For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

Klinton Horn on “Hemingway: Expatriate & Eternal Wanderer”

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel that revolves around the character of Robert Jordan; an American sympathetic who joins a Guerilla Unit that works on behalf of the Republicans as a dynamiter against the Fascists in Word War Two’s dress rehearsal; the Spanish War. The story focuses on Robert as he comes to understand the consequences of his choices: his understanding of himself and influence in the world, and his ability to relate to the world before his death. The character of Robert Jordan allows the reader to understand Ernest Hemingway as an expatriate by allowing audiences to gain access to Hemmingway’s thoughts and self-portraits as an outsider whether in life of literature.

The representation for Ernest, Robert Jordan is an American who stands with the Republicans of Spain. Robert and Ernest’s similarities are indisputable. Both are Americans siding with Republicans in the Spanish War, both precieve themselves as being the best at what they do, and both are uncomfortable with the world and their role in it. Jordan’s initial feeling upon joining the guerilla group is “it gave you a part in something that you could believe in wholly and completely and in which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged in it. It was something that you never known before but that you had experienced now and you gave such importance to it and the reason for it that your own death seemed of complete unimportance,” (235). While Hemingway surely identifies with his own experiences of the Spanish War, the quote allows an audience to critically analyze the book and the complexity of Robert Jordan, and allows readers to draw a connection to Hemingway’s feelings and views he shared about his cohorts in “the Lost Generation,” a group of artists who started the modernist movement.

Although a staple within the legendary writing group, Hemingway appears to suffer from a lack of connection to his allies. The eternal wanderer, trying to find appeasement and a sense of home instead finds himself unable to locate one within a place, friend or cause. In real life, Hemingway could not find solace in America nor citizenship or acceptance amongst the countries he visited. He did not find love in his wives (married four times), or his “friends” whom he can’t help to point out their flaws, and contributes that to their failed work and art. Hemingway in no way flaws his own stories, but the work others do for the cause is not as fortuitous or worthy. The “absolute brotherhood” Hemingway felt in the beginning of the Lost Generation, the work that would redefine art and literature, escapes his lonely prison. This is reflected in the book.

Robert Jordan, a character who appears to have great conviction at the beginning of the novel, instead finds himself withdrawing from the Republican cause. Instead of viewing himself as one of the Republicans, Robert becomes disillusioned with the others; he contemplates about rectifying his place in the world, as an individual and not one of the masses. As time goes on, Robert no longer believes he is Republican, avoiding taking a stake of claim in politics. Instead Robert identifies as anti-Fascist. Robert’s way of proving who he is, is not by the people he keeps around him or the cause he works for; but by the views of the world he instead demands not to be a part of. This is similar to Ernest Hemingway, who although a part of the Lost Generation (just like Robert is a part of the Republican Guerrilla Army), instead insults his brother-writers for their belief that they are anything like Hemingway [In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway describes Gertrude Stein as a “lazy writer” (23) and compares F. Scott Fitzgerald to a woman (130)]. Robert meanwhile becomes worried about his connection to the Guerilla Team, and whether or not his beliefs bear familiarity with their own. However, Robert is too good at what he does to quit; similar to Hemmingway’s own belief that his writing is too important and influential to not be published and shared. His absolute belief in his own abilities and importance outweighs the entire subject of what he writes on or for. So marks the curse of Hemingway, the man who can relate to an expatriate because his talents are never fully appreciated by his family, and there is no one home for him to return to.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1940. Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964. Print.


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