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For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway




Hemingway's novel is Tolstoyan in scope but rarely in achievement. But it has many merits, and even its defects are generally interesting... Yet the novel falls considerably short of greatness. To some extent, Hemingway's failure in his longest, most densely populated novel is stylistic, but far more serious are his distortions of the experience he describes. Together these technical and thematic flaws confuse and mislead the reader and, at last, diminish the novel.

Arthur Waldhorn, A Reader's Guide to Hemingway, 1972


The result is a novel that is complex, meaningful, and as close to aesthetic perfection as Hemingway could make it. For Whom the Bell Tolls... stands somewhat in relation to Hemingway's other works as Moby Dick does to the rest of Melville's work. And, like Moby Dick, it is true enough to stand continued reinterpretation....

The skill with which this novel was for the most part written demonstrated that Hemingway's talent was once again intact and formidable. None of his books had evoked more richly the life of the senses, had shown a truer sense of plotting, or provided more fully living secondary characters, or livelier dialog.

Delbert E. Wylder, Hemingway's Heroes, 1969


The brilliance of execution becomes apparent when the reader stands in imagination on the flooring of the bridge and looks in any direction. He will see his horizons lifting by degrees towards a circumference far beyond the Guadarrama mountains. For the guerrillas' central task, the blowing of the bridge, is only one phase of a larger operation which Hemingway once called "the greatest holding action in history." Since the battle strategy which requires the bridge to be destroyed is early made available to the reader, he has no difficulty in seeing its relation to the next circle outside, where a republican division under General Golz prepares for an attack. The general's attack, in turn, is enough to suggest the outlines of the whole civil war, while the Heinkel bombers and Fiat pursuit planes which cut across the circle- foreign shadows over the Spanish earth- extend our grasp one more circle outwards to the trans-European aspect of the struggle. The outermost ring of the circle is nothing less than the great globe itself. Once the Spanish holding operation is over, the wheel of fire will encompass the earth. The bridge, therefore- such is the structural achievement of this novel- becomes the hub on which the "future of the human race can turn."

Carlos Baker, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist, 1963


It is not surprising that sex becomes more dominant the deeper one gets beneath the outer political surface of the novel, since it is the sexual experience with Maria that is the basis of Jordan's mystical experience.

Delbert E. Wylder, Hemingway's Heroes, 1969

The nadir [of For Whom the Bell Tolls] is the love scenes. Possibly it is these that set up initial hostility to the book in some critics. These scenes fail because Hemingway not only breaks but reverses a principle that served him so well in earlier works: to undercut anything to do with romantic love so sharply that even the possibility of sentimentality is extinguished.

Wirt Williams, The Tragic Art of Ernest Hemingway, 1981


Devoted to the Loyalist cause, Hemingway remains sufficiently the objective artist to delineate the human faults of what the left-wing propagandists wished to see presented as an incorrupt and shining chivalry. For Whom the Bell Tolls is not propaganda but art, and like all art it promotes a complex, even ambivalent, attachment to its subject. The book taught thousands to love or hate Spain, but it could not leave them indifferent to the land, its people, its history.

Anthony Burgess, Ernest Hemingway and His World, 1978

I myself was fascinated by the book and felt it to be honest in so far as it renders Hemingway's real vision. And yet I find myself awkwardly alone in the conviction that, as a novel about Spaniards and their war, it is unreal and, in the last analysis, deeply untruthful.

Arturo Barea (Spanish novelist) in Horizon, 1941

[Hemingway's Novels - Banned Books]

[For Whom the Bell Tolls Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois -

[For Whom the Bell Tolls Contents]



Astro, Richard, and Jackson Benson. Hemingway in Our Time. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1974.

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Scribner's, 1969. Generally considered the definitive biography of Hemingway.

_____. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. 3d ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963.

Burgess, Anthony. Ernest Hemingway and His World. New York: Scribner's, 1978. -

Griffin, Peter. Along With Youth: Hemingway, the Early Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Biography; also includes five previously unpublished early short stories by Hemingway.

Hotchner, A. E. Papa Hemingway: The Ecstasy and Sorrow. New York: William Morrow, 1983.

Laurence, Frank M. Hemingway and the Movies. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

_____. Hemingway: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982.

Nagel, James, ed. Ernest Hemingway: The Writer in Context. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Noble, Donald R., ed. Hemingway: A Revaluation. Troy, N.Y.: Whitson Publishing Company, 1983.

Rao, E. Nageswara. Ernest Hemingway: A Study of His Rhetoric. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1983.

Rovit, Earl. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Twayne, 1963.

Weeks, Robert P., ed. Hemingway: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972.

Williams, Wirt. The Tragic Art of Ernest Hemingway. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.

Wylder, Delbert E. Hemingway's Heroes. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969.


    1925 In Our Time
    1926 The Torrents of Spring
    1926 The Sun Also Rises
    1927 Men Without Women
    1929 A Farewell to Arms
    1932 Death in the Afternoon
    1933 Winner Take Nothing
    1935 Green Hills of Africa
    1937 To Have and Have Not
    1938 The Fifth Column, and The First Forty-Nine Stories
    1942 Men at War
    1950 Across the River and Into the Trees
    1952 The Old Man and the Sea
    1962 A Moveable Feast
    1972 Islands in the Stream
    1972 The Nick Adams Stories
    1985 The Dangerous Summer


ECC [For Whom the Bell Tolls Contents] []

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