports this view?
    2. Some readers feel that Maria is not a developed character in the novel but a cardboard figure or a symbol of women in general. True or false?
    3. Which character does Hemingway portray the most sympathetically? which the most unsympathetically?
    4. Does Pilar herself believe in palm reading? Is she completely honest when she says she reads palms just to get attention? Do her actions give evidence for one interpretation more than the other?
  • WAR
    1. Is war by itself wrong? When is it justified?
    2. Do foreign countries have the right to aid one side or another in a civil war? Is there any similarity between the situation of the Spanish Civil War and the situation in Indochina after 1954?
    1. What were the ideals of the Spanish Republic, and were these ideals sufficient to justify a terrible war?
    2. Is idealism always naive? Try to cite some examples where "pure" idealism has been immensely practical- or try to show that this is seldom or never the case.
    1. Did Jordan's political idealism cause him to compromise his honesty and self-respect? Which of his actions, if any, could be called hypocritical?
    2. Anselmo kills against his will and feels tremendous guilt. Does this make him a hypocrite? How is he, in spite of that, an example of integrity?
    1. Were there any truly atheistic characters in the book? Which ones?
    2. For Whom the Bell Tolls has been called "a mockery of faith and religion." Write in support of, or against, this viewpoint.

THE STORY, continued

ECC [For Whom the Bell Tolls Contents] []

© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

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