For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls

by Ernest Hemingway
Trade Paperback, 471 pages
Price: $16.00

Robert Jordan embodies Hemingway's masculine ideal. Quiet, hard, and cool, he is reflective in a way that asks no questions—he accepts the natural order and adapts. Jordan is the ultimate Byronic anti-hero, a fitting protagonist for a novel about the senselessness and brutality of existence.

Set in Spain during the Civil War, the novel follows Jordan, a demolitions expert, as he fights with the republican guerillas in the Spanish mountains. The plot follows his romance with Maria and his assignment to blow up a bridge during an attack on the city of Segovia. Hiding in the mountains, engaging the enemy in desultory skirmishes, drinking wine and suffering from boredom, Hemingway's characters experience life at its most visceral and primal. The love of Robert Jordan for Maria is archetypal, a union of Man and Woman rather than two individuals.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a war novel, a romance, a psychological study, a great work of art. Hemingway's prose style is lean and sharp. While it deals with life's perceived inherent loneliness and emptiness, it is also a celebration of the ways in which people overcome isolation through camaraderie and sexual union. Of all his novels this is the most human. His nihilism is of course present, but balanced by deep passion and emotionalism. These characters more than any of Hemingway's creations are capable of love as opposed to lust, of true feeling rather than mere experience.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating
FLAWS: Violence, sexual references, drinking, nihilism
Summary: The Spanish Civil War from the eyes of American mercenary Robert Jordan, who achieves survival of the fittest but finds no meaning in it.

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